For a while, my dietitian friends and I wondered if we should keep taking our calcium supplements. It’s no surprise that most of us (dietitians included) don’t get enough calcium from foods, so we take a supplement. But then there was that troubling German study last summer that reported people taking calcium supplements were almost twice as likely to suffer heart attacks as those not taking calcium pills.
New research to the rescue — a study using CT scans of participants’ hearts finds no association between even the highest calcium intake from food plus supplements and coronary artery calcification (the possible culprit in heart attack risk), according to the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.
The new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involved 690 women and 588 men, average age of 60, from the long-running Framingham Offspring Study. Participants were asked about their diet and supplement use, then underwent CT scans four years later to determine coronary artery calcification scores. The upper range for combined calcium intake in the study was 3,000 mg per day, well above the latest recommendations from the Institute of Medicine of 1000 to 1,200 mg, depending on your age.
So be reassured: Taking a calcium supplement is safe and it’s best to take it in smaller doses, as your body can only absorb 500 mg at a time. But also be reminded, it’s always best to get as much calcium as possible from food.
Calcium-rich foods include plain yogurt (452 mg per 8 ounces), Romano cheese (452 mg per 1.5 ounces), ricotta cheese (335 mg per half cup), skim milk (306 mg per cup), calcium-fortified soy beverage (386 mg per cup), 2 percent milk (285 mg per cup), feta cheese (210 mg per 1.5 ounce) and spinach, cooked from frozen (146 mg per half cup).
Q and A
Q: Recipes and nutrition articles everywhere are promoting kale, a vegetable I never even heard of until recently. Is it really that great?
A: Kale is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and more. It has become more popular as people try it in restaurants and hear about its nutritional qualities from the media.
Just like other healthful vegetables, it’s simply a great way to add variety to a healthy-eating pattern. Like spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens and broccoli, kale’s dark green color signals that it’s very high in beta-carotene (which forms vitamin A and seems to offer cancer-preventing benefits of its own) and lutein and zeaxanthin (two other carotenoids, linked with eye health).
Kale is loaded with vitamin C and the calcium it contains is well absorbed. Compared to other dark green vegetables, kale does not contain as much folate, magnesium and iron. But like other cruciferous vegetables, kale contains compounds that break down into isothiocyanates, phytochemicals that show cancer-fighting properties in lab studies. What’s more, isothiocyanates seem to turn on tumor suppressor genes. These genes slow cell growth so that cell damage can be repaired, and they also stimulate self-destruction of damaged cells.
Page 2 of 2 - — Information courtesy of the American Institute for Cancer Research
It’s been a cold, snowy winter in much of the Midwest and Eastern U.S. To help bring spring around a little sooner, we found this Grapefruit and Hearts of Palm Salad, from Cooking Light magazine. Red grapefruit adds a perfect bit of spring touch — even on a blustery night. And better yet, it includes kale.
GRAPEFRUIT AND HEARTS OF PALM SALAD
• 2 T canola oil
• 1/2 t grated lime rind
• 1 T fresh lime juice
• 1 T canola mayonnaise
• 1 t honey
• 1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
• 4 cups baby kale
• 1 1/2 cups ruby red grapefruit sections (about 2 large)
• 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
• 2 (14-ounce) cans hearts of palm, rinsed, drained and cut diagonally into 1/4-inch slices
• 1 small red chile, seeded and thinly sliced
• 1 ripe peeled avocado, cut into thin wedges
Combine first six ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Place 2/3 cup kale on each of six plates. Arrange grapefruit sections, onion, hearts of palm, chile and avocado evenly over kale. Drizzle with dressing. Serves six (serving size 1 cup salad and 2 tablespoons dressing)
Per serving: 183 calories, 4.8 g protein, 20.4 g carbohydrate, 11.1 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 6.2 g fiber, 240 mg sodium.
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian from Springfield, Ill. For comments or questions, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD.