Ever since the discovery of the substances now called vitamins, the importance of including them in our diet has been constantly repeated, while the need of securing other elements in our food has been minimized or entirely neglected. One group of elements suffering this neglect is the minerals Calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, iodine and several others. Of these, calcium is the principal one, since it constitutes the greatest percentage of the mineral composition of the human body.
You may wonder, “What will calcium do for me? I thought only children need much of that.” We are inclined to think that after growth has stopped, the cells of our bones remain stationary; that no destruction or exchange of materials any longer takes place in them. This is false.
Adults Need Calcium
We find that the cells of the joints and the marrow of the bones are intimately connected with the blood circulation and that an exchange of materials is continually taking place. Calcium is also necessary to coagulate the blood on exposure to air, to steady the nerves and to insure the normal alkalinity of the blood. The very beating of the heart depends on a constant supply of calcium. Without it that muscle would not contract and relax properly.
Perhaps you’ve heard it said that people become shorter in old age. This statement by D. T. Quigley, M.D., from his book “The National Malnutrition,” page 16, shows why: “Nature makes a very great effort to maintain the normal calcium concentration in the blood. This effort is so pronounced that in order to keep the concentration up to near what it should be, it will rob bones and teeth for this purpose. This explains the thin eggshell-like bones in many middle-aged and old persons, who have existed on a calcium deficient diet over a period of years. It explains also the increase in tooth decay during pregnancy, for nature always robs the mother to feed the child.” All people who have studied the relation of diet to health say that most Americans, both young and old, do not get enough calcium. The span of life is increased and health is maintained at a higher level if the body is maintained at a higher level if the body is supplied with plenty of calcium.
Best Sources of Calcium
If this mineral is so important, what foods can we eat to be sure we are getting enough? Most authorities agree that milk has no equal as a source of calcium because of the large proportion it contains is more available to the body than that from other foods. For drinking or other use of fresh milk, raw certified milk is superior to all others. In addition to being more easily digested, it has been found to be consistently higher in vitamins because greater care is exercised in providing an adequate diet to the herds producing it. Nutritionists advise us not to mix milk with cocoa or sugar as experiments indicate that these substances prevent some of the calcium from being absorbed. Milk should be exposed to light as little as possible since light destroys the riboflavin (vitamin B2) that it contains. Exposing milk to bright sunlight for one hour may destroy as much as one-third of its riboflavin.
Most cheese is a good source of calcium. The amount it may contain depends on the process used in its manufacture. One method uses rennet to “clabber” the milk so that the solids and whey separate. Cheese made this way retains about 4/5 of the calcium that the milk contained. By the other method the milk is allowed to sour naturally and the lactic acid produced by the bacteria dissolves a large part o the calcium in the liquid whey, leaving in the solid cheese only about 1/5 of the original quantity of calcium that the milk contained. Types of cheese made by the rennet method are Camembert, all kinds of Cheddar, Edam, Limburger, Neufchatel, Roquefort and Trappist. Cream cheese is made by both methods. Cottage cheese is less desirable because it is always made by the method that allows the milk to sour naturally.
Dried skim milk is another rich source of calcium. It may be judiciously added to cream sauces, meat loaves and baked goods to help increase the calcium in the daily diet. A scant ½ cup of dried skim milk is equal to a quart of fresh skimmed milk in mineral value, but is inferior in that the drying process destroys some of the vitamins in milk.
After milk products the next best sources of calcium are the leafy, green vegetables. Outer green leaves of cabbage, turnip greens, and mustard greens usually have the highest calcium content. Loose-leaf cabbage, collards, dandelion greens, broccoli, kale, loose-leaf lettuce, cauliflower and watercress in that order, are also valuable sources. Some greens are useless as sources of calcium because their oxalic acid content prevents the calcium from being absorbed. In this classification are spinach, chard beet tops, lamb’s quarters and rhubarb. These may, however, still be useful for the vitamin A and iron they contain.
Most of the root vegetables contain only moderate amounts of calcium, white potatoes containing as little as any. In these group yams, parsnips, turnips and carrots rate the highest. All whole grains contain some calcium, but the amounts are considered inadequate for balance and require foods rich in calcium to supplement them.
Among the fruits dried dates and oranges lead in calcium content, nine dates being about equal to one medium orange. Laboratory analysis has disclosed that about 70 percent of the calcium in an orange is concentrated in the membrane covering each segment and clinging to the whole peeled orange. The fibrous part of an orange also contains most of its iron. So when only the juice of the orange is used, two elements that we need every day are thrown away with the pulp. One whole orange supplies as much calcium, as eight ounces (I cup) of juice. Other fruits contain moderate amounts of calcium, the amount being quite variable from one variety to another. The mineral content of all food of plant origin vary according to the nature of the soil on which it was grown.
How much calcium do we need? The amount is estimated to be about the same for both children and adults, about .8 grams per day, but for optimum health at least 1 gram per day is recommended. One quart of milk or one half cup of dried skim milk provides 1.2 grams of calcium. One-half cup (cooked) of the first three green vegetables named supply about ¼ of the daily requirement. One-half cup cottage cheese, 1 cup soy flour and one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses each furnish from ¼ to 1/5 of the daily need. Plain molasses contains about 1/6 as much calcium as the blackstrap. One slice of Swiss cheese will provide 1/3 of a day’s allowance; ½ cup of condensed milk somewhat less. One-half cup of cooked dried soybeans contains about 1/10 of the quota. One orange will supply about 1/20 of a gram of calcium. With all other fruits about half as much.
While a quart of milk consumed daily will provide the allotted amount, it is better to get part of the supply from other sources because milk is usually deficient in iron, copper, manganese and iodine. Blackstrap molasses makes an excellent supplement to milk since it contains B vitamins in addition to these minerals.
Other Elements Necessary
Glancing over this list, you may think, “Well, I’ve been eating many of those foods all the time, and yet I’ve had decayed teeth.” That is quite possible. Several other things must be present along with the calcium so that your body can use it. The major ones are vitamins C and D, phosphorus and manganese. Vitamin C is present is most raw foods, but when vegetables are stored at a temperature much about freezing; the action of oxygen from the air tends to destroy it. Most foods lose it during cooking also. Acid in foods helps preserve vitamin C. That is why tomato juice is recommended and why lemon juice added to foods prevents them from turning dark.
Vitamin D is not found in many foods. Egg yolks, butter, cream, and some fish contain it. The action of ultraviolet rays on the oil of the skin may produce all the body needs, if it is not washed off before being absorbed. Cod liver oil is a good source of vitamins A and D. A practice of taking this during the winter would benefit people who work indoors most of the time.
Since phosphorus and manganese are present in grain products, few need to worry about getting enough of them. Sugar and foods containing it should be avoided since it depletes the supply of calcium in the body. Moderate use of sorghum, honey, and sweet fruits should satisfy any normal desire for sweets. Calcium-rich foods are often mentioned in the Bible. Notice with what favor milk was regarded. To inspire in the minds of the Israelites a picture of a prosperous land, God called Palestine a land flowing with milk and honey. Cheese is also referred to.
We need to use these nourishing foods today just as they did in that time when men were in more vibrant health because they inclined to eat these natural foods as God intended.