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Cows Milk is Not the Best Source of Calcium

We all know the recommended daily allowance of calcium for pre-menopausal women is 1,000 mg. Think the best way to meet that recommended daily allowance is from dairy products? Think again.

One cup of cow's milk has 300mg of calcium. Sounds like you are well on your way to obtaining that 1,000mg mark, right? The amount of calcium present in a particular food is not the only important factor to consider. The bioavailability of the calcium should be considered when deciding which foods are a good source. This means how much calcium is actually available for absorption into the body from the food. Take into account that the bioavailability of cow's milk is only 32%, and things aren't looking too good. If one cup of cow's milk is 300mg, but your body can only use 32% of it, that equals only 96mg of usable calcium. (1) Not to mention, dairy products are high in saturated fat, cholesterol and have shown indications they increase cancer-producing cells.

What about calcium supplements? The most common form is calcium carbonate, which is only 26% absorbable.

So what is an alternative? Green, leafy vegetables pack as much calcium as dairy products, but without the negative health effects! Five vegetables that have a high calcium bioavailablity of 20-39% are kale, celery, collard, Chinese cabbage and soyabean sprouts. Other great raw vegetable sources of calcium include:

(all measurements are per 1 cup)

  • collards - 218mg

  • chicory greens - 180mg

  • kale - 137mg

  • mustard spinach - 315mg

  • turnip greens - 105mg

  • blackberries - 46mg

  • navel oranges - 56mg

  • kiwi - 46mg

Conclusion, dark, green leafy vegetables are packed with calcium, and the calcium is better utilized by the body than conventional dairy products, without all the unhealthful side effects of dairy. Plus vegetables provide the added benefits of fiber, vitamins and minerals. So the next time you find yourself reaching for that milk carton or yogurt container, make yourself a salad with plenty of dark green vegetables instead. Your bones will thank you.

(1) United States Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Information Service, Agriculture Handbook Number 8-11.

Mindi has been a health and fitness enthusiast for over 10 years. After learning that dairy products are not the best form of calcium, she hopes to motivate others to change their diet to a more healthful one, including lots of raw fruits and vegetables.

Get more nutrition advice at Women's Fitness Mag