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    Archive for the ‘calcium’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Amaranth

    Amaranth Grain crop 001A few days ago on Twitter you recommended we give alternative grains like amaranth a try.

    Can you tell me more about it?  How can it be prepared?

    — Will Reicks
    (Location withheld)

    Although amaranth can be eaten as a savory side dish, I prefer it as an alternative to oatmeal, especially since it has a porridge-like texture.

    I enjoy it topped with sliced bananas, chopped pecans, goji berries, and cacao nibs.

    Like quinoa and wild rice, amaranth falls into the “pseudo-grain” category, since it is technically a seed.

    Not only is it a completely safe food for those with gluten intolerances and wheat allergies — it also boasts a powerful nutritional profile.  One cup of cooked amaranth delivers:

    • 251 calories
    • 5 grams of fiber
    • 9 grams protein

    It is also an excellent source of iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus, and delivers substantial amounts of calcium, copper, folate, selenium, vitamin B6, and zinc.

    Added bonus?  Amaranth contains exclusive phytonutrients that help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol as well as a powerful group of antioxidants called betalains that help reduce cellular inflammation and, consequently, the risk of different cancers.


    You Ask, I Answer: Tea – How Healthy? And How Much?

    tea-bagsI looked up tea on your blog after reading the post about alcohol and liquid calories.

    I’ve gathered that tea is calorie free (with nothing added), so it’s probably better than loading up on diet pop?

    Kind of an idiotic question, but can you drink too much tea?  What is the upper limit?

    — Kate Redfern
    Via Facebook

    Tea is indeed intrinsically free of calories, but it offers a lot of other wonderful components — especially when it comes to unique polyphenols and antioxidants.

    And, unlike diet soda, it doesn’t have the potential to leach calcium from your bones.

    Can you drink too much tea (I assume the real question here is “can too much tea be unhealthy?”)?  Nope.

    Unlike coffee, where very high amounts are linked to unpleasant side effects and even health consequences, health benefits of tea are seen even when seven or eight cups are consumed per day.

    In fact, a small group of health benefits are only seen when tea intake is that high!

    PS: If you currently drink one or two cups of tea a day, there is no reason to squeeze five more in.  Most of tea’s health benefits can be enjoyed with small amounts a day, as long as it is consumed consistently (almost daily).


    Numbers Game: Answer

    kaleleaf5A cup of cooked kale contains 1,100 percent more vitamin C than a cup of cooked spinach and as much absorbable calcium as two thirds of a cup of milk.

    All dark leafy green vegetables are certainly not created equal!

    While spinach has its own thumbs-up-worthy qualities, kale certainly goes above and beyond.

    One of kale’s best nutritional offerings is its absorbable calcium.

    While spinach contains a fair share of calcium, most of it is bound by oxalates, which prevent it from being absorbed by our bodies.

    (FYI: the calcium in broccoli is even more absorbable than that in milk!)

    Next time you’re at the store, I encourage you to pick up some kale.  It is absolutely delicious when sauteed with garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes.

    Alternatively, you can steam it along with other vegetables — I personally love to contrast it with the intense taste and color of butternut squash — and drizzle a healthy dressing over them.


    Numbers Game: Kale-rific

    kaleA cup of cooked kale contains  ____ percent more vitamin C than a cup of cooked spinach and as much absorbable calcium as ____ cup of milk.

    a) 400/one half
    b) 200/ one
    c) 1,100/ two thirds of a
    d) 500/ a quarter

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Thursday for the answer.


    You Ask, I Answer: Calcium Absorption from Pasteurized Milk

    image{0}[2]One of my friends said that at a wellness workshop she recently attended, a dietitian said that pasteurized milk is not nutritious because the pasteurization process renders calcium unabsorbable to humans.

    Apparently, the best way to get calcium is from unpasteurized milk and cheese. 

    Is that true?

    — Deborah Wolper
    (City withheld), IL

    Wow.  I have heard my share of heinous nutrtional inaccuracies, but I think this one might take the cake.

    First off, I sincerely hope this completely erroneous “fact” did not come out of the mouth of a Registered Dietitian.  If so, I want to apologize on his or her behalf.

    Pasteurization has absolutely no effect on calcium levels on dairy, and much less on its bioavailability.

    Even if that were true, it would still be inaccurate to then coin pasteurized milk as “not nutritious.”  Calcium aside, dairy is a very good source of protein, B vitamins, magnesium, and phosphorus.


    You Ask, I Answer: Corn Processed with Lime


    When the ingredients on taco shells says corn processed with lime is it considered a whole grain or not?

    — Peggy Martin
    (Location Withheld)

    While popcorn is a whole grain, not all corn flours are.

    If the ingredient list does not specifically mention the presence of “whole grain corn”, you are not looking at a whole grain product.

    Corn is actually processed with lime to boost its calcium levels.

    Since lime-cooked corn contains lower levels of phytic acid than conventionally-cooked varieties, its calcium is much more absorbable. it also makes its iron much more absorbable.

    These discoveries came to light when nutrition researchers couldn’t explain why certain populations of native Mexicans did not have low iron blood levels despite a diet high in corn.


    Fave Four

    food_labelMany public health and nutrition experts have advocated a variety of changes to the current standard food label.

    From listing calorie information for entire packages commonly consumed in one sitting (i.e.: 20-ounce bottles of soda) to differentiating between naturally-occurring and added sugars (so consumers can know how much sugar is added to yogurt or dried fruit), the proposed changes would absolutely be helpful.

    I have thought of one tweak, however, that I haven’t heard anyone mention yet:

    The Food & Drug Administration should stop mandating that values of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron be listed for all products.  Instead, they should ask food companies to list the top four vitamins and minerals a particular product contains — and the recommended intake percentages in which they are present.

    Of course, as is the case now, food companies would have the choice of listing more than four nutrients if so desired.

    My main gripe with the four nutrients currently listed on food labels is that it often results in very healthy foods coming across as nutrition duds.

    Brown rice, for example, contains practically zero grams of calcium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C, but is a wonderful source of other vitamins and minerals — consumers should know what they are!

    “But those four nutrients are supposed to be on the food label because they aren’t consumed in sufficient quantities,” some of you may rebutt.

    True, so if a consumer does not see calcium on a food label, they will know that particular product is not a good source of the nutrient.


    You Ask, I Answer: Tofu Cream Cheese

    brealfastHow does tofu cream cheese stack up against regular cream cheese?

    Is the tofu type any better for you?

    — Ella Biggadike
    Brooklyn, NY

    Dairy and soy-based cream cheeses don’t offer much nutrition.

    Here is what you get in one tablespoon of dairy-based cream cheese:

    • 50 calories
    • 3 grams saturated fat (quite a bit for a mere 50-calorie serving!)
    • 1 gram protein
    • 4 percent of the vitamin A Daily Value
    • 2 percent of the phosphorus Daily Value
    • 1 percent of the Daily Value of: calcium, pantothenic acid, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin K

    Of course, fat-free varieties do not offer saturated fat (and clock in at 35 calories per tablespoon).

    Soy-based cream cheeses have an almost identical nutrient profile (except their fat is mostly polyunsaturated, rather than saturated).

    The bigger nutritional concern is what cream cheese is being slathered on.

    The average bagel, for example, clocks in at anywhere from 400 – 500 calories.  Considering that it takes three or four tablespoons of cream cheese to fill them decently, you are easily looking at a 700-calorie breakfast.

    I recommend using nut butters as bagel fillings.  Their fiber, high protein content, and healthy fats (especially in the case of peanut and almond butters) will keep you full for much longer.

    A half bagel topped with two tablespoons of nut or seed butter is a filling breakfast that adds up to approximately 400 calories.


    You Ask, I Answer: Calcium Recommendations for Older Adults

    calcium-form-periodic-table-of-elements-thumb6814686Why do calcium requirements increase when you turn 51?  It’s not as if bones are still being formed or growing.

    — Joseph Stewart
    Reading, PA

    Calcium recommendations are set for 1,000 milligrams for adults ages 19 – 50.

    Children and teenagers aged 9 – 18 should aim for 1,300 milligrams a day, while adults 51 and older need 1,200 milligrams.

    The 1,300-milligram figure was put in place to help young people achieve “peak bone mass” (the maximum amount of bone density a person can acquire)

    The increase in calcium for those 51 and older (for bone density maintenance) is in response to the body’s decreased absorption of the mineral with age.

    Remember that calcium is just one piece of the bone density puzzle.

    The two other lifestyle-related actions older adults can take for bone maintenance are quitting smoking and doing weight-bearing exercises.


    You Ask, I Answer: Calcium Supplements

    1779509845.JpegI just noticed that there are different kinds of calcium supplements!

    Today at the store I saw some that had calcium carbonate and some that were made from calcium citrate.  Which one is better?

    Thank you so much for this blog.  I read it every day and have learned so much!

    — Elizabeth Tackan
    Woodbury, NJ

    Thank you for your support, Elizabeth.  And thank you for your question!

    Both calcium citrate and calcium carbonate supplements are adequate.

    For optimal absorption, though, take calcium citrate on an empty stomach and calcium carbonate with meals.

    Remember, too, that our bodies can only absorb 500 milligrams at a time.

    If you are looking to supplement 800 milligrams, take one 400 milligram pill in the morning and another at night.


    The (Non-Existent) Battle of the Sexes

    300054755506The makers of Centrum are heavily advertising their newest multivitamin — Centrum Ultra Women’s — on television.

    This product — “specially formulated with key nutrients to help meet a woman’s nutritional needs” — contains additional amounts of Vitamin D (which the commercial points out “has been shown to promote breast health”) and calcium.

    Sounds lovely, but this is marketing hype in its purest form.

    First of all, the link between vitamin D intake and breast cancer is only suggestive at this point.  More research is certainly needed.

    Additionally, there is a growing body of research which suggests that adequate levels of vitamin D may help lower men’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

    As for the extra calcium (the Ultra Women’s formula provides 500 milligrams, while the Ultra Men’s offers 210 milligrams) — why?  Men and women have the exact same calcium recommendations (these fluctuate according to age, not sex).

    Main takeaway: both sexes equally benefit from adequate nutrition.

    His and hers multivitamins are simply a result of Madison Avenue looking to maximize profit.  Don’t fall for it.


    You Ask, I Answer: Cooking & Calcium

    grated-cheeseSomeone I work with told me she heard that when you cook dairy products (cheese on pizza), the calcium is leached out because of the high temperatures.

    Is that true?

    — Monica Scharf
    New York, NY

    No, it is not.

    Calcium — like all other minerals — is very resistant to dry heat (i.e.: roasting, grilling, baking).

    You may also want to point out to your office-mate that the cheese sprinkled on your pizza has already been pasteurized, and therefore already exposed to high heat.

    In any case, even when raw cheeses are exposed to dry heat, their calcium content remains intact.

    Some calcium losses have been observed, though, when foods containing calcium — including non-dairy sources like kale, collard greens, and tofu — are boiled for long periods of time (at least twenty minutes).


    You Ask, I Answer: Children & Soy Milk

    pearl-original-soymilkDo you think it’s okay for toddlers to forgo cow’s milk altogether and just drink soy milk instead?

    — Jane (last name withheld)
    Waltham, MA


    As long as the brand of soy milk they are drinking is fortified with calcium and Vitamin D (as most are) and it contains some fat (as most do), I don’t see a problem.

    Since soy milk provides roughly a half or two thirds of the fat in whole milk, be sure to make up for that by providing some extra fat in their meals.

    I certainly don’t recommend buying “light” versions.

    Remember, too, that all soy milks (except unsweetened ones) contain added sugar.  Yes, even plain flavors.


    You Ask, I Answer: Fiber Supplements

    citrucel_capletsWhat is, in your opinion, the healthiest fiber supplement?

    I have used psyllium husks for a long time in smoothies but have recently switched to Citrucel because of the delightful taste (it’s just like tang) and convenience.

    This is somewhat of a contridiction for me because I have made it a habit to avoid beverages high in sugar like soda and ice tea, and I’m concerned about the sugar content in Citrucel.

    Is it relatively high for a fiber supplement? Is it the equivalent of drinking a unhealthy ice tea mix or soda?

    Also, what are your thoughts on those Viactiv chocolate calcium chews?

    Jessica (last name withheld)
    San Antonio, TX

    Citrucel — “the fiber with no excess gas” — contains 100% soluble fiber.

    Remember, that is the type of fiber helpful for lowering cholesterol and achieving a feeling of fullness more quickly; insoluble fiber helps speed things up through the digestive system.  We need both types.

    Whole wheat breads are 100% insoluble fiber; oatmeal is 100% soluble fiber, and all other foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, etc.) are a combination of the two.

    Citrucel contains two grams of soluble fiber per scoop — roughly the same amount offered by one apple.

    Citrucel also tacks on roughly 4 and a half teaspoons of sugar per scoop.  So, two scoops equal the amount of sugar in one 12-ounce soda can.

    My main “issue” with fiber supplements is that while they provide actual fiber, their health benefits are much lower in comparison to fiber-rich foods.

    With something like Citrucel, you are getting fiber and nothing else.  With an apple, or oatmeal, or almonds, or a baked potato, you are getting fiber along with hundreds of health-promoting phytonutrients.

    So, in terms of which is the healthiest fiber supplement, my answer is: “food”.

    A half cup of raspberries, for example, packs in 4 grams of fiber and just 32 calories.  That’s twice the amount of one Citrucel scoop and HALF the calories.  As a sweet bonus, you get vitamins and loads of phytonutrients and antioxidants.

    A medium-sized banana contains, on average, 3 grams.  And, by simply making a sandwich with 100% whole grain bread, you add six grams to your day.

    There is a notion that fiber is hard to get in one’s diet, but it is widely available — in lots of different foods.  Here’s another example:  a cup of black beans adds 15 grams to  whatever recipe you are making (stew, chili, salad, etc.)

    If you like to make your own shakes/smoothies at home, one way to quickly and conveniently add fiber is to add a tablespoon of flaxseed and a tablespoon of wheat germ.  You won’t notice any difference in taste and those two tablespoons add 4 grams of fiber.

    By the way — this notion that Citrucel is superior because it provides fiber without gas is slightly misleading.

    Gastrointestinal operations vary from person to person; in that way, they are very much like snowflakes.  No two are alike.  However, there are two main factors that cause gassiness with increased fiber intake:

    1. Increasing fiber too soon (i.e.: someone who normally consumes 12 grams of fiber a day waking up one morning and starting off their day with 14 grams of fiber via a high-fiber cereal).
    2. Increasing fiber without increasing fluid intake

    As long as you increase fiber intake slowly (think tacking on two grams a day until you reach your desired goal) and accompany it with increased fluid intake, you should be able to minimize bloating and gassiness.

    As for the Viactiv tablets — the ingredient list is semi-sketchy (high fructose corn syrup AND partially hydrogenated oils!), but it is a low-calorie, low-sugar product.

    Is it the ideal way to get calcium?  Absolutely not.  I mean, really, if supplementing is the ultimate goal, is a regular calcium tablet that horrible to swallow?

    However, when push comes to shove, Viactiv is at least a way to get significant amounts of calcium.

    The problem is that so many people tend to focus on ONE nutrient and forget that by eating whole foods high in one nutrient, they would get more “bang for their buck.”

    Case in point — a calcium pill is just calcium.  Kale (a leafy green vegetable high in calcium) is also a source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.  Similarly, a cup of yogurt provides calcium along with protein, B vitamins, phosphorus, and potassium.


    Survey Results: Calcium Education

    calcium-richThe latest Small Bites survey asked visitors if they perceived mainstream advice on calcium-rich foods to be too focused on dairy products.  Ninety-two percent of the sixty-seven respondents said “yes.”

    I certainly think consumer knowledge and awareness of non-dairy sources of calcium in the United States — and other Western nations — is practically non-existent.

    Although dairy products certainly offer calcium, so do some leafy green vegetables (bok choy, kale, mustard greens, and collard greens), canned fish (salmon with bones, sardines), chickpeas, tempeh, and almonds.

    Part of the “problem” is that the majority of educational materials on calcium are paid for — and distributed — by the National Dairy Council, which not only plunks down $100 million annually in advertising, but also doles out as much money in the way of research grants.

    I recently conducted a small-scale research project which, among other things, examined calcium awareness among vegans and non-vegans.

    One part of the questionnaire respondents were asked to fill out included a food frequency questionnaire which included 41 foods that were high, moderate, or low sources of calcium.

    A subsequent question asked respondents to list any foods in that list they were not aware contained calcium.  Almost two thirds of those surveyed were surprised to see broccoli, kale, mustard greens, bok choy, chickpeas, and tempeh make the list.

    Hey, PETA, how about giving the silly publicity gimmicks a break (you know, like your campaigns to have breast milk in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or change the name of the Pet Shop Boys to The Rescue Shelter Boys?) and investing a significant amount of money in educational materials for the general population on non-dairy sources of calcium?

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