x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Food for thought: 10 best non-dairy sources of calcium

Lactose intolerant and wondering how to get your calcium? Here are your best food sources – and why we all need to be eating them.

Calcium is one of the four major alkali minerals and is essential for the healthy functioning of the body. It is the mineral of structure and solidity, with approximately 99 per cent of the calcium in your body being stored in your teeth and bones. It's also vital for many of your bodily functions such as muscle contraction, nerve conduction, the regulation of enzyme activity and the formation of cell membranes. Good digestion, blood clotting, cardiovascular health and hormonal balance are also a part of calcium's repertoire because it boosts vitality.

A calcium deficiency is most commonly linked to poor growth in children and osteoporosis in adults, especially menopausal women. The most common advice for counteracting a deficiency is to include more calcium-rich foods, and dairy is usually at the top of the list.

There are, however, two problems with this advice. First, many people are lactose intolerant. The National Digestive Diseases Information Center in the US estimates that 40 million Americans are lactose intolerant and a reported 90 per cent of Asians are unable to digest lactose.

Second, calcium absorption is dependent on vitamin D and magnesium. We need a specific calcium to magnesium ratio of 2:1 for optimum absorption. In dairy, this ratio is nonexistent, meaning it is not the best option for increasing calcium intake, according to a study published by the Harvard School of Public Health.

In light of this, here are 10 non-dairy, calcium-rich foods: bok choy, kale, sea vegetables, broccoli, almonds, Brazil nuts, tofu, salmon, figs and sesame seeds.

It is not necessary to completely avoid dairy unless it causes significant digestive problems, but it is important not to rely on dairy alone for our calcium intake. In many cases one cup of the above mentioned foods will have more calcium than one cup of milk.

Laura Holland is a well-being consultant and nutritional therapist. For more information, visit www.BeUtifulYou.co.uk