Calcium: skip the pills, get it through your food

How do you get your calcium?

At my last annual exam my doctor asked if I ate cheese and yogurt every day.

Well, she didn't exactly ask…

She said: "You DO eat cheese and yogurt every day, don't you?"

For those of you who have never been to France – both items play an important role in the French diet.  The day often starts with plain yogurt, it being the preferred accompaniment to cereal rather than milk (which is a beverage for small children) and a proper lunch or dinner is always finished off with a bit of cheese.

She wanted to make certain I was getting adequate calcium. 

Vitamin supplements are not big here. The philosophy is to eat a healthy, well-rounded diet and not to worry about the rest. (Might I say 'DUH!')

But I worry.

It's my job (someone in each household has to accept that responsibility).

So I started tallying up my calcium consumption, and Googling the world to see what it should be.

The recommended daily intake is between 1000 and 1500mg.

My 4oz (125gr) of yogurt and 1oz (30gr) of cheese was falling short.

But…..

What I found out is there are a lot of plant sources of calcium.  Even herbs, like basil, rosemary and oregano are good sources, albeit small: two tsp of basil has app. 62mg calcium.

Greens are a good source with spinach being the best: 1 cup cooked has 245mg, but turnip greens, mustard greens, chard and kale are also good sources.  Other vegetables: cabbage, summer squashes, Brussels sprouts, fennel, celery and even asparagus will contribute to a lesser degree.

Dairy, of course is a big contributor: Low-fat yogurt is probably the best single dietary source at a whopping 450mg per cup.  Goat's milk (325mg) has more than cow's milk (295mg) and good, old mozzarella is an excellent source at 185mg per ounce. (Ricotta has more – see below, but one doesn't often sit down and eat a cup of ricotta.)

Here's one that really surprised me: sesame seeds.  4 tbs have 350mg!  I love sprinkling them on stir-fries. 

For the strict carnivores among us I only found canned sardines and canned salmon as sources – assuming you eat the bones, of course.  (Well, I always do…. doesn't every one?)

What I discovered with all this is that I don't hit my mark of 1200 everyday but I do average pretty close to it over the course of a week….

So I take a 600mg supplement (that I bring back from the US) every other day or so.

As humans, we are much healthier if we rely on actual food for our nutrition…. but a little boost never hurt.

Be careful about taking any supplement, though.  Excesses of a lot of vitamins and minerals are simply, uh, pissed away, but some can build up and be dangerous, even life threatening.  Excess calcium (more than 3000mg per day) can cause toxicity issues. 

For more information on Calcium check  World's Healtiest Foods.

Baked Spinach with Goat Cheese is a favorite high calcium dish – and there is more information on dairy calcium included on that post:

Spinach with Goat Cheese
And of course there is a Mock Spinach Soufflé with made with yogurt….

Mock Spinach Souffle
For the sesame seeds we have Stir-Fried Sesame Chicken.

Stir-Fried Sesame Chicken
And that Ricotta – 1 cup of part-skim ricotta has a whopping 670mg of calcium! (Whole milk ricotta only has 500mg)

It's in this Tuna Spaghetti Pie.

Tuna Spaghetti Pie
One last recipe – the most decadent, most wonderful, creamiest risotto you'll ever dip a spoon into: Ricotta Risotto (with Spinach)

Ricotta Risotto
It's so nice to be both bad and good at the same time……

 

9 thoughts on “Calcium: skip the pills, get it through your food”

  1. I think it’s a valid message, minerals and vitamins are much better when obtained through food rather than via supplements.

  2. I don’t take a supplement although by your calculations I probably should. Like you, I think the more you get from foods the better. But you also need to consider the esrtogen interaction with calcium as you age and it’s important to get weight-bearing exercise (like walking) every day to strengthen bones, too, especially if you are a small-boned or very short woman. A bone density scan is not a bad idea to get a baseline reading, too, to which you can compare later scans to make sure you are maintaining bone strength. And calcium is also important for cell function – okay, enough science!

  3. Thanks for the information Katie. I also do what you do…yogurt, cheese, greens, and a calcium supplement every other day or so…it just felt right for my body. Great research!

  4. I have a friend who has lost a lot of weight by giving up dairy – I just could not ever do that – yoghurt is such a big part of my life an so are capuccinos !!!

  5. Scott, I agree – but pills are easier than a healthy diet for a lot of people.
    Val, I make it lots – quick and easy
    Zoomie, you are so right. Nothing works better than weight-bearing exercise. And I had my first bone scan this year….
    Meredith I don’t think that it’s possible to eat too much cheese!
    Thanks, Ina!
    Manningroad I eat yogurt every day… I lost weight by not eating so much ;-))

  6. I was worried and now I know I am OK, I eat tons of sesame seeds!!!:)
    Seriously I tnd to adhere to the French philosophy, common sense and variety! I made grape molasses recently and use it in a lot of dishes and IT has oodles of calcium~

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