By Liora Hovra – Clinical dietician and consultant to Chasdei Naomi
Shavuot, a holiday of dairy products, is an excellent opportunity to put calcium on the table Even someone who knows that they should look for calcium among the food ingredients on products doesn’t always know that the path of calcium through the body is not simple at all. Not all of the calcium we eat passes into the blood stream. In actuality, 70%-80% of it is excreted from the body; and consequently, eating foods rich in calcium is not enough, we also need to know how to keep more of it inside the body and to ensure that most of it reaches the bone.
How can we leave more calcium in the body?
Should we enrich our diet with calcium? – Yes, products rich in calcium products are an excellent way to introduce more calcium with less volume and calories. Therefore, it’s best to choose calcium-rich products over competitors that contain a smaller amount.
And what about phosphorus? Phosphorus prevents the absorption of the calcium; and therefore, some manufacturers try to reduce its quantity in the menu.
What is oxalic acid? It actually reduces the absorption of calcium. It is mainly found in leafy vegetables, coffee, tea and cocoa. Even with leafy vegetables that are rich in calcium, such as cabbage, the calcium absorption is very low – about 5%. Therefore, it is best not to drink tea or coffee close to a dairy meal.
Are there good bacteria? If they are probiotic intestinal bacteria, then yes, because they improve calcium absorption. Probiotic products that contain these ingredients will generally be marked with the letters BIO.
And the percentage of fat? You will be surprised, but in dairy products that are low in fat (that contain less than 2%), the absorption of calcium is reduced. Therefore, it is recommended to consume dairy products in the 3%-5% fat range.
Go with D – Vitamin D, produced in the skin under the influence of the sun rays, is an important factor that improves the absorption of calcium. Until recently, we used to think that most of us do not have a shortage of this vitamin, since the sun is a common commodity in our country. However, recently, we have found that many people suffer from a deficiency of this vitamin. More and more doctors send patients for Vitamin D tests; and if necessary, they add a Vitamin D supplement.
C is the tops – Vitamin C also improves calcium absorption. Therefore, it is recommended to combine the eating of calcium-rich products with products rich in Vitamin C (citrus fruits, strawberry, kiwi, lemon, red pepper, etc.).
Iron and magnesium prevent absorption – Consequently, it is not recommended to take supplements that contain them prior to a dairy meal.
And what else is not recommended? Increased consumption of sugar, sodium, caffeine, alcohol and animal protein increases its excretion in the urine. Therefore, and for many other reasons, it is best to reduce these ingredients.
People who take a calcium supplement should know that the ultimate absorption of calcium is at night; and therefore, it should be taken before bedtime.