a peek inside the fishbowl

17 May, 2012

Building blocks for bones

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Fishbowl patrons

This post has been written with the support of Fishbowl patron, Swiss Natural.

Are you getting enough calcium? I’m not always so sure but I think my kids are. They drink milk with every meal and almost always have cereal and yogurt in the morning. My youngest daughter often makes herself a big cup of cocoa on cool afternoons and it’s all milk (and very little sugar because we don’t make it from a mix). I think they are doing ok.

As for myself, well, that’s a different story. The only milk I drink regularly is the 1/2 cup or so I use to make my latte every morning. Some days I have yogurt for breakfast, sometimes cheese will sometimes make an appearance somewhere along the line (ok, more often than sometimes), but when I think about it I am not certain I’m getting enough calcium in my diet. Apparently I’m not alone. Most adult women aren’t getting enough. I regularly tell my kids that calcium creates strong bones and teeth and is insurance against osteoporosis but I don’t think of it being very important to me too. As an extension of that I don’t do a lot of menu planning around this particular mineral. It just kind of happens that we aim for the four food groups, and it works out… more or less. I think.

Swiss Natural sent me some Chocolate Fudge Brownie calcium supplements to try awhile back. Although I prefer to get my calcium naturally (even though I’m not convinced I’m doing that very well) I think to could be a good solution for people who aren’t getting enough calcium in their daily diet. The supplements are chocolate-flavoured soft chews (I am hiding them from the kids because they’re like candy) and each one contains 600 mg Calcium and 400 IU Vitamin D. I’m also told that the chews are good for women in combating pre-menstrual syndrome those who are suffering from irritability, forgetfulness or depressed mood before periods. (CHECK. CHECK. Er, CHECK.) And that’s mostly when I’ve been taking them. :)

Note the presence of Vitamin D in those chews. At first I didn’t think much of it beyond “Oh cool, there’s Vitamin D in there!” but as it turns out Vitamin D actually plays an important role in calcium absorption and bone health. Food-wise, this means that when you’re serving calcium-rich foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, collard greens, bok choy and spinach), fish (sardines, salmon), tofu and nuts… it’s good to get in some egg yolks, saltwater fish and liver too.

I think I’ll put grilled ginger salmon on baby spinach back into menu rotation again, and ease up on the salt shaker and processed meats. (Did you know that salt in our diets causes loss of bone minerals? There’s a good article about it at WebMD if you’re interested.)

There is so much to think about, isn’t there? It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

How do you ensure that you’re getting enough calcium? Is this something you worry about? Do you plan meals around the food groups? And do you have a calcium-rich recipe to share? If so I’d love to hear it!

4 Responses to "Building blocks for bones"

1 | Lee

May 17th, 2012 at 10:21 am


Good reminder, Andrea!

FWIW, I remember reading that the body can only aborb a certain amount of calcium in one go.

It’s explained in these two sites:

2 | Javamom

May 17th, 2012 at 10:22 am


It’s a tricky thing, this calcium in North America. My naturopath doctor says that cows milk is highly acidic and many of her patients who consume a high amount of cows milk dairy as well as calcium supplements report bloating as one of the main culprits/side effects. Many also report discomforts with digestion. She (my doctor) claims that there is a high percentage of people who end up with kidney stones due to the calcium they consume not getting absorbed.

We try to balance things out here as one of the things my maternal side of the family battles with is osteoarthritis. Since I’m the first-born female…it’s a concern. The bloating I experienced myself, mostly due to cheese (I LOVE cheese!!) as well as milk products like yogurt has made me miserable. So I followed a pH balanced diet (there are many good sources out there) where I reduced significantly almost all cows milk for a period of two weeks, but increased cheeses made with sheep’s milk (I’m not a huge goat’s milk cheese fan).

Lo and behold I feel soooo much better. My doctor mentioned I have no calcium deposits in my urine tests any more and that it looks like what I am consuming is being absorbed by my body (pH balance means loads of dark green veg, which helps with absorption).

But it’s all debatable. I take a calcium supplement made by another company (Genestra) which includes Magnesium in it (as well as Vitamin D). Along with that, when I do consume cows milk products (I’m Swiss, I can’t drop cheese out of my diet indefinitely), I take a digestive enzyme.

It has worked well for me, the bloating is gone (what with bathing suit season coming up…) and I shop with an open mind when passing through the cheese counters.

3 | Agnes

May 17th, 2012 at 1:13 pm


From what I’ve read, cow’s milk can actually cause osteoporosis, so your kids might actually be drinking too much cow’s milk.

As for calcium supplements, you have to be careful with those too because they can cause other health problems.

The best way to get calcium is through diet (leafy greens, sesame seeds, soaked almonds, etc), but I know it’s not always easy to get all the vitamins and minerals that you need. I find that a blender and a good slow juicer help a lot.

4 | Carla

May 19th, 2012 at 10:15 pm


I think it’s too bad that calcium continues to be directly linked to dairy products, when calcium is available in so many varied foods, like beans, seeds,nuts and leafy greens (love kale!), quinoa and rhubarb (super high in calcium!). Most people around the world do not eat dairy products to the extent eaten in north america and yet with a balanced diet calcium is not necessarily an issue . Also populations with high intakes of dairy products also have a high incidence of osteoporosis. Two superb way to get kids to eat leafy greens is to make kale chips (rub kale with olive oil, salt and we add nutritional yeast, then bake in a single layer at 300F for 8 minutes, take it out before it gets brown or use a dehydrator for a few hours if you have the machine and the time), and to eat the steamed stems of the leafy greens, which are more palatable since they are crunchy (we call them ‘crunchy crunchies’ at home).

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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