Breaking the ties that bind (your calcium).

April 12th, 2010 · Lisa · book review, Review · Comments

Yesterday, I mentioned a number of culinary competitions I’m excited to take part in. Today, I’d like to draw your attention to an issue of nutrient strategizing you may want to engage in yourself.

In my post on April 1st I shared that I’ve had some issues related to bone density (because of a low BMI – NOT veganism) and yesterday I included a link to a podcast interview with Brenda Davis related to vitamin D.  The sunlight vitamin has been enjoying some time in the media spotlight, with particular attention to its link to cancer prevention. With that important issue hitting the headlines I’m not sure the role of vitamin D in calcium absorption has been as widely communicated. It seems calcium is rather finicky about whether or not it is available to help out with its regular chores.

Calcium is very important for growing and maintaining strong bones and teeth. However it also plays an important role in blood clotting, muscle relaxation, nerve message transmission, and cell metabolism. Getting adequate amounts of calcium in your diet is critical for your daily functioning and your future mobility.

Calcium can be found in a number of foods but it is tricky because it can be bound to either oxalate or phytate which impacts our bodies ability to access it. Absorption of calcium is impacted by a number of factors (the persons level of deficiency, the amount of vitamin D available, and other compounds in the food, etc.). Confusing right? Well, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re getting the most from your calcium-rich foods.

First, don’t forget the value of soaking, sprouting and fermenting. All of these tactics break down phytates and release the calcium for our bodies use. (So, soak those almonds and whiz up a big glass of almond milk).

Second, consuming foods such as avocados, nuts, olives and seeds can help us to absorb calcium (This is the perfect excuse for a bowl of salsa and guacamole on top of a kale salad).

Third, choose low-oxalate foods (bok choy, broccoli, kale, napa cabbage, watercress) to supply your calcium because our bodies can absorb 40% or more of their calcium rather than the 5% from high-oxalate foods (spinach).

This Build-Your-Bones Salad (p. 278) from Becoming Raw provides 213 mg (and 7 grams of fiber and 115 calories) of calcium per serving. 

The combination of kale, lettuce, napa cabbage, broccoli, red cabbage, and sweet bell pepper tossed with a healthy dressing (containing avocado or tahini) helps to maximize the bioavailability of every mg! 

Training Update:
It was a biking day. I did 45 minutes with hill intervals. I maintained the 88-95 rpm cadence and got quite a workout. Tomorrow night I am attending a short distance tri workshop. I can’t wait for all the amazing training advice. 

What is your favourite calcium source?

Do you take a vitamin D supplement in the winter? How many IUs? 


  1. Posted April 12, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I recently learned from PCRM that butternutsquash has quite a bit of calcium! I think that would make it one of my favourite sources of calcium.

    I also didn't realize until reading your post that bok choy was a good source of calcium, that is another pleasant surprise! I would put both bok choy and broccoli on my top list as well, although it's particularly in saucy stir fries that I really enjoy both of them.

  2. Posted April 13, 2010 at 5:53 am

    That salad looks delicious!

    A blood test revealed low levels of Vitamin D (and being a runner, I'm outside almost every day!) so I take a 1000 IU supplement daily.

  3. Posted April 13, 2010 at 9:45 am

    That Salad looks great!
    At Home we have a lot of Broccoli, the kids LOVE and I would say we have it every other day as a side dish.
    Also ever since I started running I take a Calcium Supplement that contains 200IU of vitamin D.

  4. Posted April 13, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    I'm happy to hear the Canadians are taking some vitamin D. My interview with Brenda really clarified that we just can't rely on the sun during the winter months as a reliable source of vitamin D.

    I'm just happy that we're back basking in the glow of the bright sunshine – soon it will be up in time for a run before work. I can't wait.

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