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Calcium-Rich Foods for Strong Teeth and Bones

Calcium-Rich Foods for Strong Teeth and Bones: An Indian Perspective

Calcium is a cornerstone of robust health, essential for developing and maintaining strong teeth and bones. It plays a critical role in various bodily functions, including nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and blood clotting. In India, where dietary habits and food availability vary widely across regions, understanding local sources of calcium can be particularly beneficial.

The Importance of Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. About 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, where it supports their structure and function. The remaining 1% is found in blood, muscle, and other tissues. A deficiency in calcium can lead to weakened bones, increasing the risk of fractures and conditions like osteoporosis. For children and adolescents, adequate calcium intake is crucial for proper growth and bone development.

Top Calcium-Rich Foods in India

India’s diverse culinary landscape offers a plethora of calcium-rich foods. Here’s a guide to some of the best sources:

1. Dairy Products

Dairy is the most well-known source of calcium. It is also widely consumed across India in various forms.

• Milk: A staple in many households, milk is an excellent source of calcium. It can be consumed directly or used to make a variety of dishes like kheer (rice pudding) and paneer (Indian cottage cheese).
• Curd (Yogurt): Fermented milk products like curd are not only rich in calcium but also beneficial for digestion. Curd can be enjoyed plain, in raita (a yogurt-based side dish), or as part of the famous lassi (a yogurt-based drink).
• Paneer: This versatile cheese is a significant part of Indian cuisine. It can be added to curries, salads, or even eaten grilled.

2. Leafy Greens

Many leafy greens are excellent sources of calcium and are integral to Indian diets.

• Spinach (Palak): Spinach is rich in calcium, though its high oxalate content can reduce calcium absorption. Including it in dishes like palak paneer or spinach paratha can help boost intake.
• Fenugreek Leaves (Methi): Methi is another green that is packed with calcium. It is often used in parathas, theplas, or added to dals (lentil dishes).
• Drumstick Leaves (Moringa): Known as superfood, drumstick leaves are a powerhouse of nutrients, including calcium. They can be added to curries or made into chutneys.

3. Nuts and Seeds

These small but mighty foods are excellent sources of calcium and can easily be added to various dishes.

• Almonds: A handful of almonds can significantly boost your calcium intake. They can be eaten raw, soaked overnight, or used in sweets like badam halwa.
• Sesame Seeds (Til): Sesame seeds are packed with calcium and are often used in Indian cooking. They can be added to chutneys, used as a garnish, or made into sesame seed brittle (tilgul).

4. Legumes and Pulses

These are integral to the Indian diet and are great sources of calcium, especially for vegetarians.

• Chickpeas (Chana): Chickpeas are used in various forms, such as in chole (a popular North Indian dish) or ground into flour (besan), which is used in many recipes.
• Lentils (Dal): Many varieties of lentils are consumed across India. They are often cooked into a thick stew that accompanies rice or rotis.

5. Seafood

For non-vegetarians, certain types of seafood are excellent sources of calcium.

• Sardines and Salmon: These fish are not only rich in calcium but also provide vitamin D, which aids in calcium absorption. They can be grilled, baked, or added to curries.

6. Fortified Foods

With increasing health awareness, many foods are now fortified with calcium.

• Fortified Cereals and Flours: Many breakfast cereals and flours (like atta) are now fortified with calcium and other nutrients.
• Fortified Plant-based Milks: For those who are lactose intolerant or prefer a plant-based diet, options like almond milk and soy milk often come fortified with calcium.

7. Traditional Indian Ingredients

Some traditional ingredients are not only unique to Indian cuisine but are also rich in calcium.

• Ragi (Finger Millet): Ragi is a calcium-rich grain commonly used in South India to make ragi dosa, ragi mudde, and ragi porridge.
• Amaranth (Rajgira): This ancient grain is loaded with calcium and is used in various dishes, from rotis to laddus.

Tips to Enhance Calcium Absorption

• Vitamin D: Ensure adequate vitamin D intake through sunlight exposure or foods like fortified milk, fish, and egg yolks. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium more efficiently.
• Limit Phytates and Oxalates: Foods high in oxalates (like spinach) or phytates (like whole grains) can inhibit calcium absorption. Pairing them with calcium-rich foods can help
counteract this effect.

• Balanced Diet: Maintain a balanced diet with a variety of foods to ensure all-round nutrition and optimal calcium absorption.
Ensuring adequate calcium intake is crucial for maintaining strong teeth and bones. By incorporating a variety of calcium-rich foods into your diet, especially those that are readily available and commonly used in Indian cuisine, you can support your overall health and well-being. From dairy products to leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes, and traditional ingredients, the Indian diet offers numerous delicious options to keep your bones and teeth strong.
Embrace these calcium-rich foods and enjoy the journey to better bone heal
__________________________________________________________
References:
1. National Institute of Nutrition, India
2. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India

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