Q:I have read that even though some foods have calcium, your body doesn’t always absorb all of it. What are the factors that affect this?


First, making sure you take a supplement properly is key. It is widely recognized that the body does not absorb more than about 500 mg. at a time, so it is important to take the supplement in 500 mg. increments spaced out during the day.

It is interesting to note though, that foods like spinach are high in oxalic acid. Essentially, oxalic acid keeps calcium from being absorbed in your body. Raw spinach, swiss chard, and kale are foods that are very high in oxalic acid. That means that even though they are high in calcium, the body does not absorb much of it. COOKING these foods reduces oxalic acid and makes the calcium more easily absorbed. Boiling reduces it the best, but steaming is more palatable.

Leafy greens are one of the best non-dairy sources of calcium, but there are also other ways to get it. Here are some examples:

  • Sesame Seeds (1/4 cup=351 mg)
  • Spinach (A cup of boiled spinach has 245 mg. A saute’ will result in less absorption, but it still has more absorbable calcium than raw.)
  • Blackstrap Molasses (1 tablespoon=137 mg)
  • Kale (One cup of boiled kale has 94 mg. If you don’t like this idea try adding boiled kale to a soup. Toss the water you boiled in as that is what contains the oxalic acid after cooking.)
  • Swiss Chard (One cup of boiled chard has 102 mg)
  • Celery (2 cups=81mg)
  • Almonds (23 nuts=75 mg)
  • Flax Seeds (2 tablespoons=52 mg)
  • Brazil Nuts (12 nuts=90 mg)
  • Oranges (1 medium=52 mg)
  • Collard Greens (A cup of boiled=266 mg)
  • Tahini (2 tablespoons raw [sesame seed butter]=126 mg)
  • Green Beans (1 cup=55 mg)
  • Broccoli (Two cups cooked=124 mg)

Here are some ideas about how to integrate some of these foods into your diet. Each of these foods contains an additional dose of calcium.

  • Toss fresh broccoli with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast for about 15 minutes. Top with a light sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
  • Toast a slice of Ezekial Bread and spread with a tablespoon of Almond Butter. Eat with an orange for a great breakfast.
  • Celery makes a perfect snack with almond butter, laughing cow, or low-fat cream cheese. It is also great dipped in a low-fat yogurt dressing like Bolthouse Farms.
  • Flax seeds can be added to any smoothie or ground and sprinkled onto cottage cheese. Check out the smoothies in the SWEET TREATS section of Heart In Motion.
  • Try mixing 1 tablespoon almond butter with 1 teaspoon of blackstrap molasses and dipping in apple slices for a sweet treat.
  • CHOCOLATE SHAKE WITH A HEALTHY KICK is hands-down my favorite smoothie ever! Even though the spinach in it may not give you the same calcium benefit as cooked spinach, it still gives you the other wonderful benefits of spinach and uses almond milk, which is fortified with calcium.
  • BROCCOLI SLAW (Stir Fry Asian Style) is wonderful and is topped with sesame seeds.
  • SESAME SOY GREEN BEANS are also great and topped with sesame seeds.
  • GINGER GARLIC GREEN BEANS are also a great source of non-dairy calcium.
  • Always keep 90 calorie packs of BARNEY BUTTER (small, portable almond butter) with you for calcium and protein on the go.
  • Keep 100 calorie packs of almonds handy for quick snacks.