Calcium Buzz

Recently there has been a lot of “buzz” in the news and blogosphere regarding the use of calcium supplements and heart disease based on results from a longitudinal cohort Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

This new publication provides some interesting insights into the relationship between calcium and heart health. Information was gathered from individuals over a 10 year time span regarding their intake of calcium from the diet and from supplements. The study investigators also measured the calcification in the participants’ arteries, which is indicative of cardiovascular disease risk. Although the study supports that consuming higher amounts of calcium from the diet is associated with decreased cardiovascular risk, results also showed that calcium from supplements may not have the same benefit. Study investigators suggest that there is something different about the way the body processes calcium from the body versus how calcium from foods is used.

While this study is suggestive of potential negative impacts of calcium supplementation, it definitely supports consuming higher amounts of calcium throughout our life time, from food. It is important for the whole family to have a diet with adequate amounts of calcium. For children and teens, it is a well known fact that calcium is necessary for growth and the development of bones and teeth. For adults, this study and several other epidemiological studies suggest that higher intakes of calcium from food are heart healthy.

Here are some foods that will really boost the calcium in your meals:

  • Dairy - We hear this time and time again, but it’s true. Foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt are not only rich in protein, but they are high in calcium. Dairy foods will add a consistent supply of calcium to your diet. Lactose aids in the absorption of the calcium too.

  • Dark, Leafy Greens - The notorious green leafy vegetables like kale, bok choy, watercress, and broccoli, are really as great as they have been advertised. Kale is a meatier alternative to your everyday lettuce and bok choy is a mild flavored cabbage. Both of these are fantastic in soups, salads, and stir fries.

  • You can also try some interesting alternatives like sardines. Although these aren’t the first thing that comes to mind, they pack a strong punch of flavor and calcium. These can be incorporated into salad dressings, sauces, and casseroles to disguise their strong flavors. You can also take the sardine challenge by trying one of these little guys a la carte.

  • Soy - Soy comes in many forms like soybeans, tofu, and soy milk. Soybeans can be an easy snack for after work or school, while soy milk can be a nice alternative to your everyday glass of milk. Tofu is fun to incorporate in stir fries and curries.

There are major benefits to consuming calcium from foods. Make sure they are on your shopping list!

ABOUT MARISSA | EatSmart2BeSmart's Resident Blogger

Marissa Kuehn is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who grew up in Southern California. For her undergraduate education, she focused on applied nutrition at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. After she graduated, she further pursued a graduate degree in nutrition science and obtained her Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences at California State University, Long Beach. Marissa has worked as a targeted nutrition scientist for Herbalife and is now a regulatory analyst at Amway Nutrilite.