Thursday, March 5, 2009

calcium comes from....

In a previous post I mentioned that kale is a good source of calcium.  This brought a couple of inquiries as to what other foods you could eat, aside from milk, to get your daily requirement of calcium.  And one question about how much calcium you actually need to take in on a regular daily basis.

Calcium is a mineral that is essential to our development. It is necessary for healthy bones and teeth which many people know. But it is also necessary to help with clotting factor, with muscle contractions and it is also used by your body to help with nerves and enzymes.  

There are a number of different types of calcium.  Calcium carbonate is the least expensive form and needs to be taken with food.  This is the form that you find in something like Tums antacid tablets.  Calcium citrate does not need to be taken with food and is better tolerated by people who suffer from gas or constipation.  It is the calcium supplement recommended for people who are taking proton-pump inhibitors. And there is calcium phosphate which is even less likely to cause intestinal distress than either calcium carbonate or calcium citrate.

I prefer to eat whole foods and try to avoid taking pills when I can.  So what do you eat to get calcium?  Lots of things, mostly dark, leafy greens.  Turnip greens, mustard greens, spinach, collard greens, kale, these are all great sources of calcium.    Blackstrap molasses is also a very good source of calcium.  And it exists in herbs such as basil, rosemary, thyme, even cinnamon.  According to the Eating 4 Health model that I studied, and now practice, spices are booster foods (as are things like nuts, sea vegetables, algae and nutritional yeast) and are an important part of our healthful nutrition.  So don't skimp on the spices, use them, enjoy them, taste them in your food.  A 2 tsp. serving of dried basil contains over 63 mg of calcium. 

According to the Linus Pauling Institute at the University of Oregon the Adequate Intake (AI) of calcium for adults aged 19-50 is 1,000 mg per day.  AI is a recommended value created when an RDA cannot be determined.  That may sound like a lot but if you balance your diet to include more leafy greens it's not that hard to do.  By way of example, one cup of 2% milk provides roughly 297 mg of calcium.  One cup of cooked spinach provides approximately 245 mg.    And,  here's a surprise, four tablespoons of sesame seeds actually provides more calcium than a cup of milk, at 351 mg.  Granted not many of us sit down to eat four tablespoons of sesame seeds at one go but if you use tahini to make a dressing or put it in other dishes, the amounts can add up quickly. This recipe for lemon tahini dressing is one of my favorites.

So eat your dark leafy greens, add spices to your food and boost your calcium.

Be well.

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