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
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?
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
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
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.