Scientists develop non-dairy based calcium-rich food

New Delhi: Are you a vegetarian and don`t like milk? Then ensure that your daily platter includes food like finger millet dosa, soybean chutney, sesame ladoo or rasgulla – they all help supplement calcium deficiency, suggest Indian scientists.

A joint study by University of Pune and Hirabai Cowasji Jehangir Medical Research Institute (HCJMRI) found that calcium intake was only 63 per cent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for boys and and 53 per cent for girls.

According to the RDA developed by the Indian Council of Medical Research, children aged 7-9 years require 600 mg of calcium daily, while it is 800 mg for those in the age group of 10-19 years.

The new study into the dietary habits of 236 children aged 7-19 years found that 90 per cent of their diet was "deficient in calcium". While 45 per cent participants consumed milk, 36 per cent of them had no milk intake at all.

Thus, the researchers developed 14 non-dairy-based calcium-rich products and 12 dairy-based calcium-rich products using methods like malting and fermentation "as food-based interventions" to raise calcium intake in children.

"Calcium is required for formation of strong bones and teeth, blood clotting, normal muscle movement and function of some hormones. Its deficiency could alter all these functions and may increase the risk of osteoporosis in old age," said Neha Sanwalka of Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences at University of Pune, the lead author.

The non-dairy-based calcium-rich products include finger millet (ragi) dosa, sesame (til) ladoo, sesame–soybean chutney, poppy seed (khus khus) porridge, garden cress (halim) seed–sesame chikki and cauliflower bread, said the study published in `Current Science`.

Similarly, the dairy-based calcium-rich products include finger millet porridge, rice porridge with poppy seeds, cheese sandwich, spinach–cottage cheese vegetable and sweets like rasmalai and rasgulla.

Tests carried out on the food items showed that non-dairy based food products were on par with dairy-based products for calcium content, said co-author Anuradha Khadilkar, Assistant Professor at Hirabai Cowasji Jehangir Medical Research Institute, Pune.

"200 gram serving of the products developed in the study can meet about 84 per cent recommended intakes of children," Khadilkar said, adding that the products developed in the study were well accepted in terms of flavour and texture.