Journeys Fall/Winter 2016 - Page 15

By Meghan Charpentier, Cabarrus Health Alliance Collards for Calcium Photo: Evergreen Planet, Getty Images W We’ve all heard the saying, “milk is good for your bones.” But, do you know why calcium is important, regardless of age, and can be found in more than just milk? Calcium intake is necessary at all stages of life. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our bodies thanks to our bones and teeth. Not only does it help keep bones strong, but it aids in muscle function and nerve signaling, making calcium a necessary ingredient for daily routines. As we get older, calcium intake often reduces. This affects absorption rates and causes us to become less efficient at maintaining the minimum amount of calcium the body needs to function. Therefore, it is especially important to keep our calcium levels consistent and body satisfied. We must also err on the side of caution when consuming too much sodium, protein or caffeine. These sources may compromise total calcium levels by decreasing total absorption and instead promote calcium excretion. We naturally think of dairy products, such as yogurt, cheese and milk, as the main sources of calcium. While these foods will certainly help you reach your daily minimum, it may cause your daily maximum of saturated fat and sugar to go off balance. How can you take control? Choose other forms of calcium-rich foods. By choosing leafy greens, you not only add to your recommended amount of calcium, but you also contribute to your fiber and vegetable servings, which is also easy to overlook. Whether raw or cooked, just a one-cup serving of leafy greens like collards, Chinese cabbage (such as bok choy), kale and broccoli may offer up to 10 percent or more of the required milligrams of calcium you need in a day. A typical salad has three cups of greens. One cup of arugula packs 125 milligrams of calcium, which means one plain arugula salad could offer 375 milligrams of calcium. Or, add a calcium-packed side dish to your meals, as one cup of cooked collards has 275 milligrams and one cup of steamed broccoli has 75 milligrams of calcium. For comparison, an average cup of nonfat Greek yogurt has 185 milligrams of calcium. So, next time you reach for your calcium-packed snack for the day, go for the dark, leafy greens. n Join the Cabarrus Health Alliance for an upcoming Healthy Cooking Class in their Wellness Kitchen. Visit or call 704-920-1324 to learn more. 13