Dairy foods are most often recommended for calcium intake because these foods provide a form of calcium that is easily absorbed by the body (high bioavailability). Additionally, many dairy foods are fortified with vitamin D, which is needed for calcium absorption.
Calcium in common dairy foods:
Skim milk (1 cup) - 300 mg
Low fat vanilla yogurt (1 cup) - 400 mg
Cheddar cheese (1 oz.) - 200 mg
Other Natural Sources of Calcium
If you are lactose intolerant, do not like dairy, or follow a vegan diet, you will need another source of calcium. The good news is that there are plenty of other foods that naturally contain calcium. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, broccoli, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), mustard greens, turnip greens, and kale have a similar calcium bioavailability to dairy.
Below is a list of non-dairy foods that contain calcium:
Tofu made with calcium sulfate (79 g) - 100 mg
Canned salmon with bones (3 oz.) - 181 mg
Canned sardines with bones (1 oz.) - 108 mg
Broccoli (1 cup, cooked) - 60 mg
Bok choy (1 cup, cooked) - 158 mg
Collard greens (1 cup, cooked) - 266 mg
Kale (1 cup, cooked) - 94 mg
Mustard greens (1 cup, cooked) - 104 mg
Turnip greens (1 cup, cooked) - 197 mg
There are several factors that influence how well your body can absorb calcium. Vitamin D intake is important for calcium absorption. Some foods contain phytates and oxalates, which decrease the amount of calcium that can be absorbed by the body. Phytates are found in unleavened bread, seeds, and nuts. Oxalate is present in spinach and rhubarb. And finally, a high intake of sodium or protein can cause the loss of calcium through urination.
Supplements and Fortified Foods
You can easily find foods which are fortified with calcium, such as calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice. These are decent sources of calcium, but not as good as dairy or other foods that naturally contain calcium (again, because of how well it can be absorbed). To determine whether a food is a good source of calcium, check the food label. If the "percent Daily Value" (%DV) of calcium is 20 percent or more per serving, the food is considered high in calcium.
Most health professionals agree that food is the ideal way to get your calcium, but supplements can be used if you are not meeting your calcium needs through food. Just remember that a supplement should be used to support a healthy diet, not as a substitute for nutritious foods. If you do take calcium supplements, take them between meals, in 500 mg doses or less, and do not take them at the same time as iron supplements.
These grocery shopping tips will help you fill your kitchen with nutritious foods.
Choose a variety of colors and types of fruits and vegetables. Green leafy vegetables (lettuce, kale), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage), root vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes), berries, and citrus fruits are all nutrient-packed choices.
Select in-season produce as often as possible for the best flavor.
Pick up a few fresh herbs. Cilantro, mint, and parsley add flavor and nutrition to your meals.
Breads, Cereals, and Grains
Choose foods with "100% whole grain" listed on the label or in the ingredient list. Pasta, pita bread, and tortillas all come in great-tasting, whole grain varieties.
Locate a supermarket or health food store that sells cereals and grains in bulk bins. Buying from bulk bins allows you to try smaller amounts of different grains and flours for less money.
Canned and Dry Foods and Oils
Check the label for serving sizes and sodium content of all canned goods.
Choose "no-salt added" or "low-sodium" products whenever possible.
You can pick up plenty of protein in this section. Canned and dried beans, dry lentils, and canned tuna are protein-rich choices.
Choose bottled olive and nut oils over butter and margarine for cooking and flavoring your food. These oils contain heart-healthy, unsaturated fats.
Pay attention to serving sizes on food labels. Check the "serving per container" and "serving size amount." At first glance, the calorie content may seem acceptable until you find the serving size is very small.
Beware of foods labeled "non-fat" or "sugar-free." Sometimes these products contain more calories and are no better than the original version.
Choose whole grain and baked snacks instead of fried products.
Meats, Poultry, and Fish
The Mayo Clinic recommends round, chuck, sirloin, and tenderloin for the leanest beef choices. Also look for "Choice" or "Select" beef, which is often lower in fat than “Prime” beef. Choose pork from the tenderloin, loin chops, and leg.
Breast cuts are the leanest choices when it comes to poultry. Check the labels of ground poultry as many options contain both dark and white meat and have as much fat as beef.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program provides suggestions for low-mercury fish choices that are environmentally friendly. These include albacore tuna from the U.S. or British Columbia, farmed rainbow trout, and wild-caught Alaskan salmon.
Avoid deli and processed meats, which are high in sodium.
Buy skim or 1% dairy products rather than 2%, whole milk, or cream. The products with the lower fat percentages contain the same amounts of calcium, vitamins, and minerals as their higher fat counterparts.
Choose only 100% fruit juices without added sugars.
Pick plain or low-sugar vanilla yogurts and add your own toppings, such as fresh fruit or a small amount of honey. Compared to flavored yogurts, this approach will help reduce your added sugar intake.
Buy frozen fruits and vegetables without added salt, seasonings, or sugar. When you add flavorings yourself during cooking, you can better control the nutritional content.
When you crave a frozen treat, look for frozen yogurts, ice milk, and sherbet, which have less saturated fat than ice cream.
Not all types of dietary iron are created equally. Iron from a plant source is different than iron from an animal source, and the foods that you eat can influence how iron is absorbed by your body. By understanding more about this mineral and carefully selecting the foods you eat, you can improve iron intake and availability.
The availability of iron depends on its absorption rate. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
Overall, 10 – 15% of dietary iron is absorbed by healthy adults.
The body absorbs 15 – 35 % of heme iron (animal sources), and this is not significantly influenced by other nutrients in your diet.
The body absorbs 2 – 20% of non-heme iron (plant sources). This rate can be greatly influenced by other nutrients you eat.
Several food components can decrease your absorption of iron.
Tannins and polyphenols found in tea, coffee, and cocoa
Calcium found in dairy products and fortified foods
Phytates found in legumes and whole grains
There are ways to increase your iron absorption.
When non-heme iron (plant-based) is eaten with a source of heme iron (animals), this improves the absorption rate of the non-heme iron. According to the NIH, this will increase non-heme iron absorption up to three times.
Vitamin C and other organic acids in fruits and vegetables boost the absorption rate of non-heme iron, according to the American Dietetic Association. Adequate vitamin C intake is especially important for vegetarians who do not consume heme iron.
Tips for enhancing iron absorption
Carefully selecting food combinations and getting enough vitamin C are ways you can increase the amount of iron available for use in the body. Vitamin C can be lost due to heat from cooking and long storage so choose fresh, raw sources most often. Meat-eaters should focus on combining animal-based foods with plant sources of iron for improved absorption.
Sources for heme iron:
Chicken and beef livers
Beef – chuck, 85% lean ground, and top sirloin
Turkey and chicken, especially dark meat
Light tuna canned in water
Sources for non-heme iron:
Beans – kidney, lima, pinto, black, navy
Fermented soy-based foods such as firm tofu
Nuts and seeds
Ready-to-eat, iron-fortified cereal
Sources for vitamin C:
Creatively combining foods can increase the iron absorbed from what you eat. Here are a few ideas for iron-rich meals.
Eat an orange with your breakfast cereal each morning, or top your cereal with sliced strawberries.
Make a tuna salad using light canned tuna, kidney beans, a vegetable such as green onions or celery, and herbs such as parsley. Dress it with lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Choose lentils as a side dish for lean beef or poultry, or make a soup with lentils and shredded chicken or beef.
Top a fresh spinach salad with sliced bell peppers, red onions, strawberries, and a citrus vinaigrette.
Eat tofu with a fresh broccoli salad, or follow it up with melon or pineapple for dessert.
Iron plays a role in the production of proteins responsible for oxygen transport in the body, and it is involved in cell growth and development. Many factors influence dietary iron need, but the NIH recommends that men aged 19 and older, and women aged 51 and older, get 8 mg of iron per day. Women aged 19 to 50 need 18 mg per day.
Everyone needs a vacation (even if it means the occasional high-calorie treat or missed workout). The problem arises when these splurges go from occasional to common. Tight schedules, limited options, and unfamiliar territory make it easy for travel to derail your fitness routine. Take control and plan ahead using the following tips:
Dress accordingly. Exercise opportunities on the road won’t do you much good if you are not prepared. If your business attire doesn’t allow for athletic footwear, invest in a comfortable pair of dressy shoes. Rubber-soled dress shoes or a stylish pair of flats can make all of the difference. At the very least, carry your athletic shoes in your carry-on. Stick with a comfortable, yet presentable, outfit so you can walk the terminals during a layover. The same preparation tips stand for road trips. A quick walk around the parking lot at the rest stop will stretch the legs and burn a few calories.
Make space for exercise essentials. Be sure you leave space to squeeze in fitness essentials. An exercise band or tube will fit in the outside pocket of your bag for hotel-room strength training. Consider a pair of tennis shoes specifically for travel that will smash or bend for easy packing. Fill a baggie with mixed nuts and dried fruit, energy bars, and fresh fruit for emergency snacks to make unhealthy options less tempting.
Use airport time wisely. Fitting in exercise during long layovers is getting easier. San Francisco International Airport has a yoga room, and other airports such as Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have well-marked walking paths designated throughout terminals. Fitness centers located in hotels within or near airports often offer day rates for travelers.
Carefully weigh your food options. Convenience stores and gas stations may be the easiest place to stop while on the road, but they can be a nightmare for a healthy eating plan. Instead, visit the nearest roadside farm stand, or follow the signs to the Farmer’s Market where you can find fresh produce to provide healthy fuel. For meals, skip the fast food and stop by a supermarket for a prepared salad or healthy sandwich.
Explore local markets on foot. Visiting a market during your travels combines a learning opportunity, exercise, and healthy food into one adventure. Set out on foot if the market is nearby – every extra step counts. Take advantage of the fresh produce, and meals for a healthy breakfast, lunch, or snack.
Book an active excursion. Make a natural attraction part of your itinerary (where you are sure to do some hiking). Check for a Yellow Bike project in the city you visit. This will allow you to borrow a bike to see the sights while burning calories. If you enjoy road races, look for upcoming events at your destination. Local fitness studios may have active weekend retreats, or a boot camp class that you can join during your trip.
Use technology to your advantage. Online fitness classes can be found all over the Internet, and they provide a solution for exercise when you are confined to a hotel room. Use your laptop or tablet to stream an in-room workout. Before you leave for your trip, load your smartphone with exercise apps. Many apps provide strength-training moves, or yoga poses to do in the hotel when you are short on time and ideas. Log your foods and exercise with MyFoodDiary's mobile apps.
Get enough rest. Travel can leave you sleep-deprived and unable to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep for adults. Lack of sleep can result in weight gain. When you are exhausted from being on the road, make sleep a priority. Continue to choose healthy foods, but it may be wise to skip a workout when your schedule causes exercise to compete with sleep. Plan to get back to your exercise routine once you return home. But remember, exercise can improve sleep patterns if done at least three hours before bedtime. If you are having trouble sleeping on the road, a workout may help.
In your efforts to lose weight, it’s easy to focus on what you can’t eat. Here are 10 ways you can enjoy what you love, and still cut 100 calories throughout your day.
Blend your own breakfast smoothie. Smoothies from specialty shops and restaurants can contain between 250 and 400 calories. Reduce your smoothie to 185 calories by making it at home. Combine ¾ cup frozen mixed fruit, 1 cup skim milk, ½ cup fresh spinach leaves, 1 teaspoon honey, and puree in a blender until smooth.
Eat the whole fruit. One hundred percent juices may seem like a quick alternative for a fruit serving, but a 16 ounce juice – a medium in most restaurants – contains 220 calories. While you may get a few vitamins, you are missing out on the valuable fiber, which can keep you feeling full. Allow yourself a little extra time for peeling, and go for the whole fruit. A medium orange has only 70 calories.
Order a coffee drink without the extras. A Starbucks Grande Café Mocha made with 2% milk and whipped cream contains 330 calories. Lose the whipped cream and you’ve already slashed the calories by 70. Order it with skim milk, and you will reduce it by 40 more -- a savings of 110 calories.
Make your own trail mix. Packaged trail mixes can contain as many as 425 calories in a half cup. Combine a tablespoon of chopped pecans, a tablespoon of raisins, and a tablespoon of chocolate chips with ½ cup unsweetened puffed brown rice cereal, and you’ll reduce the calories to 180.
Select the single. The double patty or double scoop is always tempting when you’re hungry. Learn to be satisfied with a single and it will save you loads of calories. A typical fast food cheeseburger with a single patty has about 300 calories, but order a double and you’ll consume a whopping 450 to 500 calories. This double burger alone can knock out a third of your calories for the day!
Eat only half of your afternoon vending machine snack. Afternoon visits to the vending machine can mean a snack that is more like a meal when it comes to calories. A regular pack of M&Ms and a 1.5-ounce bag of Lay’s potato chips each contain about 240 calories. Eat only half of your snack at one sitting and you’ve cut over 100 calories. Seal the pack and store it out of sight. Enjoy the rest of it tomorrow, and not only will you save calories, but you’ll save money too.
Cook dinner at home tonight. Butter contains about 100 calories per tablespoon, and even heart healthy extra-virgin olive oil contains 120 calories per tablespoon. By cooking at home, you can control the added fats in your meals -- greatly reducing your caloric intake. Add 1 tablespoon of butter instead of two and you’ve already slashed 100 calories.
Choose light beer over the regular options. Heavier beers such as Budweiser American Ale, Sam Adams Winter Lager, and Sam Adams Double Bock contain 180 to 310 calories per 12 ounces. Choose a light beer such as Bud Light, Coors Light, or Sam Adams Light, and cut your caloric intake down to 95 to 120 calories per 12 ounces.
Substitute sparkling water for one daily soda. Each 12-ounce regular cola you drink contains about 144 calories. Break the habit with sparkling water. Combine 3 ounces of 100% orange juice with sparkling water for the sweetness and carbonation you crave, and it will only set you back 42 calories.
For a treat, indulge in dark chocolate. According to the National Institutes of Health, the benefits of chocolate come from the cocoa solids. Generally, the darker the chocolate the more solids, therefore the greater the health benefit. Candy bars are filled with sugar and fat, and less of the beneficial cocoa solids. Most regular-sized candy bars have 230 to 280 calories. Give yourself the treat of two Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate squares and take in only 110 calories.