We all grew up drinking that tall glass of milk in the mornings. There was no escaping mom and her determination to pour milk down our throat. Its calcium rich properties made it a must have in our diet.
How Much Calcium Do We Need Daily?
According to a 2010 report published by ICMR, adults need approximately 600 mg of calcium per day. This amount goes up to 1200 mg/day for pregnant and lactating women. For growing children, the daily calcium need is between 1000 to 1300 mg.
Milk Remains the Best Source of Calcium
Milk is the best source of calcium in our diet because the bioavailability of milk calcium is the most. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of milk is 600mg for adults, so 500-600ml of milk will technically provide all you need daily along with other important nutrients.Dr Rupali Datta, Consultant Nutritionist, Fortis Escorts
What is bioavailability? Dr Datta explains,
While choosing foods for a specific nutrient it is important to not just look for a number but also if it is available to the human body for assimilation. It is called the bioavailability of the nutrient from the food. For example, 100 ml milk provides 118mg of calcium, and 30 grams of paneer provides 142mg.
But... Is Milk Safe?
Milk though has got a bad rap recently with some equating a glass of milk to a cocktail of chemicals. Some studies have argued that adult mammals are not conditioned to consume dairy of other mammals.
What was once an integral component of our diet has now come under scanner. There has been a surge of milk alternatives or substitutes. Markets are flooded with vegan alternatives and even genetically modified yeast.
Also Read: On World Milk Day, Let’s Go Natural!
Can We Think of Alternatives to Milk?
While milk remains the best source of calcium, there are alternatives that you can rely upon to up your calcium count.
Don’t we all love chickpeas? Eat them raw with salad, roast them or cook them in a thick gravy with rich spices – chickpeas are a foodie’s delight. Not only are they high on fiber and protein but also on calcium. A small serving of 100 gm chickpeas will leave you with 150 mg calcium.
There’s a catch though says Dr Rupali Datta,
To meet the body’s daily calcium requirement, you need to eat about 400 gm of chickpeas which is not possible to consume. As part of a healthy meal, it is a source of calcium but certainly not a milk substitute.
Almonds are good for the brain, memory and the skin and are also a great source of calcium. Time to stock up these little packets of goodness.
100 gm of almond will give you 228 mg of calcium but it also comes with a lot of calories. The recommended intake for dried nuts is 30gm/day which provides 68.4mg of calcium.Dr Rupali Datta, Consultant Nutritionist, Fortis Escorts
Spinach is a calcium booster and full of health benefits.
Make spinach puris, spinach saag or toss it with sphagetti and pasta and you are good to go. You can experiment a great deal with spinach in winters – smoothies, sandwiches, salads and even spinach juice. But don’t solely rely on it to meet your calcium needs.
100 gm of spinach leaves you rich by 82.29 mg of calcium. But you need to consume around 700 gm of the leafy green to meet the target. Besides, the bioavailability of calcium from spinach gets hampered by the presence of oxalates, thereby increasing the amount needed to substitute milk even more.Dr Rupali Datta, Consultant Nutritionist, Fortis Escorts
Also Read: What’s Really In Your Milk?
Tofu is a rich source of protein and calcium. 100 gm of tofu can add up to 111mg calcium to your body.
Tofu is a great source of calcium and healthy nutrients and is a good milk substitute for those who are lactose intolerant.Dr Dutta
Figs are sweet, tasty and healthy. 100 gm of figs can give you 78.52 mg of calcium. What’s more? They are a rich source of antioxidants. Add them to your yogurt or toss it in your mid-day snack.
Just a word of caution. Don’t go overboard with figs as they contain sugar and you may end up piling on calories if overeaten. In fact, Dr Datta says eating even 100 gm of fig is very difficult for the human body. You may certainly add figs to your diet but not as a replacement for milk.
To Drink Milk or Not to?
As a nutritionist, I always recommend a nutrient rich diet to avoid deficiencies. So eat all the above foods in combination as a part of a daily healthy diet, not as replacements or exclusions. Milk – whether you like it or not – remains the best source of calcium.Dr Rupali Datta, Consultant Nutritionist, Fortis Escorts
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