When counseling clients, I am always surprised to see how little dairy (or foods containing calcium) people consume on a daily basis.
Some people consider the cream in their coffee, and the tablespoon of cream cheese on their bagel sufficient dairy consumption, but the fact is that Health Canada recommends that we consume 500 ml of low fat (skim, 1% or 2%) fluid milk per day, to ensure that we meet our daily requirement of vitamin D & calcium. Shocking…to those who don’t consume 500 ml of fluid milk per day.
So why is calcium so important?
- Calcium is a mineral that helps you build and maintain strong bones and teeth.
- Good calcium intake throughout your life can help to prevent osteoporosis. When you have osteoporosis your bones are weak and thin from a loss of calcium. Weak bones can break more easily than strong bones.
- Calcium is also used in other parts of your body. It helps your muscles work and your heartbeat.
Now the question is, do we need to actually drink 500ml of milk per day to meet our requirements?
Drinking milk makes it easy to achieve our requirements, but you can also go the “non-dairy” route, as many people don’t like the taste of milk, or have a hard time digesting it. Whatever your reasons, here is how to go about getting your daily requirements in each day.
First of all, do you know your requirements?
How Much Calcium Should I Aim For?
Age in years
Aim for an intake of *milligrams (mg)/day Stay below* mg/day
- Men and Women 19-50 1000 2500
- Women 51-70 1200 2000
- Men 51-70 1000 2000
- Men and Women 71 and older 1200 2000
- Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women 1000 2500
- *This includes sources of calcium from food and supplements.
Calcium Content of Some Common Foods (PDF)
Milk and milk alternatives are excellent sources of calcium. If you do not include milk or milk alternatives in your diet, there are other foods, which contain calcium as well. This table will show you which foods are sources of calcium.
So you can see from this resource that there are plenty of non-dairy sources of calcium…but you should ensure that you are eating enough non-dairy sources to meet your daily requirements.
I recommend keeping a food log for about a week or so. Write down the foods that you are eating, and then compare them to how much calcium is in each food item. Then compare your daily intake to your daily requirement. You may be meeting your needs, or slightly under. I encourage you to find out!
Information adapted from: PEN –2012 Dietitians of Canada.
*This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counseling with a registered dietitian. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.