Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Boosting Health: Where to Find Calcium in Nigerian Foods

Last Updated on November 16, 2023


Calcium is an essential nutrient for maintaining good health. It plays a vital role in promoting strong bones, teeth, and overall well-being.

In Nigerian cuisine, there is an abundance of calcium-rich foods that can be easily incorporated into daily meals.

Milk and its by-products, such as cheese and yogurt, are excellent sources of calcium.

They are commonly consumed in various Nigerian dishes, such as pap (akamu), which is a popular breakfast meal.

Traditional dairy products like warankasi (sour milk) and nono (fermented milk) are also calcium-dense options.

Green leafy vegetables like ugu (fluted pumpkin), bitter leaf, and spinach are another great way to boost calcium intake.

These vegetables can be added to soups, stews, or enjoyed as a side dish. Okra, commonly used in Nigerian soups, is also rich in calcium.

Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds, are not only a tasty snack but also a good source of calcium.

They can be eaten on their own or added to dishes like salads or smoothies for an extra calcium boost.

Incorporating calcium-rich foods into your diet is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth.

Nigerian cuisine offers a wide range of delicious options that make it easy to meet your daily calcium needs.

By including these foods regularly in your meals, you can ensure optimal health and well-being.

What is calcium and its role in the body?

Definition and characteristics of calcium

  1. Calcium is a mineral that is essential for the proper functioning of the human body.

  2. It is the most abundant mineral found in the body, with about 99% of it stored in the bones and teeth.

  3. Calcium is involved in various physiological processes, including nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and blood clotting.

  4. It also plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy heart rhythm and ensuring the proper functioning of enzymes and hormones.

  5. Calcium is not naturally produced by the body, so it needs to be obtained through dietary sources.

The importance of calcium for bone health, muscle function, and hormone regulation

  1. One of the primary roles of calcium is to support bone health and prevent conditions like osteoporosis.

  2. Calcium is essential for the development and maintenance of strong and dense bones, especially during childhood and adolescence.

  3. It helps to regulate bone remodeling, the process of old bone tissue being replaced by new bone tissue.

  4. Without adequate calcium intake, bones become weak and brittle, increasing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.

  5. Besides bone health, calcium is also necessary for proper muscle function.

  6. It aids in muscle contraction and relaxation, allowing us to move and perform physical activities.

  7. Calcium also plays a vital role in hormone regulation and transmission of nerve impulses.

  8. It helps to maintain the balance of various hormones in the body, including those involved in blood clotting and muscle contraction.

Recommended daily intake of calcium for different age groups

  1. The recommended daily intake of calcium varies depending on age and sex.

  2. For infants aged 0-6 months, the recommended amount is 200 mg per day.

  3. During the first year of life, the requirement increases to 260 mg per day.

  4. Children aged 1-3 years need 700 mg of calcium daily, while those aged 4-8 years need 1,000 mg per day.

  5. Adolescents aged 9-18 years require higher amounts of calcium, with boys needing 1,300 mg per day and girls needing 1,300-1,300 mg per day.

  6. Adults aged 19-50 years should aim for 1,000 mg of calcium per day.

  7. For adults over 50 years, the recommended intake increases to 1,200 mg per day.

  8. Pregnant and breastfeeding women have higher calcium requirements, with a recommended intake of 1,000-1,300 mg per day.

Read: Unlocking Health: Minerals in Traditional Nigerian Dishes

Traditional Nigerian foods rich in calcium

Nigerian staple foods that are naturally high in calcium

  1. Leafy greens

  2. Okra

  3. Beans

Calcium content of these foods

Leafy greens such as ugu (pumpkin leaves), ewedu (jute leaves), and spinach are rich in calcium.

Okra is also a great source of calcium, with about 82 milligrams per 100 grams.

Beans, especially black-eyed peas and the local variety known as “oloyin,” are rich in calcium.

Traditional Nigerian dishes that incorporate calcium-rich ingredients

  1. Egusi soup: This popular Nigerian soup typically includes ugu (pumpkin leaves) and sometimes spinach, providing a good amount of calcium.

  2. Efo riro: Another delicious traditional dish that includes leafy greens like ugu (pumpkin leaves) and spinach, offering a significant calcium boost.

  3. Ogbono soup: Made from ground ogbono seeds, this soup often includes ugu (pumpkin leaves) and spinach to enhance its nutritional content, including calcium.

  4. Moi moi: This steamed bean pudding is commonly enjoyed as a breakfast or as a side dish. It is made from beans (rich in calcium) and can be flavored with vegetables like peppers and onions.

Read: Best Nigerian Foods for Meeting Your Daily Mineral Needs

Lesser-known sources of calcium in Nigerian foods

Common Nigerian food items that are rich in calcium

  1. Crayfish

  2. Iru (locust beans)

  3. Ogiri (fermented oilseeds)

The significant calcium content of these lesser-known sources

While many people may not be aware, these lesser-known Nigerian food items are actually rich sources of calcium.

They can be valuable additions to a balanced diet in order to boost calcium levels.

Ways to incorporate these foods into daily meals

Here are some creative ways to include these lesser-known Nigerian food items in your daily meals:

  1. Use crayfish as a flavor enhancer in soups, stews, and sauces.

  2. Add iru (locust beans) to traditional Nigerian dishes like egusi soup or ogbono soup.

  3. Incorporate ogiri (fermented oilseeds) into dishes like ugba (ukpaka), okra soup, or banga soup for a unique flavor.

By incorporating these foods into your meals, you can easily increase your daily calcium intake without relying solely on dairy products.

Read: Top 10 Nigerian Foods Rich in Essential Minerals

Boosting Health: Where to Find Calcium in Nigerian Foods

Tips for Maximizing Calcium Absorption

1. Factors Affecting Calcium Absorption in the Body

  1. Age, gender, and life stage can influence calcium absorption.

  2. Calcium absorption decreases with excessive intake of certain minerals like iron and zinc.

  3. Medical conditions like lactose intolerance or celiac disease can hinder calcium absorption.

  4. Vitamin D deficiency can negatively impact calcium absorption in the body.

2. Tips for Enhancing Calcium Absorption with Nigerian Foods

Pair Calcium-Rich Foods with Vitamin D Sources

Consuming calcium-rich foods with adequate vitamin D can improve calcium absorption in the body.

Nigerian foods that are good sources of calcium include:

  1. Kunu drink made from whole-grain millet or tiger nuts: High in calcium and can be paired with sunlight exposure for natural vitamin D synthesis.

  2. Moi moi (bean pudding) made with dried fish: Contains both calcium and vitamin D.

  3. Ugba (ukpaka or oil bean): A traditional Nigerian food rich in calcium.

Optimize Cooking Techniques

Some cooking techniques can increase the availability of calcium in Nigerian foods:

  1. Boiling vegetables like ugu (pumpkin leaves), ewedu (jute leaves), or water leaves can help release more calcium.

  2. Roasting and grinding sesame seeds into a paste (tahini) can enhance calcium absorption.

  3. Soaking dried fish or crayfish overnight before use can increase the calcium content.

In short, incorporating calcium-rich Nigerian foods into your diet is an excellent way to boost your health.

By considering factors that affect calcium absorption and following these tips, you can maximize the benefits of calcium consumption for stronger bones and overall well-being.

Read: Balancing Mineral Intake: A Nigerian Food Guide

Calcium deficiency and its risks

Calcium is a vital mineral required by the body for various functions.

It plays a crucial role in building strong bones and teeth, maintaining cardiovascular health, and ensuring proper muscle and nerve functioning.

Unfortunately, calcium deficiency is a common problem, especially in regions where the intake of calcium-rich foods is inadequate.

Consequences of calcium deficiency in the body

Calcium deficiency can have severe consequences on the body.

Insufficient calcium intake can weaken the bones and increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition characterized by low bone density and fragile bones.

Without enough calcium, the body may not be able to form new bones effectively, leading to bone loss over time.

This can result in an increased vulnerability to fractures, even from minor accidents or falls.

Furthermore, inadequate calcium levels can affect dental health.

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong teeth and preventing tooth decay.

Insufficient calcium intake may lead to weakened tooth enamel, making teeth more susceptible to cavities, decay, and even tooth loss.

Potential health risks associated with inadequate calcium intake

The potential health risks associated with a lack of calcium intake are not limited to bones and teeth.

Calcium is also involved in various physiological processes, including proper muscle contraction and nerve transmission.

When calcium levels are insufficient, it can lead to muscle cramps, weakness, and a higher risk of developing muscle-related injuries.

Additionally, inadequate calcium can affect the proper functioning of the heart, potentially leading to irregular heartbeats and other cardiovascular problems.

The importance of meeting daily calcium requirements

Meeting daily calcium requirements is of utmost importance for maintaining optimal health.

Consuming enough calcium through a well-balanced diet ensures the body has an adequate supply for its essential functions.

The recommended daily intake of calcium varies by age and gender, with adults generally requiring around 1000-1300 milligrams.

Pregnant and lactating women have higher calcium needs to support their own health and the development of the baby.

To meet daily calcium requirements, it is important to include calcium-rich foods in the diet regularly.

Some excellent sources of calcium in Nigerian foods include dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Additionally, traditional Nigerian foods such as ogbono soup, ugu leaf, and moin-moin (made from ground beans) can contribute to calcium intake.

It is also beneficial to consume calcium-fortified foods and beverages, such as fortified cereals and calcium-enriched juices.

In a nutshell, calcium deficiency can have significant impacts on overall health and well-being.

Inadequate calcium intake increases the risk of developing osteoporosis, dental issues, muscle problems, and cardiovascular complications.

It is essential to prioritize meeting daily calcium requirements by consuming a diet rich in calcium-containing foods.

By doing so, individuals can safeguard their bone health, maintain strong teeth, and support optimal body functioning.


Calcium is crucial for maintaining overall health and should not be overlooked.

Nigerian foods are abundant in calcium, providing numerous options for incorporating it into one’s diet.

It is important to encourage readers to include these calcium-rich foods in their daily meals to enhance their well-being.

Importance of Calcium for Health:

  • Vital for bone strength.

  • Crucial for muscle function.

Abundance of Calcium-Rich Nigerian Foods:

  • Ugu leaves: a calcium powerhouse.

  • Sardines: brimming with calcium.

Encouragement to Incorporate into Daily Diet:

  • Dive into ugu-infused soups.

  • Savor sardines in stews.

  • Strengthen health through daily calcium-rich delights.

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