In this blog, we’ll help you to understand the importance of calcium in the baby’s growth, how much calcium is recommended daily during pregnancy as well as what the best food sources are. We’ll also remind you what to look for in the plant based dairy alternatives as it’s not just the calcium.
During pregnancy, women need much higher requirements in terms of vitamins and minerals to be able to adequately support the growth of the baby. Major minerals that are essential during pregnancy include folate, iron and calcium.
Calcium has many different important roles within the body, including blood clotting, muscle contraction and relaxation and the formation of bones. During pregnancy, intake of calcium is essential to ensure proper bone formation, nerve and muscle development as well as a healthy heart and heart rhythm. If an inadequate amount of calcium is consumed during pregnancy, then the growing baby will draw calcium from the mother’s bones for their own developing needs. This can be detrimental to the mother’s health in the future, potentially causing osteoporosis from lack of calcium stores in the bones.
Where do I get my calcium?
Calcium can come from a variety of different foods, with many being non-dairy sources and an adequate contributor to the recommended daily intake. These are listed below.
· Green Leafy Vegetables
· Seafood (mainly fish with bones)
· Fortified milks (including soy, almond, rice)
· Fortified cereals
How much calcium do I need each day?
During pregnancy, the calcium requirement for women is 1,000mg per day. Within the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, 25% of your calcium intake is going straight to the baby! Therefore, if you aren’t consuming the recommended amount, calcium is drawn from your bones to ensure the baby has its requirements for healthy growth and development. You don’t want that happening!
It is recommended during pregnancy to consume 2 ½ to 3 ½ serves of dairy / non-dairy products per day to get the essential calcium and protein intake you need. For example;
· 2 slices of cheese = 1 serve
· 1 cup of milk / dairy alternative milk Eg: soy = 1 serve
· 1 small tub yoghurt = 1 serve
Do I only need to check for calcium in non-dairy sources?
It is important to ensure when consuming non-dairy foods (plant based), that we still make sure they are nutritious and that they replicate the nutrients we can get from dairy sources. The most beneficial non-dairy milks are fortified with calcium, contain approximately 8g protein, 400mg potassium and 300mg calcium per serve. This is why ‘milks’ such as nut milks are often not suitable.
Hopefully now you’ll have a better feel about how to build your baby strong bones whilst maintaining the strength in your own bones, how much to have and where to get it from.
If you feel that you’d like further advice on this important topic we suggest booking an appointment with our dietitians at Marchini Nutrition.
Thanks to student dietitian Holly Pickford for her contribution to this post.
Accredited Practising Dietitian Sally Marchini at Marchini Nutrition is one of the specialist dietitians from the Australia-wide network Nutrition Plus who offer more than just nutrition advice - they offer experience, problem solving, understanding and most importantly compassion to assist you on your health journey in preconception, pregnancy, postnatally and for specific health concerns. Sally can be contacted via her Marchini Nutrition website, the Nutrition Plus website, by telephone on 02-4971-0770, or by email at email@example.com