Can you get your calcium from ice cream?

Ice cream is made from dairy and is a source of calcium, so it’s kind of healthy, right?

Let’s start with the basics…

Dairy foods (and their alternatives) make up one of the core food groups.

These foods are an important source of calcium, which most people know you need for strong bones and teeth. But, calcium has so many other functions on top of that. It plays a role in muscle function, heart function and even our nervous system. It’s not all just about skeletal health!

Not only does the dairy and alternatives food group contain calcium, it also provides protein for muscle growth and repair, as well as a range of vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin B12 for the function of our blood and nervous system and Vitamin A for eye health.

So, doesn’t ice cream fit the bill?

Hold your horses!

The dairy and alternatives food group comprises of milk, yoghurt and cheese – unfortunately, ice cream isn’t part of this core food group. Sure, ice cream will provide you with a hit of calcium, but there are certainly much healthier options to help you reach your calcium quota.

For a quick comparison, a scoop of vanilla ice cream (50 grams), contains almost 50 milligrams of calcium, whereas a small tub of low fat yoghurt can contain over 300 milligrams. To put that into perspective, you’re recommended to have 1000 milligrams of calcium a day (if you’re between the ages of 19-50).

On top of that, ice cream is an energy dense food, so your waistline won’t be too happy if you over-do it on the reg.

My verdict?

You’ve probably guessed it, but ice cream should stay in the ‘sometimes’ basket. That doesn’t mean you can never eat ice cream – and thank god for that, because who would want to live in a world without ice cream, anyway?!

All in all, you should rely on mostly low-fat dairy options from our core food group for your calcium needs – and enjoy ice cream only occasionally and in moderation as a treat. When you do, think of its calcium content simply as an added bonus.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can follow her @honest_nutrition.

For more on this topic, a dietitian weighs in on what the best milk to drink is. Plus, this is how to stock your kitchen if you’re avoiding dairy.

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