• Some facts about calcium, your bones (and why sunshine is such good news!)

        bones lgm nutrition brightonI have had two queries this week from clients who are avoiding dairy and worried about their calcium intake and the potential impact on their bone health. This is becoming an increasing worry with the prevalence of dairy intolerance.

        Many of us grew up with Milk Marketing Board messages telling us that milk is the best source of calcium and essential for the bones of growing children; however the truth of the matter is that there are plenty of calcium rich foods to add to our diet if dairy is causing problems.

         So how can we look after our bones if we are dairy-free?

        Calcium is undoubtedly a vital nutrient – it not only helps build healthy bones and teeth, but is needed for nerve transmission, blood clotting and muscle function. Our bones not only give us frame and structure, but are comprised of crystalline salts, and as such, act as a storage vessel for essential minerals including calcium and phosphorus. The cells in our bones continually break down and rebuild throughout our life, although the rate at which this happens declines as we get older.

        But other nutrient such as magnesium, Vitamin K, Vitamin D and boron also help with healthy  burn turnover.

        Acid/alkaline balance is also an important factor.  The ideal ratio in our body is around 70% alkaline and 30% acidic, but when the pendulum swings in the direction of being over-acidic, for example if we consume too much red meat, alcohol, sugar or caffeine, this can result in problems such as arthritis, gut imbalance and damage to hair, skin and nails. More importantly, when our body becomes too acidic our body looks for a way of restoring balance with alkalising minerals, and these will be released from the bones – leeching calcium and making the bones more brittle and vulnerable to damage in the process.

        To support good acid/alkaline balance and bone health, we therefore need to do the following:

        • Include calcium and magnesium rich foods in our diet. This means filling our plates with plenty of green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage are good choices). Salad leaves such as watercress are also helpful, as are fresh fruits, dried apricots and figs.                 Spinach on  white
        • A great calcium-rich snack would be a handful of mixed unsalted nuts (eg almonds) and seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds.     brighton hove nutrition healthy pumpkin seeds
        • Sardines and mackerel can also help with calcium levels since their tiny bones are a rich source.
        • Avoid red meats, alcohol, caffeine and sugary / processed foods; all of which leave an acidic residue.
        • Prescription medication can also be a culprit, so if you are taking prescription drugs, even more important to try to alkalise your diet.
        • In particular, beware fizzy drinks which can be high in phosphorus – a mineral which can cause calcium to be excreted.

         And the sunshine connection?sunshine brighton hove nutrition


        Calcium in our food need to be converted in our body into a form body that can be utilised, and this conversion relies on good levels of Vitamin D. It is now thought that Vitamin D deficiency is a growing issue worldwide, with a 2009 study suggesting that around ¾ of Americans thought to be deficient (CNN News).

        One of the culprit’s is dietary insufficiency, which can be addressed by including eggs, fortified cereals and oily fish such as sardines and pilchards in your diet; but the other, the prevalence of advice in recent years to cover up in the sunshine to avoid skin cancer.

        Vitamin D is converted in our skin through exposure to UV sunlight, so whilst we obviously should not be burning and putting our skin health at risk, a little access to sunlight each day is vital for our health. The NHS advises around 10-15 minutes of exposure between 11am and 3pm would be enough to build Vitamin D reserves. A number of other medical complaints are also being linked to lack of Vitamin D, including rickets which we thought had been all but eradicated in our developing society(BBC News)

        So, whilst the sun is out; wait a short while before layering on the sun cream, and build your Vitamin D reserves for the long dark winter days (albeit hopefully a long way off!)

        If you are concerned about your bone health or Vitamin D levels – particularly if you have a history of osteoporosis in your family – you can ask your GP for a bone density or Vitamin D test. You can also order a test kit online which will assess levels of  Vitamin D and calcium in your blood. You can find this at http://www.myvitdtest.com/

        If you are concerned about levels of calcium and other minerals in your diet, contact me and I can look at your current diet and health status and make recommendations.