What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is not uncommon, approximately affecting 1.2 million Australians and further 6.3 million with low bone density (1).
This silent condition leads to thinner and brittle bones, which can leave a devastating impact on individuals – chronic pain, reduced functional capacity, low self-esteem, mood and even fracture of the hips, spine and wrist.
Both men and women can develop osteoporosis, as bone mass begins to decline after age 30. Women are particularly vulnerable. At menopause, rapid reduction in oestrogen levels causes bones to lose calcium at a much faster rate.
Certain conditions and medications can also influence your bone health:
Use of corticosteroid
Diseases associated with malabsorption i.e. coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease
Chronic kidney disease
Low levels of sex hormones (oestrogen or testosterone)
Thyroid problems i.e. overactive thyroid
It’s always a good idea to prevent bone losses and osteoporosis at a young age. A well-rounded, balanced diet throughout human life cycle is critical for healthy bones.
Why do you need calcium?
This is just a SIMPLE MEAL PLAN that you can easily incorporate into your everyday diet.
Calcium is one of the minerals that builds and maintains strong bones, with 99% of the body’s calcium stored in bones and teeth. Therefore, getting enough calcium in your diet is essential for preventing bone loss and fractures, along with other nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin K and phosphorous.
Calcium is also involved in other aspects of health. It is vital for muscle contraction, heart health, nerve function, hormone secretion and blood pressure regulation.
Low levels of calcium can cause symptoms such as muscle spasms, cramps, weakness and tingling.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend adults getting 1,000mg of calcium per day and 1,300mg/d for women over 50 and men over 70 years.
Calcium from A Plant-Based Diet
When it comes to calcium, the first thing that comes to mind is milk right?
Despite dairy industry spent millions of dollars on marketing to make you believe that you can only get calcium from dairy, there are plenty of dairy-free foods high in calcium that you can easily add to your diet.
Top 8 plant based foods include:
Sesame seeds and their variant, tahini (97.5% and 42.6% of RDI per 100g).
Chia seeds (63.1% of RDI per 100g).
Firm tofu (32% of RDI per 100g).
Almonds (26.4% of RDI per 100g).
Collard greens (23.2% of RDI per 100g).
Edamame (19.7% of RDI per 100g).
Kale (15% of RDI per 100g).
Spinach (9.9% of RDI per 100g).
Other non-dairy calcium foods, including both plant and animal sources:
- Canned sardine/ bony fish
- Calcium-fortified milk alternatives
- Navy beans
Some final tips for you to take home, eating one fresh orange or two small mandarins will provide around 55mg of calcium.
Dark leafy greens are high in calcium, but so are oxalates. Oxalates bind to minerals like calcium, lowering its absorption in your digestive tract. One way to minimise this effect is to cook your leafy greens.
Depending on where you live, ensuring adequate sunlight exposure on a daily basis can help you get enough vitamin D, which your body needs to absorb calcium for healthy bones and teeth.
Do You Need Calcium Supplement?
It is possible to get sufficient amounts of calcium through diet if you include a wide variety of foods.
However, calcium supplements can help fill the gap if you can’t meet the daily calcium intake from food alone, or have higher requirements.
You might need calcium supplements if you:
Have reached menopause
Have medical conditions limiting your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, such as Crohn’s disease and coeliac disease
Consume a high sodium diet, as sodium increases calcium excretion from urine
Drink excessive amount of alcohol chronically
It doesn’t offer extra benefit when you take high dose calcium supplement at once. As the amount of calcium increases, the percentage absorption decreases. Research says it’s best to take 500mg calcium at separate times during the day.
It is important to discuss with your GP and Accredited Practising Dietitian if you require a supplement or you are unsure of how to plan a balanced diet.
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If you need further help with boosting your calcium levels and other important nutrients, our BBDiet dietitian could provide you the best support possible with personalised nutrition plan that suits your personal needs and preferences.
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