What's So Great About....Greens - Sweet Potato Chronicles - Sweet Potato Chronicles

What's So Great About.…Greens

My daugh­ter doesn’t drink milk, she won’t touch the stuff. It’s hard for me to argue with her because she has never seen me drink a glass of milk.

So why am I blath­er­ing on about milk dur­ing leafy greens week?  In a word, calcium.

Rec­om­mended Cal­cium Intake

Age (Male and Female)

0–6 months                  210 mg/day

7–12 months                270 mg/day

1–3 years                      500 mg/day

4–8 years                      800 mg/day

9–18 years                    1300 mg/day

19–50 years                  1000 mg/day

Over 50 years              1200 mg/day

Source: http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile68e.stm

We can all agree that we need cal­cium for healthy bones when we’re grow­ing, and when we’re older and hop­ing to avoid osteo­poro­sis and brit­tle break­able bones. But where that cal­cium comes from seems to be up for debate.  The dairy indus­try wants us to look no fur­ther than an ice cold glass of milk. But what I dis­cov­ered while writ­ing this post is that there are many  excel­lent sources of cal­cium, and a good num­ber are arguably bet­ter sources than milk.  While milk and dairy prod­ucts are excel­lent sources of cal­cium, they also come with calo­ries, fat and cho­les­terol. Fur­ther, the pro­tein in dairy actu­ally leaches cal­cium from the bones. While other foods (espe­cially leafy greens) con­tain less cal­cium, our bod­ies actu­ally absorb more.

Have a look at this chart, from Brenda Davis’s book “Becom­ing Veg­e­tar­ian.”  It gives us the rate of absorp­tion of cal­cium — a far more inter­est­ing num­ber wouldn’t you say?

Cow’s Milk
1 cup – 300 mg – 32% absorbed, 96 mg net

Mus­tard Greens, cooked
1 cup — 128 mg — 58% absorbed, 74 mg net

Chi­nese Cab­bage Flower Leaves, cooked
1 cup — 478 m — 40% absorbed, 192 mg net

Kale, cooked
1 cup — 122 mg — 49% absorbed, 60 mg net

Chi­nese Mus­tard Greens, cooked
1 cup — 424 mg — 40% absorbed, 170 mg net

White Beans, cooked
1 cup – 226 mg – 22% absorbed, 50 mg net

Turnip Greens, cooked
1 cup — 198 mg — 52% absorbed, 102 mg net

Broc­coli, cooked
1 cup – 70 mg – 61% absorbed, 42 mg net

Bok Choy, cooked
1 cup — 158 mg — 52% absorbed, 84 mg net

Sesame seeds, with­out hulls
1 ounce – 37 mg – 21% absorbed, 8 mg net

Tofu, made with a cal­cium based coag­u­lant
1 cup – 516 mg – 31% absorbed, 160 mg net

Accord­ing to the Physi­cians Com­mit­tee for Respon­si­ble Med­i­cine, the most health­ful sources of cal­cium are green leafy veg­eta­bles and legumes. I will add that leafy greens — broc­coli, bok– choy, brus­sels sprouts, col­lards, kale, mus­tard greens, swiss chard, to name a few,  are gen­er­ally health pro­mot­ing pow­er­houses. They are an excel­lent source of antiox­i­dants: Vit­a­min A, C. K and E ,  low in calo­ries, high in fiber, (weight man­age­ment and toxin elim­i­na­tion) and con­tain folate (devel­op­ment of the neural tubes in the fetus) and iron (pre­vents ane­mia) and eas­ily absorbed cal­cium (bone building).

I am cer­tainly not sug­gest­ing that you stop giv­ing your kids milk. Kids need the calo­ries and the fat for brain devel­op­ment and energy. But if you have a kid like mine who won’t look at milk, or who is aller­gic to it, it isn’t the cri­sis you might have believed (sigh of relief).  The chal­lenge now is to get them to eat the greens. And here’s where SPC comes in mighty handy.



  1. trixi rittenhouse says:

    Kale and hardy
    Just like plants need the sun to make them green.
    we all need the sun (‘they’ say twenty min­utes a day is enough)
    in order to absorb the cal­cium in the plants.
    So what­ever sur­rep­ti­tious mea­sures are needed to get kids eat­ing
    those greens, I’m sure no coer­cion is nec­es­sary to take them out
    to play.
    The sun will always rise to the occa­sion.
    Aunt T.

  2. patricia says:

    I've just come across your web­site and I love your recipes! I'm cer­tainly not a pro­po­nent of the dairy indus­try, but I am a nutri­tion pro­fes­sional and one of my pet peeves is when peo­ple speak neg­a­tively of all the 'fat and cho­les­terol in milk'. Sim­ple solu­tion: use skim milk instead, it has no fat or cho­les­terol at all! There are cer­tainly other sources of cal­cium out there and greens are a great exam­ple, but I wish peo­ple weren't mis­lead by com­ments like this.

  3. Heidi Pyper says:

    Hi Patri­cia,
    Thanks for read­ing! And for your com­ments. I didn't mean to mis­lead peo­ple about milk, in fact I wish my daugh­ter would drink more of it. What I was hop­ing to do, was get peo­ple think­ing about where else cal­cium comes from and the absorp­tion of cal­cium vs. con­sump­tion. I appre­ci­ate the feed­back though.

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