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Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Dairy, er I mean Calcium food group

I had an interesting chat with my pediatrician yesterday. I asked her why it was that people need milk when they are newborn, but that milk contains lactose which is actually very tough for us to digest. She said that when we are babies we have a natural abundance of the enzyme needed to digest lactose and that we get even more of the enzyme while we nurse. Naturally all people eventually go lactose intolerant after being weened they stop producing the enzyme to digest lactose. However, since we Americans include milk and dairy products in our diets many people continue to make the enzyme their entire lives. In China, however they don't include dairy in their diets and over 90% of the adult population is lactose intolerant.

I asked what would be better in calcium than cheese (as that is the highest dairy form of calcium per oz). She said that most beans are high in calcium as well as green leafy plants. But, that honestly the best way to get Calcium is Calcium Carbonate (Tums is better than milk?).

I asked her why the food group "Dairy" isn't called "Calcium"? She said that honestly it was because it's about making it simple and that basically the things that have calcium in it, other than milk, aren't at McDonald's.

Sad, isn't it? The Dairy association has people fooled into believing they need Dairy when in all actuality they need Calcium. Milk by the glass is a horrible way to get calcium - cheese is over 6x higher in calcium, whereas Tums is even better for you.

1 fl oz of milk has about 39.5mg of calcium (1 glass has 315mg). 1oz of swiss and Gruyere cheeses have 281.7mg of calcium. 1oz of Brick, CHeddar, Colby, Edam, and Gouda have 201mg; Mozzarella is lower with 153mg, Forget about Cottage and cream cheese as they are even lower than a fl oz of milk at 31.3mg. Info pulled from here:  Yes, it's true that comparing oz to fl-oz is not precise, but honestly I'd eat an oz of cheese faster than I'd drink a fl-oz of milk.  But, then comparing a glass of milk to 1.5 thinly cut square pieces of cheese doesn't make any sense at all.)

Tums extra strength 750 - 2 tablets = 600mg of calcium. That is 60% of USRDA.

Wow, so we should get 1000mg of calcium a day? With milk that's 4 - 8oz glasses of milk, or three 0.7oz pieces of cheese - or 4 tums tablets.

Now, let's look at costs... A gallon of milk is basically $3.70 even though the fuel prices that "caused" it to climb have gone down to what it was when milk was $2.78/gal. (March 2004) - based on my search. A gallon of milk is 128 fl oz which is 5 full calcium servings. Not too shabby at 74 cents per 1000mg of calcium.

Cheese (Swiss at wally world) is $2.49 for 8oz (about 12 slices) 3 2/3 oz is needed (according to the packet for 100% calcium). We'll go with the other website which says basically 3.54oz would be necessary for 1000mg. So, this bag of cheese gives 2.25 full calcium servings. Pretty poor at 90 cents per 1000mg of calcium.

Tums is $5.49 for 96 tablets (24 full calcium servings). The winner at 23 cents per 1000mg of calcium.  Last container I bought was 140 tablets, was the smoothies extra strength which costs more than regular Tums, but still comes out to less than 23 cents per 4 tablets.

Not only that, but according to my doc the calcium in Tums is the easiest one to get in your system, so you get more of the calcium into your system and pass less through your digestive track than you do with dairy or other calcium sources.