Thursday, January 27, 2011

More Milk Myth

I was dismayed to see  this New York Times article, The Long and Short of Calcium and Vitamin D, perpetuate the myth that humans need to consume cow's milk to get enough calcium.  The author, Jane Brody, mentions plant-based foods, but in a way that sounds confusing and dangerous:
But some other desirable foods are problematic, at least when it comes to calcium: you’d have to eat so much broccoli to approach the level in milk that it could be toxic to your thyroid gland. Other vegetables with calcium, like spinach, collards, kale and beans, contain oxalates that block calcium absorption.
Come on.    She makes it sound like the oxalates  completely block any absorption, and pretty much concludes you should just stick to cow's milk and dairy products. Plant-based milks are barely mentioned.  Sigh.
The following is from, and can help clear the muddied waters:
Conclusion on Calcium and Vegan Diets
The US recommended intake for calcium is 1,000 mg for most adults. The UK's recommended intake is 700 mg. Given the results of the EPIC-Oxford study on vegan fracture rates, it is prudent to get 700 mg per day. For the average vegan, this probably means drinking one glass of fortified soymilk each day in addition to an otherwise balanced diet.
Table 5. Plant Foods High in Calcium
FoodServing Ca (mg)
cow's milk (for comparison)1 C300
typical calcium supplement1 tablet300-500
soymilk, fortifiedb1 C200-300
tofu (if 'calcium-set')1/2 C120-300
orange juice, fortifiedb1 C250
blackstrap molasses1 T187
sesame seeds2 T176
collard greensa1/2 C133
veg baked bean1 C128
navy beans1 C128
kalea1/2 C90
tahini1 T64
broccolia1/2 C50
almonds2 T50
aCooked | bRead the label for calcium amounts | T - tablespoon
Calcium Tips
  • Many non-dairy milks are now fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and/or vitamin B12. Many orange juices are fortified with calcium.
  • Shake calcium fortified non-dairy milks before pouring as the calcium can settle to the bottom.
  • The calcium in kale, broccoli, collard greens, and soymilk is all absorbed relatively well.
  • The calcium in spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens is not well absorbed, due to their high content of oxalates, which bind calcium.
  • Calcium supplements can inhibit iron absorption if eaten at the same time. (4).
  • In addition to the calcium in the leafy greens listed on the right, leafy greens also contain vitamin K which is good for bones.
  • The Daily Value for calcium on food labels is 1,000 mg. Therefore,if a food label says it has 25% of the daily value, it means it has 250 mg of calcium per serving.

1 comment:

Wan Ying said...


I'm a lactating mother and I used to be vegan before pregnancy. I would like to go back to being vegan but I have concerns about having a complete and balanced diet especially where calcium is concerned.

Can you advise on how much of the recommended food to take in a typical day's diet?