Friday, October 7, 2011

Non-dairy sources of calcium

One of my enthusiasms is nutrition.  I may not always do anything about it, but I love to read and try to improve the way my family and I eat.

Swiss Chard added to a pan of bacon, onion, and perogies
A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy along with lactose intolerance.  A combination of stress and eating too much dairy (I love cheese and had a lot of skim milk and yogurt in my diet) made me hypersensitive, and I ended up with both typical lactose intolerance symptoms (which we won't go into here!) as well as itchiness, stuffiness and sore throat in the mornings, and ringing and pain in my ears.  Cutting out dairy solved all those problems, but at my age calcium is still a vital dietary need.

I am also a big fan of the USDA nutrient database.  I like looking up foods to find out what's in them, but less often I find a reason to look at their nutrient lists.  I looked at their PDF listing dietary sources of calcium and picked out these non-dairy and non-fortified sources:

Cornmeal, self-rising, degermed, enriched, yellow; 138g; 1 cup; 483
Wheat flour, white, all-purpose, self-rising, enriched; 125g; 1 cup; 423
Collards, frozen, chopped, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt; 170g; 1 cup; 357
Rhubarb, frozen, cooked, with sugar; 240g; 1 cup; 348
Leavening agents, baking powder, double-acting, straight phosphate; 4.6g; 1 tsp; 339
Fish, sardine, Atlantic, canned in oil, drained solids with bone; 85g; 3 oz; 325
Spinach, frozen, chopped or leaf, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt; 190g; 1 cup; 291
Soybeans, green, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt; 180g; 1 cup; 261
Turnip greens, frozen, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt; 164; 1 cup; 249
Biscuits, plain or buttermilk, prepared from recipe; 101g; 4" biscuit; 237
Cowpeas (blackeyes), immature seeds, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt; 165g; 1 cup; 211

This is, frankly, a little discouraging.  The cornmeal and flour only make the list because they are self-raising; i.e., have baking powder in them (and because a cup is a lot to eat in a day).  I'm not sure whether I should count baking powder as a non-fortified source or not.  I like collards, spinach, and other greens just fine, but I don't eat them every day, and I'd have to eat three to four cups - and that's the cooked measure! - to get my day's allowance.  Rhubarb and edamame (the green soybeans) are hard to obtain and expensive, and I don't even know where I would find immature cowpeas.

Goat cheese is still not entirely problem-free for me, but it's better.  Taking a quick look at the package in my fridge, though, it only supplies 2% of my daily calcium.

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