News & Perspectives

How to Get Enough Calcium Without the Cow
The fact that 75% of the calcium in the American diet comes from dairy products is a testament to both the popularity of these foods and their high concentration of this mineral. But many people avoid milk, cheese, and yogurt because of lactose intolerance, a vegan diet, or personal preference. Unfortunately, it's not easy to meet daily calcium requirements when you don't eat dairy, according to researchers at Purdue University (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 9/99 Supplement). For such people, nondairy food alternatives as well as calcium supplements may be especially important.

Pasta powerhouse
For a real calcium boost combine nondairy sources of the mineral. Cook 8 oz. elbow macaroni or other small-shaped pasta, such as ditalini; drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta water. In large skillet, saute 2 cloves minced garlic in 2 tbsp. olive oil until soft. Add 1 tbsp. anchovy paste and 1 cup sliced kale stems; cook 2 minutes. Add 8 cups shredded kale leaves, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. cayenne; cook 5 minutes, or until tender. Add 2 cups cooked white beans, 1/2 cup sliced almonds and reserved pasta water; bring to boil. Add pasta, toss and serve. Serves 4. [Per serving: 423 calories, 14 grams fat, 284 mg calcium]

Lose the salt
Avoid the super salty foods, which can cause your bones to shed calcium. Over time, this loss can produce a significant drop in bone density.

No matter what your source of calcium might be, remember to also get vitamin D, which the body needs in order to properly absorb calcium. Your body makes its own D but requires sun exposure to do so. Exposing yourself to sunlight--even through a window--for 15 minutes a day allows your body to make enough vitamin D to absorb your day's intake of calcium.

The dairy debate
Some nutritionists advise against dairy products as a source of calcium because their high protein content can speed the loss of calcium from bones. But calcium-rich plant foods, such as beans, are also high in protein (as are many other vegetarian foods), so vegetarians have the same problem, the Purdue researchers point out. Dairy products and vegetables are both good sources of calcium.

(Recommended: Over age 50, 1,200 mg a day; age 19 to 50, 1,000 mg a day; age 9 to 18, 1,300 mg a day)



Milk (1 cup) or cheese (1 1/2 oz)

300 mg

Calcium fortified orange juice, 1 cup

300 mg

Tofu, raw, firm, 3 1/2 oz

204 mg

Arugula, 1 cup

154 mg

Soybeans, fresh boiled, 1/2 cup

131 mg

Soy nuts, 1/2 cup

119 mg

Almonds, 1/4 cup

100 mg

White beans, canned, 1/2 cup

96 mg

Kale, cooked, 1/2 cup

90 mg

Bok choy, cooked, 1/2 cup

79 mg

Figs, dried, 1/4 cup

72 mg

Broccoli, cooked, 1/2 cup

47 mg

Butternut squash, baked, 1/2 cup

45 mg

Date Posted: 10/31/2002

Date Published: 10/30/2002
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