Introducing Calcium

Building Strong Bones

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We have all heard the phrase ‘those bones need calcium’ and it is essential advice for all of us! An adequate intake of calcium is one of a number of factors important for acquiring bone mass and attaining peak bone mass. Diets containing insufficient amounts of calcium may lead to lower bone mineral density, which may have implications for bone health, notably risk of osteoporosis later in life. Our bones are gaining and losing minerals continuously in an ongoing process of remodeling. Calcium forms crystals on a matrix of the protein collagen. This process is called mineralization. During mineralization, as the crystals become denser, they give strength and rigidity to the bones. Most people achieve a peak bone mass by their late 20s, and dense bones best protect against age-related bone loss and fractures.

Calcium is in fact the most abundant mineral in the body. Ninety-nine percent of the body’s calcium exists in the bones and teeth. It is an integral part of bone structure and calcium found in the bones also serves as a bank from which the body can withdraw calcium to compensate for low intakes. The remaining 1% of the body’s calcium is in the body fluids, where it helps regulate blood pressure and muscle movement. Calcium is important at all life stages, and most especially during periods of linear growth, infancy, childhood and puberty, as well as pregnancy and lactation. In the blood, calcium helps to maintain normal blood pressure. Calcium is also involved in the regulation of muscle contraction, transmission of nerve impulses, secretion of hormones and activation of some enzyme reactions.

The Primary Sources of Calcium

Calcium is most commonly found in milk and milk products as well as small fish (with bones), calcium-set tofu (bean curd), legumes, spinach, Chinese cabbage, kale, and broccoli.

Bioavailability of Calcium

Calcium absorption by the body is enhanced by the presence of vitamin D and decreased in the presence of oxalic and phytic acid in foods. Thus, foods with high content of calcium that are also rich in oxalic acid (e.g., spinach, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, and beans) or phytic acid (e.g., seeds, nuts, grains) will result in a lower absorption of calcium compared to foods with no inhibitors, such as milk and milk products. Diets high in sodium or phosphorus (e.g., cola beverages) also negatively affect calcium levels in the bone.

Risks Related to Inadequate Intake of Calcium

Because calcium is critical to muscle contraction and nerve impulses, the body tightly regulates blood calcium levels. If calcium intake is low, the body will draw on calcium in the bones. Poor chronic intake in calcium results in osteomalacia, in which bones become weak owing to lack of calcium. Insufficient calcium in bones can also result from an inadequate supply of vitamin D, which is essential for absorption of calcium and its deposition in the bones. Thus, adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is vital for bone integrity and for bone growth.

Find more information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate calcium into your next meal by trying the delicious recipe below…

Cheese & Spinach Penne with Walnut Crumble*

Ingredients

500g pack penne
2 large leeks, sliced
85g butter
85g plain flour
2 tsp ready-made English mustard
good grating nutmeg
1l milk, plus a bit extra
350g pack mature cheddar, grated
4 slices French bread, diced
85g walnut piece
400g bag spinach

Method

Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/ gas 5. Boil the pasta with the leeks for 10 mins, then drain.

Meanwhile, put the butter, flour, mustard, nutmeg and milk in a large pan with some seasoning. Gently heat, stirring all the time, until bubbling and thickened, then cook for 2 mins more, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and stir in two-thirds of the cheese. Toss the remaining cheese with the bread and walnuts.

Cook the spinach in the microwave, or pour a kettle of boiling water over it to wilt, then squeeze out the excess water. Stir into the sauce with the pasta, leeks and some seasoning. If necessary, add a little extra milk to loosen. Divide between 2 ovenproof dishes and scatter the bread mixture on top. If eating straight away, bake for 40 mins until golden, or cool to freeze.

*Adapted from BBC Good Food 

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Introducing Vitamin B5

The Stress Reducer

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Feeling stressed? Your vitamin B5 intake may have an important role to play. Vitamin B5, also know as Pantothenic acid, is critical to the development of stress-related hormones produced in the adrenal glands, small glands that sit on top of the kidneys.

Vitamin B5, like all B vitamins, helps convert food into glucose and break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins for energy generation. Additionally, this essential nutrient is important for maintenance and repair of tissues and cells of the skin and hair, helps in healing of wounds and lesions, and pantethine, which is a form of vitamin B5, normalizes blood lipid profiles. Vitamin B5 also helps in the production of red blood cells.

Sources of Vitamin B5

The primary sources of vitamin B5 in animal products are found in offal (liver, kidneys), meat (chicken, beef), egg yolk, milk, fish. While pantothenic acid can also be derived from produce such as potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, and mushrooms, it can also found in whole grain cereals. 

Bioavailability of Vitamin B5

The bioavailability of pantothenic acid from food sources is about 50%. Although vitamin B5 is quite stable if heated, extended cooking times and prolonged high temperatures (such as boiling temperatures) can cause greater loss of the vitamin. Pantothenic acid is also destroyed in the process of freezing, canning, or refining.

Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Vitamin B5 

Vitamin B5 deficiency is very rare and symptoms involve a general failure of all the body’s systems. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and tingling sensations know as “burning feet” syndrome. No adverse effects have been reported with high intakes of vitamin B5.

Additional information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies is available though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate vitamin B5 into your next dinner with this delicious recipe below. 

Irish Beed Stew*

Ingredients

1½kg/3lb 5oz stewing beef, cut into cubes
175g/6oz streaky bacon
3 tbsp olive oil
12 baby onions, peeled
18 button mushrooms, left whole
3 carrots, cut into quarters or 12 baby carrots, scrubbed and left whole
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1 tbsp chopped thyme
2 tbsp chopped parsley 
10 cloves of garlic, crushed and grated
425ml/15fl oz red wine
425ml/15fl oz chicken or beef stock

For the roux

50g/2oz butter
50g/1¾oz flour
champ, to serve

Method

Heat a casserole or heavy saucepan and then add the olive oil to brown the beef and bacon. Remove the meat and toss in the onions, mushrooms and carrots, one ingredient at a time, seasoning each time with salt and pepper.  Place the meat back in the casserole, along with the herbs and garlic. Cover with red wine and stock and simmer for one hour or until the meat and vegetables are cooked.

 To make the roux, in a separate pan melt the butter, add the flour and cook for two minutes. When the stew is cooked, remove the meat and vegetables. Then bring the remaining liquid to the boil and add one tbsp of roux. Whisk the mixture until the roux is broken up and the juices have thickened, allowing to boil. Replace the meat and vegetables, and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with champ.

*Adapted from Rachel Allen online

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