Singing Bird Holistic Health Coaching

How to Get Calcium without all the Dairy

We all know that getting a sufficient amount of calcium is important for strong and healthy bones. Most dietary guidelines urge us to get most, if not all, of our calcium from dairy – low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. However, the verdict is still out on whether dairy is even good for us and with a good portion of people being lactose intolerant, we need to ensure that we have other ways of getting our calcium.

This is especially important for pregnant women. As babies develop, they need the calcium to build strong bones and teeth, as well as a healthy heart, muscles, and nerves. If the mother doesn’t get enough calcium during pregnancy, the baby will take it from wherever it can. This usually means stripping it from the bones of its mother, which can cause her issues later in life.

If you are looking to up your calcium intake without all the dairy, here are some great options:
Dark leafy greens – Kale, spinach and collard greens are packed with calcium. Two cups of raw kale contain 188mg of calcium, or 19% of your daily value. Eat these greens fresh in a salad, blended into a smoothie (see recipe below), or sautéed with olive oil and garlic. This is one of my favorite kale salads. It is super easy to make and saves really well overnight. And sauteed kale is one of my favorite side dishes. Once again, it only takes about 10 minutes from start to finish. Some dark leafy greens, like spinach, are high in oxalic acid which may affect your absorption of calcium. So make sure you vary your veggies to get the most bang for your buck!

Almonds – These delicious nuts have about 75mg of calcium per 1/4 cup. Eat them as a snack, throw them into salads, make them into almond butter, or once again, throw them into a smoothie.

Sesame Seeds – These little guys have 88mg of calcium per tablespoon. They are easy and delicious to incorporate into any salad recipe. This broccoli salad with sesame seeds looks delicious and packs the additional calcium punch of broccoli. Two cups of cooked broccoli have 124 mg!

Firm Tofu – One half cup serving of firm tofu contains about 227 mg of calcium. Saute it up with some sesame seeds and add to a stirfry.

Bok Choy – One cup of bok choy has roughly 74 mg of calcium. So if you saute up the bok choy with the tofu, and add a tablespoon of sesame seeds you are at 39% of your recommended calcium intake!

If you are still eating some dairy, or are only mildly lactose intolerant, adding some kefir could be beneficial. Kefir is 99% lactose free and one cup contains about 30% of your daily recommended value. I make my own kefir (you can read about that here, where I also describe the probiotic benefits of kefir on your digestive system), but you can also buy the Lifeway plain variety at Whole Foods or another health foods store. When it comes to any dairy product, I always recommend going full fat and organic. You want it as close to natural as you can get!

To start your day off right, try one of my favorite smoothie recipes below:

Strawberry Banana Green Smoothie

2 cups of dark leafy greens, like spinach, kale, collards 

1 ripe banana

5 strawberries

Handful of almonds (roughly 15 nuts)

1 Tbsp chia seeds

1/2 cup to 1 cup kefir, depending on how thick you like your smoothie (If not eating any dairy, you can use almond or some other nut milk, or water)

Ice is optional, I usually don’t include it

Just blend all ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth. You are not only starting your day off with a good amount of calcium, but also other important nutrients, omega 3 fatty acids, and protein.

When Your Teacher is Four-Legged and Furry

My 75-pound pit bull Sophie is my baby. I have had her since she was only 5 weeks old and in that time, I have learned quite a bit about myself. As many dog lovers can attest to, raising a dog will allow you to grow as a person, understand unconditional love, and test your patience on a regular basis.

However, I would take it even further. I consider my dog to be one of my greatest teachers. She was a turning point in my life. Well, her and Cesar Millan.

I got Sophie when I was 26. I was working in marketing at the time, in a long-term relationship, and going out and getting blitzed on the weekends. If I was truly honest with myself back then, there were a lot of areas in my life that weren’t quite gelling. In comes Sophie. She was a whole lot of puppy and a handful to take care of. Okay let’s be real, several handfuls. While weighing in at only 7 pounds when I got her, she quickly grew into an energetic ball of pure muscle.

Having little to no experience in how to train a dog, I was taken by surprise. Our walks were regular disasters that ended with me in tears and holes in my shirtsleeves. I began to dread taking her out, would get nervous any time she looked like she was going to misbehave, and would yell and scream at her when she would inevitably treat the leash like a tug-of-war toy.

I needed help. And like any dedicated modern mom, I turned to the TV for answers. Hello Cesar Millan Dog Whisperer. Cesar appeared to have superhuman powers of turning any dog, no matter how aggressive or misbehaved, into a perfectly well adjusted canine specimen. And the trick was he didn’t really do a whole lot of anything. The change came about simply through his energy.

This was the first time I began to think about the energy that I was exuding. If my dog could pick up on it, how was it affecting other areas of my life? Cesar had many gems for me during this time, including something along the lines of “Your dog is your mirror”. Well if my dog was my mirror, I was putting out some pretty chaotic schnizz into the world!

I began to realize that my nervous energy during the walk was the result of me projecting my fears into the future. I would see her jumping for the leash and going crazy, it would make me anxious, my body would respond to those negative thoughts and then, bam! Sophie would respond to those signals. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Dogs don’t live in the past or the future. They are the golden beacons of mindfulness! The only moment for them is this moment.

It all started to click. To further my understanding and practice of mindfulness, I took up yoga after a hiatus of several years. I suddenly became very conscious of my own reactions, thoughts, and energy. And over time, my whole life began to change. Sophie started behaving better. I finally found my true passion. It didn’t happen overnight; it was, and continues to be, a gradual journey. BUT, it all started with Sophie and her leash biting. As the wise Cesar would always say, you don’t get the dog you want. You get the dog you need.

Basically, the moral of this story is: Keep your eyes and heart open. Your teachers, mentors, and gurus are all around you. They just may not take the shape that you expect.