We learned from our discussion on bone health last week that calcium is one of the minerals we need to eat regularly for strong bones.  But did you know that you don’t have to drink milk or eat dairy products to get calcium?  Today we’ll discuss what other foods are high in calcium, and how to make that calcium readily absorbable for your gut.

The following plant foods are good sources of calcium to add to your diet:

  • Bok choy (Chinese cabbage)
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soybeans (and soy products like tofu)
  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens

As you can see I’m pushing those dark leafy greens again.  I can’t emphasize enough how much you can benefit from adding these to your diet!

How to increase the absorption of non-dairy calcium

Calcium from plant sources can be somewhat challenging for your gut to absorb.  This is because these plants contain other compounds like oxalic acid and phytates that bind to the calcium and won’t give it up!  For example one cup of spinach contains 25% of your daily recommended value for calcium.  However spinach is also very high in oxalic acid, so you will probably only absorb about one quarter of the calcium you get.  Here are some ways you can increase the absorption of calcium from vegetables:

Enjoy your leafy greens with some shiitake mushrooms.  These fungi are a good source of Vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption.

Steam your greens.  Studies have found that steaming your vegetables can decrease the oxalic acid content by almost half.  Try steaming your vegetables until they are soft but still bright in color.

Researchers have also found that boiling vegetables increases the calcium availability much more, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Unfortunately boiling vegetables gets rich of many nutrients, not just the oxalic acid.  And personally I think mushy boiled vegetables are gross!

Try your hand at fermentation.  The fermentation process breaks down many of the compounds that decrease absorption while leaving the calcium intact.  Here’s a recipe for Fermented Spinach Kraut from Gnowfglins.

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