I’m putting the spotlight on calcium in my blog today for a couple of reasons. Calcium is an essential nutrient in all stages of life, and while it is essential for bone health it is also very important for our heart, nervous system and muscles to function properly.

However, many people are not getting enough calcium on a daily basis mostly because they have removed or restricted dairy, and/or are not eating a varied diet. Reasons for removing or restricting dairy include medical and health reasons (eg lactose intolerance, FODMAPs issues, IBS) as well as ethical reasons. Dairy has been the major source of calcium in the Western diet so when dairy is removed from the diet calcium intake will be significantly reduced.

Our bodies don’t make calcium so we need to consume it through our food on a daily basis to make sure our bodies have adequate supply. For example, if you don’t have an adequate supply your body starts to remove calcium from your bone stores, and if you don’t replenish these stores bone health is at risk with bones becoming weak and brittle.

The good news is that dairy is just one source of calcium and there are plenty of other calcium-rich foods available to most people. Calcium can be found in leafy green vegetables, like collard greens and kale, beans, nuts and seeds, dried fruit and fish with edible bones.

Knowing how much calcium you need is also important. The amount required varies based on your age, gender and life stage. For example adult men and women (18+ years) require 1000 mg calcium per day; while women over 50 years and men over 70 years require 1300 mg calcium per day. Teenagers also need 1300 mg calcium per day and children require less calcium than adults but still require daily intake.

With a little bit of planning, it’s easy to make sure you get enough calcium each day.

Here’s a nourishing and nutritious smoothie recipe to boost your intake. The tahini, almonds and dates in this recipe provide approximately 400 mg of calcium in just one glass!

Banana, tahini and date smoothie

3 medjool dates (50g), pitted

½ cup boiling water

40 g tahini (generous 2 tbs)

500 ml of unsweetened almond milk

1 banana

¼ cup of almonds (preferably soaked for a few hours)

5 ice cubes

1 tsp maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract
Place dates in heatproof bowl and pour in boiling water to soften (about 15 minutes). Place dates, soaking water, tahini, almonds, almond milk, banana, maple syrup, vanilla and ice cubes in a blender and blend until smooth. Put into two tall glasses and enjoy! SERVES 2.

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