The calcium- Dairy myth

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A commonly asked question is “Can I just drink milk to get enough calcium?”

Let’s take a quick look at the daily recommendations for calcium requirements.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium varies by age. The RDA for Singapore is considerably lower as compared to standard calcium requirements in United States or Canada. (Use this table only as a general information guide. However, the requirements change based on ethnicity and on individual basis).

Age Male Female

Pregnant

Lactating

0–6 months

200 mg

200 mg

7–12 months

400mg

400 mg

1–3 years

500 mg

500 mg

4–6 years

600 mg

600 mg

7-9 years

700mg

700 mg

10–18 years

1000 mg

1,000 mg

1000 mg

1,000 mg

19–50 years

800 mg

800 mg

1,000 mg

1,000 mg

51–70 years

1,000 mg

1,200 mg

71+ years

1000 mg

1000 mg

 

Doctors have recommended dairy as a good source of calcium since decades for people who tend towards osteoporosis. Dairy is no doubt a great source of calcium but also provide adequate sources of other minerals like magnesium and potassium that is essential for bone building and metabolism. If you are not intolerant or allergic to dairy, it is far by the easiest way to get calcium especially with children. Pastured dairy products in particular, are also a good source of fat soluble vitamins like A,D, E, K2 which can be difficult to obtain elsewhere in the diet. However, one would have to take very high amounts of these foods to achieve the required daily amounts of calcium especially in adults which make it less practicable.

Milk, 1% low fat – (8oz 1 cup) – 300 mg calcium

Yogurt, plain low fat (8 oz, 1cup) – 400 mg calcium

American cheese (1 oz)-. 150mg calcium

Cheddar Cheese (1 oz).-204 mg calcium

Gouda/Muenster/Provolone (1 oz.) -200mg calcium

Lactose intolerance and dairy sensitivities are a common concern these days. Lactose intolerance is the lack of enzyme to digest lactose, the naturally occurring milk sugar. It is estimated that 90% of Asians and Africans are lactose intolerant, 70% of Hispanics and Jewish persons, 65% of Southern Indians, 30% of Central Europeans, and 5% of Northern Europeans. Persons who are not lactose intolerant may still have allergies or food sensitivities to the proteins casein or whey in dairy products. Cow’s milk has also been associated with potential problems like autoimmune conditions, asthma, allergies, autism and others.

So considering the rise of potential problems associated with dairy, other dairy forms like fermented dairy for lactose intolerant people should be considered.

Foods Quantity (serving) Calcium content (mg)
Yogurt, plain (low fat) 8 oz 400 mg calcium
Yogurt, flavored (low fat) 8 oz. 300-400 mg calcium (depends on different brands)
Kefir 100gms 120mg
Firm tofu 1/2 cup 253 mg

 

Excessive intake of dairy in children has also shown to be associated with deficiency of iron and anemia as calcium competes with iron for absorption. Intake of processed foods like cheese creates an acidic environment which can cause calcium to leach out of bones. Therefore a alkaline environment with plenty of greens would be ideal for bone building than relying completely on dairy.

Other nondairy sources of calcium:

Foods Quantity (serving) Calcium content (mg)
Sardines, 3 ounces 324 mg
Collard greens, 1 cup 357 mg
Calcium-fortified orange juice 1 cup 300 mg
Soy or rice milk, fortified, 1 cup 200-300 mg
Canned salmon 3 ounces 205 mg
Turnip greens 1 cup 215 mg
Kale 1 cup 179 mg
Soybeans 1 cup 175 mg
Okra 1 cup 172 mg
Bok choy 1 cup 158 mg
Mustard greens 1 cup 152 mg
Tahini 2 tbsp 128 mg
Broccoli 1 cup 94 mg
Almonds 1/4 cup 89 mg
Almond butter 2 tbsp 86 mg
Ikan bilis 2tbsp 200mg
Lentils 1 cup 230mg
Kailan 1 cup 116mg
Spinach 1 cup 84mg

If you take iron or other minerals, it is advisable to space calcium supplements. Calcium competes with iron for absorption in the gut.

Remember that calcium is not just the only player in the osteoporosis prevention game. Magnesium, vitamin D, Vitamin K, Boron are equally essential for bone building. Vitamin D is essential to use the calcium appropriately and preventing deposition elsewhere in the body. Therefore it is essential to use a balanced nutrient composition if you plan to take a calcium supplement on a long term basis.

Sources :

Calcium content of foods, Harvard University of Medical Sciences

RDA derived from: Health promotion board, Singapore

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