Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Eating for Bone Health: Calcium-Rich Foods in Nigeria

Last Updated on November 20, 2023


A. Importance of Bone Health

Maintaining robust bones is key to overall well-being. Strong bones support mobility and protect vital organs, highlighting the critical role of bone health.

B. Role of Calcium in Bone Health

Calcium, a cornerstone for bone strength, is pivotal. It fosters bone density, guards against fractures, and ensures optimal skeletal function, making it indispensable for bone health.

C. Overview of Nigeria’s Traditional Diet

In Nigeria, a rich cultural tapestry influences dietary habits. Traditional foods, brimming with calcium, contribute significantly to bone health.

Embracing these dietary elements can fortify your skeletal foundation.

D. Calcium-Rich Foods in Nigeria

  1. Leafy Greens: Efo Tete and Ugu are rich in calcium.

  2. Fish: Including dried fish like stockfish boosts calcium intake.

  3. Nuts and Seeds: Egusi seeds provide a calcium-packed snacking option.

Embarking on this nutritional journey can be transformative, ensuring your bones remain resilient and your health flourishes.

Calcium-Rich Traditional Nigerian Foods

A. Calcium-rich foods

Calcium is an essential mineral for maintaining strong and healthy bones.

In Nigeria, there are several traditional foods that are rich in calcium.

Including these foods in your diet can help promote bone health and prevent conditions like osteoporosis.

Here is a list of calcium-rich traditional Nigerian foods:

1. Utazi leaves

These dark green leaves are commonly used in soups and stews.

They are not only rich in calcium but also contain other vital nutrients like iron and vitamins A, C, and E.

2. Moringa leaves

Moringa is known as a superfood due to its high nutritional content.

The leaves are particularly rich in calcium, making them a great addition to your meals.

3. Nigerian spinach (efo)

Spinach is a versatile leafy green vegetable that is high in calcium.

It can be used in various dishes such as soups, stews, and salads.

4. Okro

Okro, also known as lady’s fingers or gumbo, is a popular vegetable in Nigerian cuisine.

It is not only rich in calcium but also provides other important minerals like magnesium and potassium.

5. Ogbono seeds

Ogbono, a type of African mango, is commonly used to make soups.

These seeds are an excellent source of calcium and also contain healthy fats and fiber.

6. Ewedu leaves

Ewedu, also known as jute leaves, is a nutrient-dense leafy green vegetable.

It is rich in calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, and other essential nutrients.

7. Nigerian pumpkin leaves (ugu)

Pumpkin leaves are widely used in Nigerian cuisine and are highly nutritious.

They contain a good amount of calcium, as well as vitamins A and C.

Including these calcium-rich foods in your diet has several important benefits.

First and foremost, they help in the formation and maintenance of strong bones and teeth.

Adequate calcium intake can prevent conditions like osteoporosis, which is characterized by brittle bones and an increased risk of fractures.

B. Importance of including these foods in the diet

Calcium also plays a vital role in muscle contraction, nerve function, and blood clotting. It is essential for overall body functioning.

Including calcium-rich foods in your diet can help meet your daily calcium needs and support these crucial bodily functions.

Calcium is particularly important for children and teenagers as they are in the growth phase.

Adequate calcium intake during this period can ensure optimal bone development and prevent future bone issues.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women also require a higher intake of calcium to support the growth and development of their baby’s bones.

Including calcium-rich foods in their diet can help meet these increased calcium needs.

Incorporating these calcium-rich traditional Nigerian foods into your daily meals is simple.

You can add utazi leaves, moringa leaves, and Nigerian spinach to soups, stews, or stir-fried dishes.

Okro can be used in soups or made into a delicious side dish. Ogbono seeds can be used to make thick soups, and ewedu leaves can be cooked into a tasty soup.

Nigerian pumpkin leaves can be used in soups, stews, or as a side dish.

To ensure optimal calcium absorption, it is essential to pair calcium-rich foods with foods that are high in vitamin D, as it aids in calcium absorption.

Foods like fish, eggs, and fortified dairy products are good sources of vitamin D.

In a nutshell, including calcium-rich traditional Nigerian foods in your diet is crucial for maintaining strong and healthy bones.

hese foods not only provide an abundant source of calcium but also offer other essential nutrients.

By incorporating them into your meals, you can support optimal bone health and overall well-being.

Read: Traditional Nigerian Drinks and Their Mineral Contents

Benefits of Calcium for Bone Health

When it comes to bone health, calcium plays a vital role in maintaining strong and healthy bones.

Adequate calcium intake is essential throughout all stages of life, and it is especially crucial during childhood and adolescence when bone development is at its peak.

Here are some key benefits of calcium for bone health:

  1. Strong and Healthy Bones: Calcium is the primary mineral in bones, and it provides the structural framework for bones, making them strong and resilient.

  2. Supports Bone Growth: During childhood and adolescence, the body requires calcium to build new bone tissue and promote proper bone growth.

  3. Prevents Osteoporosis: Adequate calcium intake throughout life can help prevent the development of osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones.

  4. Reduced Risk of Fractures: Calcium plays a significant role in maintaining bone density, which helps reduce the risk of fractures, especially in older adults.

A. Effects of calcium deficiency on bone health

While calcium is vital for bone health, a deficiency in this mineral can have adverse effects on the bones.

Here are some consequences of calcium deficiency:

  1. Reduced Bone Density: Inadequate calcium intake can lead to a decrease in bone density, making the bones more prone to fractures and osteoporosis.

  2. Greater Risk of Osteoporosis: Calcium deficiency increases the risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition that weakens the bones and makes them more susceptible to fractures.

  3. Delayed Bone Growth: Insufficient calcium intake during childhood and adolescence can impair proper bone growth and development.

  4. Brittle Bones: Lack of calcium weakens the bones, making them brittle and more likely to break, even with minor trauma.

B. Importance of maintaining optimal calcium levels

Maintaining optimal calcium levels in the body is essential for overall health and well-being.

Here’s why it is important:

  1. Muscle Function: Calcium is vital for proper muscle function, including muscle contraction and relaxation.

  2. Nerve Transmission: Adequate calcium levels ensure proper transmission of nerve signals throughout the body.

  3. Cardiovascular Health: Calcium is involved in maintaining a regular heartbeat and is essential for the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system.

  4. Blood Clotting: Calcium plays a crucial role in the process of blood clotting, which helps in wound healing.

C. Role of calcium in preventing osteoporosis

By consuming calcium-rich foods, you can ensure that your body receives an adequate amount of calcium.

Some excellent sources of calcium in Nigeria include:

  1. Dairy Products: Milk, cheese, and yogurt are rich in calcium and are easily accessible in Nigeria.

  2. Leafy Greens: Vegetables like ugu, ewedu, and spinach are packed with calcium and other essential nutrients.

  3. Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, sesame seeds, and chia seeds are excellent sources of calcium.

  4. Beans and Legumes: Foods like black-eyed peas, cowpeas, and lentils provide a good amount of calcium.

  5. Fish: Sardines and canned salmon are not only rich in calcium but also contain vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption.

Incorporating these calcium-rich foods into your diet can help maintain optimal calcium levels and promote good bone health.

Remember to combine them with adequate vitamin D intake, as it aids in calcium absorption.

Consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to determine your specific calcium requirements and to tailor a diet plan suitable for you.

In fact, calcium is essential for bone health as it strengthens bones, prevents osteoporosis, and reduces the risk of fractures.

Calcium deficiency can lead to weak and brittle bones, making them more prone to fractures.

Maintaining optimal calcium levels is crucial for overall health and is involved in various bodily functions.

Including calcium-rich foods in your diet will help ensure sufficient calcium intake and promote good bone health.

Read: From Farm to Plate: Trace Minerals in Nigerian Grown Foods

Eating for Bone Health: Calcium-Rich Foods in Nigeria

Traditional Nigerian Recipes for Calcium-Rich Foods

Recipe 1: Egusi soup with ogbono and ugu leaves

A. Ingredients

  1. Egusi seeds

  2. Ogbono seeds

  3. Ugu leaves

  4. Meat or fish (optional)

  5. Palm oil

  6. Onion

  7. Garlic

  8. Stock cubes

  9. Salt

  10. Pepper

B. Cooking instructions

  1. Soak the egusi and ogbono seeds in water separately for about 20 minutes.

  2. Grind the egusi and ogbono seeds separately using a blender or a food processor.

  3. Heat palm oil in a pot and sauté the chopped onions and garlic until fragrant.

  4. Add the ground egusi and ogbono seeds to the pot and stir well.

  5. Add meat or fish (if desired) and cook until browned.

  6. Add water or stock to the pot, enough to cover the ingredients, and bring to a boil.

  7. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

  8. Add the ugu leaves and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

  9. Season with stock cubes, salt, and pepper according to taste.

  10. Serve hot with your preferred swallow or rice.

C. Health benefits of the recipe

  1. The combination of egusi, ogbono, and ugu leaves provides a rich source of calcium.

  2. Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis.

  3. The soup also contains other nutrients like iron, protein, and vitamins A, C, and E.

Recipe 2: Moin Moin made with beans, crayfish, and spinach

A. Ingredients

  1. Beans

  2. Crayfish

  3. Spinach leaves

  4. Onion

  5. Garlic

  6. Palm oil

  7. Stock cubes

  8. Salt

  9. Pepper

B. Cooking instructions

  1. Soak the beans in water for at least 4 hours or overnight.

  2. Drain the beans and blend to a smooth paste using a blender or a food processor.

  3. Heat palm oil in a frying pan and sauté the chopped onions and garlic until fragrant.

  4. Add the blended beans to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes.

  5. Stir in crayfish, chopped spinach leaves, and a little water or stock.

  6. Season with stock cubes, salt, and pepper according to taste.

  7. Continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes until the mixture thickens.

  8. Grease small bowls or foil cups with palm oil and pour in the bean mixture.

  9. Steam the bowls or cups in a pot with water for about 30 minutes or until firm.

  10. Allow to cool before removing from the bowls or cups.

C. Health benefits of the recipe

  1. Beans are a great source of calcium, protein, and fiber, promoting bone health and digestion.

  2. Crayfish contains essential minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium.

  3. Spinach is rich in calcium, vitamin K, and other nutrients that support bone strength and density.

By including these traditional Nigerian recipes in your diet, you can enjoy delicious meals that are also beneficial for your bone health.

Read: Mineral Magic: The Health Secrets of Nigerian Soups

Non-Traditional Calcium-Rich Foods in Nigeria

A. Introduction to non-traditional calcium-rich foods

Calcium is essential for bone health, and traditional sources like dairy products may not be easily accessible or suitable for everyone.

Luckily, Nigeria has a variety of non-traditional calcium-rich foods that can be included in the diet.

B. Examples of non-traditional calcium-rich foods

  1. Okra: This vegetable is not only rich in fiber but also contains calcium for strong bones.

  2. Sesame seeds: These tiny seeds are packed with calcium, making them a great addition to dishes.

  3. Moringa leaves: Moringa is a powerhouse of nutrients, including calcium, which promotes bone health.

  4. Fish with edible bones: Fish like sardines and mackerel have soft, edible bones that are high in calcium.

  5. Kale: This leafy green is not only trendy but also a fantastic source of calcium.

  6. Almonds: These nuts are not only delicious but also contain calcium for strong bones.

  7. Broccoli: This vegetable is not only rich in vitamins but also has calcium for bone health.

  8. Soy products: Foods like tofu and soy milk are fortified with calcium, making them suitable for vegetarians and lactose-intolerant individuals.

C. Benefits of including these foods in the diet

  1. Strong bones: Consuming non-traditional calcium-rich foods helps maintain bone density and prevent conditions like osteoporosis.

  2. Vegan-friendly: Many of these foods are suitable for those following a vegan or dairy-free diet, ensuring they still get their recommended calcium intake.

  3. Nutrient-dense: Non-traditional calcium-rich foods are often packed with other essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

  4. Variety: Incorporating non-traditional calcium-rich foods into your diet allows for a diverse and exciting range of flavors and textures.

  5. Local availability: Many of these foods are readily available in Nigeria, promoting the use of local and sustainable resources.

To sum it up, while traditional dairy products are a common source of calcium, they may not be accessible or suitable for everyone in Nigeria.

Thankfully, there are plenty of non-traditional calcium-rich foods available that can be included in the diet to promote bone health.

Incorporating foods like okra, sesame seeds, moringa leaves, fish with edible bones, kale, almonds, broccoli, and soy products can provide the necessary calcium for strong bones.

The benefits of including these foods in the diet include maintaining bone density, providing vegan-friendly options, accessing nutrient-dense sources, enjoying variety, and utilizing local resources.

Read: Minerals in Local Nigerian Staples: A Deep Dive

Dietary tips for optimal calcium absorption

A. Importance of vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in calcium absorption and utilization by the body.

Without sufficient vitamin D, the body may struggle to absorb calcium efficiently.

B. Sources of vitamin D in Nigeria

Nigeria is blessed with abundant sunshine, which is a free source of vitamin D.

Spending time outdoors exposed to sunlight can help your body produce its own vitamin D.

Additionally, certain food sources can provide this essential vitamin, such as fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, fortified dairy products, and fortified cereals.

C. Ways to enhance calcium absorption in the body

Apart from ensuring adequate vitamin D levels, there are other strategies to enhance calcium absorption:

1. Consuming calcium-rich foods

Include dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt in your diet.

If you are lactose intolerant or prefer non-dairy options, choose calcium-fortified plant-based milk alternatives like soy milk.

2. Eating dark green leafy vegetables

Vegetables like kale, spinach, and collard greens are excellent sources of calcium.

Incorporate these into your meals regularly.

3. Opting for calcium-rich seafood

Fish like sardines and shrimp contain high amounts of calcium.

They can be tasty additions to your diet and provide the necessary nutrients for bone health.

4. Adding nuts and seeds

Almonds, sesame seeds, and chia seeds are examples of calcium-rich nuts and seeds that can be incorporated into your diet.

They not only provide calcium but also offer other health benefits.

5. Consuming legumes

Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are not only good sources of protein but also contain calcium.

Including these in your diet can boost your calcium intake.

6. Avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol

These substances can interfere with calcium absorption.

Limiting their consumption can help maintain optimal calcium levels.

7. Regular exercise

Engaging in weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, or strength training, can improve bone health.

Exercise stimulates bone formation and helps maintain calcium balance in the body.

8. Avoiding tobacco use

Smoking has been linked to weaker bones and increased fracture risk.

Quitting smoking can positively impact overall bone health.

9. Maintaining a healthy weight

Obesity and being underweight can negatively affect bone health.

Aim for a balanced diet and regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight.

10. Consulting a healthcare professional

If you have concerns about your calcium levels or bone health, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional who can guide you with personalized advice and potential supplementation if needed.

All in all, consuming calcium-rich foods and ensuring adequate vitamin D levels are crucial for optimal calcium absorption.

By making dietary adjustments and incorporating these tips into your routine, you can support your bone health and overall well-being.

Remember that small changes can lead to significant long-term benefits.


Consuming calcium-rich foods is vital for maintaining bone health.

It is important to incorporate these foods into our daily diet to improve and strengthen our bones.

By doing so, we can prevent the risk of osteoporosis and other bone-related diseases.

So, let’s make a conscious effort to include foods like dairy products, leafy greens, and salmon in our meals to support our bone health.

Start making small changes today and reap the benefits of strong and healthy bones in the long run.

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