What’s So Great About….Greens

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.

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  1. trixi rittenhouse
    December 01, 08:05 Reply
    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
    April 08, 10:11 Reply
    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
    April 08, 10:26 Reply
    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. Heidi

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