During pregnancy, sufficient calcium intake is essential to meet your baby’s needs, or else your baby will pull out calcium from your bones and teeth, putting you at risk of calcium deficiency. And when you are calcium deficit, you could experience symptoms like cramps, tooth loss, brittle nails and insomnia. You must be thinking if you still need to take calcium after giving birth? Absolutely! Regardless breastfeeding, you need to ensure adequate calcium intake, especially if you have exhibit symptoms of calcium deficiency during pregnancy.
According to the Ministry of Health of Malaysia, it is recommended for adults of 19-50 years old to consume 800mg of calcium daily, and breastfeeding mothers will have a higher requirement of 1000mg to fulfill their babies’ needs. However, according to a recent Malaysian Adult Nutrition Survey, adult’s calcium consumption falls short by at least 50%! Most of us seem to be well fed, but why are we not having enough calcium at the same time? Follow my tips below, and I will tell you how to get enough calcium from your diet, the right way.
Tip 1: High calcium diet
First and foremost, you need to eat sufficient calcium rich foods, which include dairy, dried anchovies, sardines, dried shrimps, dark green vegetables, beans, tofu, black sesame and nuts. Given that “like feeds like”, you may assume that bone broth is bursting with calcium goodness. While bone broth is good for nourishing the body, science has concluded that not much calcium from the bone ends up in the broth, with 20 times lower calcium content compared to milk of the same volume.
Tip 2: Choose high bioavailability
Even if you eat a huge amount of high calcium foods, you may not reap the full benefit. This is because calcium in different foods have different bioavailability, in other words, calcium from different foods are absorbed into the body at varying degrees. For instance, spinach has a relatively high calcium content, however, it’s also high in oxalates and phytates, which impairs calcium absorption. Instead, you can opt for plant foods with lower oxalates and phytates level, like broccoli and kale.
Widely recognized as the best food for calcium, one cup of milk packs around 300mg of calcium, with a higher bioavailability of 30 to 35%. If you have lactose intolerance, you can consider having probiotic rich full-fat or Greek yogurt instead (full-fat yogurt has lower lactose content compared to non-fat ones). The best way to obtain adequate calcium intake is to have 2 serves of dairy (equivalent of 2 cups of milk or 400g of yogurt) and add in other calcium rich foods. If you are feeling adventurous in the kitchen, add in dairy into your favourite dishes, like salad dressings, vegetable stew, pudding…the possibilities are endless!
Tip 3: Clever pairing with foods
Have some fruits with your calcium rich foods, as vitamin C in fruits (and other foods) helps your gut absorb calcium better. Moreover, spending at least 15 minutes outdoors in the daylight can do wonders for your bone health, as sun exposure stimulates your skin to produce vitamin D which aids calcium absorption. Alternatively, get your vitamin D from eggs, organ meats and dairy.
Tip 4: Keep the calcium
In general, it is best to take your calcium from whole foods rather than highly processed foods. Salt-laden processed foods increase calcium excretion from the body, even if they are labelled as “high calcium”, hence these foods are not recommended as the main source of calcium. On the other hand, caffeine not only increases calcium excretion, it also inhibits calcium absorption. So, if you are a caffeine lover, limit your caffeine intake to 200-300mg, which is around 1-2 cups of coffee or 4-6 cups of black tea.
Tip 5: Be active
I know it can be exhausting and stressful caring for your baby and adjusting to your new routine, but don’t neglect your exercise! Regular exercise supports bone health as it stimulates bone growth and increases bone density for stronger bones. The bonus is, exercise also improves your stamina and helps stress management!