Why is calcium so important to include in your pregnancy diet? Read why calcium is vital for a healthy pregnancy and what foods you should eat while pregnant to maintain your calcium intake
Calcium is crucial for a healthy pregnancy. Developing babies need calcium to grow strong and healthy bones, teeth, a healthy heart and muscles. And it contributes to a normal heart rhythm and blood clotting function. As a general rule, babies just help themselves to what they need – if you don’t have enough calcium in your pregnancy diet your baby will draw it from your stores which can lead to osteoporosis in later life.
You need around 1000-1200 milligrams a day before, during and after pregnancy. Dairy products such as cheese, milk, yogurt and fromage frais are the obvious choice to include in your diet during pregnancy but if you are lactose intolerant or have an allergy to milk, calcium can be found in other foods too:
- Green leafy vegetables such as curly kale and watercress are good sources of calcium, along with broccoli, cabbage, courgettes and celery
- Small fish (such as whitebait or tinned sardines and pilchards) where you eat the bones. Mash up canned salmon including the bones and use to make calcium-rich fish cakes.
- Tofu is an excellent source of calcium. Add it to a vegetable stir-fry and include finely shredded pak choi, another good calcium-packed veggie option.
- Beans, especially red kidney beans and soya beans.
- Nuts and seeds. A tablespoon of sesame seeds contains 88mg of calcium – use them in a salad, sprinkle over vegetables or cereal. Almonds are a useful source of calcium too.
- Soy milk isn’t actually milk so it’s a good alternative to dairy products and contains around 300mg of calcium in a cup.
To give you some ideas of the quantities of calcium you’ll find in different foods:
6 oz low-fat yogurt: 350 mg
1 cup of milk: 300 mg
¼ cup of cottage cheese: 120 mg
1 oz of hard cheese such as cheddar: 240 mg
8 canned sardines: 370 mg
½ cup of tofu: 258mg
And don’t forget – Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium, so you’ll need both! If you think you may not be getting enough calcium ask your doctor or midwife if they would recommend a supplement.