Many people assume that spinach is great because it has all this wonderful calcium in it, right? It’s a pretty common go-to vegetable to add in many recipes, and many think it is very healthy.
Well, it IS healthy. A single cup of cooked frozen spinach is full of Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin E, Folate, Copper, Magnesium, and Manganese, and contains by volume 290 mg, or 29% DV of Calcium. So… what’s the issue? Oxalates.
Oxalates are particles found in spinach that bind to calcium and prevent it from being properly absorbed into the body. Studies have shown that about only about 30% of calcium is actually absorbed from spinach, although some studies show as little as 5%. However, this might be due to raw spinach having far less available calcium than cooked spinach.
So… what to do if you are vegan, or lactose intolerant, and can’t get calcium from milk and cheese? What I like to do is drink a lot of fortified soy and almond milk. A single cup of fortified Soy or Almond Milk from Silk, or Simple Truth, has 45% of your daily value of Calcium inside, which you can enjoy with coffee, cereal, or homemade creamy pasta sauce. But what about alternatives to spinach for spinach-artichoke dip or whatnot? Kale, Collard Greens, and Turnip Greens are far lower in Oxalates than spinach, and therefore can be absorbed more readily. Kale is often the go-to food for vegans, but I personally have been experimenting with collards and turnip greens more lately.
If worse comes to worst, you can always just supplement. I got a multivitamin/mineral supplement just the other day that includes Zinc, Calcium, and other vitamins in anywhere from huge to minor quantities. However, it’s best to simply eat your greens and fortified milk substitutes for calcium as opposed to simply consuming a supplement.
But any way you go about doing it, try to get in your 1000mg of Calcium daily, no need for unnecessary brittle bones.