A current ad on television for calcium supplements shows women trying to eat pounds of salmon and broccoli and whole big bowls full of almonds in an attempt to get enough calcium without taking a supplement. And, while the ad is truthful about the amount of these three foodstuffs required to meet daily requirements, it ignores the dozens of other foods that can contribute throughout the day to the total.
For the past five days, I have given up taking calcium supplements in response to a recent study which found that it increases the risk of heart attack by 25 - 30 percent.
I have managed to meet the daily requirement for calcium entirely through diet. It's been interesting, sometimes frustrating, and ultimately okay.
But it does require planning and some caution.
First, correct information is important and sometimes surprisingly hard to find. For instance, I have found values for broccoli ranging from 62 mg./cup, cooked to 180 mg./cup, cooked. That's a huge discrepancy. Too many of those discrepancies over the course of a day would be really significant. The USDA has a nutrient database which lists many individual nutrients. I've chosen it as my reliable resource.
Another obstacle to getting the correct information is typos and poor copy-editing. In one book, the value for 1/2 C of cooked spinach differs on the same page! Not helpful. And not unusual.
Second, the whole endeavour is time consuming, although it is already less so after only five days. Looking up everything is a pain, as is looking it all up again and again until it's firmly in the memory! Also, keeping track takes time. But practice makes perfect, and the time spent will diminish.
Third, the whole configuration of my diet has shifted. Initially, I was simply adding calcium-rich foods, and calories. Now, I'm figuring out how to incorporate what I need, rather than just tacking on.
I'm sticking with this, with the proviso that I will take a supplement on the odd day when I just don't get enough calcium. The study doesn't really scare me, but did make me realize how my attitudes towards food and supplements has not so subtly shifted (and I'm not liking it so much).
Those who require supplements should take them (although I would check with the doc). Otherwise, with some education and some time invested, we could just eat, enjoy, and be nourished.
Pass the broccoli!
(The consensus among commenters on my post about this study was that these things change over time, or are poorly designed and wrong, etc. Here is the link to the actual study in the British Medical Journal. I've
waded through, and there are a couple of important facts that the media largely ignored. Perhaps most important, the study did not include any calcium supplements taken along with Vitamin D. Also, there were no tests of calcium supplements taken as part of a supplement complex.)