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Can leafy greens maintain your calcium levels?

Are you worried about your calcium levels on a dairy free lifestyle? Include the following foods in your balanced diet and you can achieve adequate calcium levels without dairy.

Non Dairy Sources of Calcium

  1. Greens: Broccoli, Kale, Parsley, Bok choy, Watercress, Chinese Cabbage
  2. Nuts: Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Tahini (sesame seed butter)
  3. Tofu and Soybeans
  4. Beans: Red Beans, White beans, Pinot beans
  5. Soy or Rice milk (calcium fortified)
  6. Canned Sardines and Salmon (including the bones)

These natural food sources allow a large of amount of calcium to be absorbed by your body, even more so than dairy products. Dairy foods, believed to be a great source of calcium, create an acid-forming effect on the body. This effect can pull calcium out of the bones, where you need it, rather than increasing calcium levels. Green plant foods are known to help alkalise your blood pH levels which enables more effective calcium absorption. Other foods, like spinach and soft drinks contain compounds that also reduce how much calcium is absorbed and used properly in your body.

Eating nutrient, dense non-dairy whole foods will also provide you with high amounts of other essential minerals and vitamins important for calcium absorption and keep your bones strong.

The following foods contain the same amount of calcium as 1 serving of milk:

  • 2/3 cup almonds with skin
  • 1/2 tin sardines or 1 tin canned salmon
  • 100g firm tofu
  • 1 cup fortified soy, rice drink
  • 2 cups of broccoli, 1.5 cups of kale, 1 cup of bok choy or 1/2 cup cooked Chinese cabbage

What you need to know about calcium…

green-leafy-vegs

  • It is the most abundant mineral in the body
  • About 99% of the calcium is found in your bones and teeth and is utilised for structure and strength
  • Also involved in muscle contractions, fluid balance and the transmission of nerve signals

If you find yourself struggling to eat all those greens and fish to meet your daily calcium requirements, a calcium supplement may be the way to go. Care must be taken when using calcium supplements as calcium may deposit in other places in the body like the kidneys or into blood vessels. Seek advice from a qualified practitioner to determine the correct supplement for yourself, if required.

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Are you not suited for dairy?

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Do you suffer from any of the following:

  • digestive problem like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea
  • skin problems like acne, rashes, redness, irritation
  • respiratory problems like post nasal drip, sinusitis

These symptoms can be due to an intolerance to dairy! It may be time for you to go dairy free.

The culprits in dairy known to cause the uncomfortable and often embarrassing symptoms above are either the milk sugars or milk proteins. What you need to know about them:

  1. Lactose is the sugar that naturally occurs in milk from cows. Lactose needs to be broken down by an enzyme called lactase to be absorbed properly. However, the general population does not produce enough of this important enzyme to digest dairy
  2. Casein and whey are the proteins in milk. Casein is a slow digesting protein that your digestive system has a tough time dealing with. Whey causes less issues than casein because it is digested faster

 

Going dairy free would give your digestive system a break from breaking down these products and you may find the above listed symptoms improve.
Dairy free essentially means giving a miss to any food that contains milk. Here is a list of foods to eliminate when going dairy free:

  • milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt, cream, ice cream, cheese
  • baked goods/pastries, chocolate, custards/puddings, egg replacer, frozen desserts, sauces/spreads, deli dips, flavored coffee drinks, breakfast drinks

 

Going dairy free is a highly individualised process. You may find that you can tolerate different dairy foods better than others due to the amount of lactose and casein they contain. What you need to do is figure out if it is the milk sugar or protein, or maybe both, that are exacerbating the symptoms that you are experiencing. Going dairy free should not be taken lightly as elimination a whole food group can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Straight up you will be concerned about where your calcium source will come from without dairy in your life. There are plenty of non-dairy sources of calcium, check out our next blog for a list of options!