The Calcium Story

Running SkeletonTo keep things simple, I have focussed only on counting calories since I changed my eating habits in 2013, hoping that ‘healthy eating’ would happen anyway. But now that I am maintaining, my new eating habits have to give my body what it needs forever, and so I wanted to check whether my diet was basically OK. Emma, our NC Nutritionist, very kindly cast her eye over my diet, to see whether it seemed alright. She said that mostly it was good, but that I was consuming very little dairy, so I needed to look at whether I was getting enough calcium. I am 63 now, so getting enough calcium is important – time for some analysis!

The problem I saw was that dairy certainly gives calcium, but dairy can be high in calories. So I put together a table of foods that contain calcium, and the table also shows how many calories the foods contain. Very interesting, especially if you’re a bit of a geek like me. My table showed that to get my recommended 1000mg of daily calcium from plain yoghurt or from semi-skimmed milk (common foods for getting more dairy) would ‘cost’ me about 400 calories. That’s a lot of calories to ‘spend’, so I looked at foods that would give me my 1000mg of calcium for fewer calories. There are quite a few with, for me, some surprises. Broccoli only ‘costs’ 250 calories for that 1000mg of calcium, celery costs 175 calories, and the absolute star – right out in front – is rhubarb, costing only 80 calories. Mind you, I would have to eat two and a half pounds of rhubarb a day (without any sugars) to get my daily calcium that way.

To be a part of a diet I can live with, the broccoli and celery are good news. Lettuce is nearly as good. In fact I counted the calcium in my usual big lunch salad, and all of that greenery came to nearly 350mg – a third of my daily calcium requirement. Add to that, porridge, skimmed milk in my drinks, green veg with dinner and (no kidding!) beer, and I am not far off my 1000mg of calcium. But still not there. So I looked at my table again and, right up near the top, second only to rhubarb, was unsweetened almond milk. I saw that I could get my whole daily calcium requirement by ‘spending’ just 100 calories on this drink. The snag was I had never tasted it in my life, and I imagined it would be hard to get hold of here in rural Gloucestershire. But not at all – everywhere seems to sell it, so I bought some and thought it was OK, as long as you don’t think of it as ‘milk’.

I have therefore acquired a new eating habit – a glass of unsweetened almond milk every morning, which nicely tops up my calcium to what it should be. So thanks very much to Emma, and thanks also to the good people at Microsoft who sold me the computer to make all those geeky calculations!

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