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Yeuch milk!

Great calcium alternatives if you're pregnant but can't face a daily glass of milk

Posted: 20 August 2009
by ThinkBaby

A healthy balanced diet encompassing most vitamins and minerals is essential when you're pregnant, but there are some vitamins and minerals that are particularly important to pregnant women, and calcium is one of them as it's used in nearly every cell of the body. During pregnancy your body has extra demands for calcium for developing your baby and if you don't have enough calcium in your blood then your body will draw reserves from your bones, weakening them over time and raising your risk of osteoporosis in later life. Clearly something that you want to avoid if possible. For most women the obvious place to source an easy increase in calcium is from drinking a large glass of milk a day, which can also double as a good way of helping you along to a good night's sleep of an evening and easing heartburn. But if milk isn't your thing then all is not lost, there are plenty of other good sources dietary of the nutrient.

  • Other dairy products - If you find milk unpalatable but like other dairy products then these are also an easy source of calcium. As with milk, it makes sense to watch your fat intake, particularly with cheeses. Generally speaking, low-fat dairy options have no less calcium in them than their full-fat versions. To avoid listeria infection you should steer clear of unpasteurised cheeses, runny cheeses (such as Brie and Camembert) and blue cheeses unless cooked. Yoghurt, fromage frais and quark are all available in very low-fat versions, and a bit of good quality ice-cream can form part of your healthy diet too (but watch out for cheap ice-creams that don't contain real milk or cream).

  • Dairy replacements - If you're lactose intolerant, or vegan, then you might use milk and dairy substitutes. Many of these will be fortified with calcium, just check the labels to be sure that your chosen brand is one that is.

  • Green, leafy vegetables - Some greens are high in calcium, particularly rocket salad (rucula) which has about three-quarters the amount of calcium as milk and is also a good source of vitamin C. Spinach, kale, brocolli, Pak Choi (bok choy) cabbage and green beans and are also good sources of other vitamins, so are great to include in your diet. Whichever vegetables you eat, their nutirional content will be higher the fresher they are.

  • Calcium fortified products - Several brands of orange juice are fortified with calcium, as are numerous breakfast cereals. If you don't like milk or a substitute on cereal then you can go for a brand that you can eat dry as a snack.

  • Soy beans, soy nuts and tofu - All of these are rich in calcium and good sources of calcium for vegans.

  • Fruits - Figs, apricots, papaya and prunes are all good sources of calcium as well as other important nutirents.

  • Nuts and seeds - Brazil nuts, almonds and sesame seeds are all good sources of calcium. Tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds and used in mediterranean cooking is a useful ingredient for calcium intake while pure almond paste makes a delicious and relatively low-fat alternative to peanut butter.

  • Fish - Sardines and salmon are good sources of calcium when eaten with the bones (canned salmon is usually better for edible bones than fresh salmon)

  • Calcium supplements - If you have a non-dairy diet you might want to think about taking a calcium supplement, available either in a combined multi-vitamin for pregnancy or alone.

Optimise your calcium intake
Other dietary factors can limit your absorption of whatever calcium you do take in, particularly caffeine and salt. Both caffeine and salt encourage the body to excrete rather than store calcium, so it's a good idea to avoid combining your intake of calcium with either caffeine in foods such as coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate and to avoid over-consumption of both caffeine and salt, as recommended in pregnancy in any case.

On the other hand, vitamin D is useful to maintaining your calcium balance as it acts to increase the amount of calcium absorbed by the body: as well as dietary sources of vitamin D, probably the best source is through (brief) exposure to direct sunlight.

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nutrition, dairy, non-dairy, pregnancy, calcium, milk

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