Earlier this week I went to the doctor for my annual check-up. While I try to focus on being grateful for my access to quality healthcare, I still really don’t enjoy going to any kind of medical appointment.
If I had to pick one part of the whole experience that I dislike the least, however, it would be the doctor/patient conversation about diet and lifestyle. Since I have a big interest in health and nutrition, I do enjoy the chance to pose questions to the experts. I have learned a lot by engaging my dermatologist, family care physician, allergist, dental hygienist, and hairdresser in these conversations. (Yes, I group my hairdresser in this category – she knows a lot about healthy hair!)
Books, magazines, films and the Internet can be good sources of data, as well, but in order to get personalized advice, I think you need to have a conversation with a professional. There is also a lot of incorrect information out there today, so it’s always good to check your facts with an expert.
So, as my doctor was running through her list of questions for me about diet, exercise, lifestyle, etc., we came to the topic of calcium. I was prepared for this topic because since my last visit, I’ve cut most dairy out of my diet (another topic I hope to cover soon). She was completely fine with me not consuming dairy, but when she asked me how many milligrams of calcium I get per day from other sources, I was stumped.
Does anyone track their calcium consumption to the milligram?
She told me the latest recommendation for women is 700 milligrams a day. And while it’s very important to get those 700 milligrams, new studies have shown that consuming more than that has minimal effects. She sent me home with this note to serve as a reminder. (We also discussed vitamin D, but that is another post, too.)
As you can see, she wrote “diet” next to 700 mg. She said it’s best to consume vitamins and minerals through foods, and then fill in the gaps with supplements. My current best source of calcium is fortified almond milk, which has about half of my calcium need per serving. I also eat kale, spinach, quinoa, and soybeans, but she said it’s hard to eat enough of those foods to fulfill calcium needs.
The day after my appointment, I tracked my meals in the app, MyFitnessPal. I don’t think this app is 100 percent accurate, but it showed me enough to know I didn’t get enough calcium.
I made a trip to the grocery that night:
Today, with a serving of fortified orange juice, two servings of almond milk, spinach at lunch and tempeh at dinner, I had no problem hitting 700 milligrams. With a little more awareness, my low-dairy diet does not have to mean a calcium deficient diet.
Here are some other non-dairy food sources of calcium (by the USDA):
See the USDA’s full list here.
*An unrelated note to runners:
If you are interested in running the sold out Chicago Marathon, here’s a link to an online contest that could get you in!