The 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?