Daily Calcium Booster.

380 Calories.
520mg Calcium.

Dairy Version.

A daily booster that will provide over half of your daily calcium requirement…

  • 1 cup plain yogurt (around 220g)
  • 1 cup chopped raw kale (around 50g)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (3g-ish)
  • 1 vitamin D tablet (500 to 1000 IU)
  • 1 ripe banana (optional, for flavour)
  • ½ cup iced water

Many people, especially older women, need to boost the amount of calcium they get. Supplements are one way to increase your intake. However, smoothies are a much healthier alternative. This is a recipe I’ve carefully put together to try and make getting that boost a little easier.

The yogurt, kale and cinnamon provide all the calcium, and the Vitamin D ensures you can absorb it easily (see below for the full details).

The banana is there for taste – so if you want to replace it, or leave it out, that’s fine. This wouldn’t affect the calcium content. Most other fruits would be OK … just don’t use rhubarb or berries as they are known to block the absorption of calcium [reference 1 and 9]. I’d suggest a ripe pear or possibly a cup of melon – both would work well as alternatives.

The result is a very quaffable smoothie. The main flavours are the cinnamon and banana – both the kale and the yogurt tastes fade into the background. If you swap out the banana for something else – then you could have this every day and keep it interesting.

Notes : Calcium Sources

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of calcium [reference 1] is around 1000mg for men and women under 50 and 1200mg when older than that. This recipe is intended to be a calcium “booster” so I elected to provide about 500mg of calcium – around 50% of what most people need. That seemed like a good starting point. The recipe can be scaled up or down if you need to adjust that amount.

There are quite a few great sources of calcium, but you do have to be a bit careful. Two examples come to mind. Tofu is often used as a source. However, there is one caveat [reference 1 again]…

“The calcium content is for tofu processed with a calcium salt. Tofu processed with other salts does not provide significant amounts of calcium.”

The other source often mentioned is spinach. However, the calcium in spinach is the least bioavailable of calcium sources [references 2 and 3]. So it’s not a great ingredient.

The primary source I’m using here is plain natural yogurt. This is one of the best calcium sources available [references 1, 2 and 4]. Using 1 cup (around 220g) will provide 400mg of calcium.

The other key ingredient is raw kale – one of nature’s super foods. 1 cup of chopped kale (around 50g) will provide 90mg of calcium [references 1 and 5] as well as a host of other nutrients.

The last source is cinnamon. One teaspoon of ground cinnamon will provide 30mg of calcium and lots of cinnamonny taste [reference 6]. Doubley good!

So, that’s a total of around 520mg of calcium … give or take.

Notes : Absorbing Calcium

It’s well known that the body’s ability to absorb the calcium in food is dependent on a number of factors [reference 1, 7 and 9]. There are lots of foods that block the uptake of calcium (due to the presence of oxalic and phytic acids): spinach, seeds, nuts, sweet potatoes, rhubarb etc [reference 1 and 9]. However, there is one that really helps [reference 1, 4 and 7]: Vitamin D…

“Vitamin D is the most significant nutrient for the proper absorption of calcium. Vitamin D and calcium work together to slow down or even reverse osteoporosis. Vitamin D is essential in helping the body absorb and use calcium; in fact, the body cannot absorb calcium at all without some vitamin D.”

There is overwhelming evidence to show that Vitamin D plays a key role. However, Vitamin D is only available in any quantity in a few foods [reference 8 and 10]: these are salmon, sardines and milk. There is no Vitamin D in fruit or vegetables. Some manufacturers have started to add Vitamin D to Yogurt … but we can’t take that for granted.

So … this is the one and only time that I think it’s necessary to add a vitamin supplement to your food. Vitamin D (specifically D3) tablets are everywhere and should be pretty cheap. You need something between 500IU and 1000IU per day [reference 10]. So, just add one to your smoothie and you’ll be all the better for it!

References

1: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium; Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS)
2: Spinach: Calcium; Wikipedia
3: Heaney, Robert Proulx (2006). Calcium in human health. pp. 135.
4: Calcium; World’s Healthiest Foods
5: Kale: Raw; Nutrition Data (source USDA SR-21)
6: Cinnamon: Ground; Nutrition Data (source USDA SR-21)
7: Osteoporosis and Calcium: What Assists Absorption of Calcium; eMedicineHeath
8: Vitamin D; World’s Healthiest Foods
9: Foods That Produce Oxalic Acid; LiveStrong.com
10: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D; Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS)