Calcium is so important for breastfeeding moms, for a couple of reasons. First, large amounts of
calcium are secreted into the breast milk and used to help your baby’s bones grow at that lightening quick speed that makes those tiny feet and toes grow right before our eyes. If you don’t take in enough calcium through your diet to cover the needs of our baby our body will take it from our bones[i]. This can lead to osteoporosis later in life.
I can imagine you saying, “No problem! I get plenty of milk, yogurt and cheese daily, so I’m good!”
Here’s the catch: though dairy is known as a great source of calcium it may not be the best source for
breastfeeding moms. Why? Well, first the calcium in milk and dairy products are not as well absorbed and utilized by our bodies as we may think. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman in his book Eat to Live, calcium is better absorbed from plant sources than from dairy sources. And, did you know that dairy is the number one dietary cause of colic in babies? This is according to Hillary Jacobson in her book Mother Food. These two facts combined may at the very least, encourage you to rethink that afternoon yogurt, especially if your baby has colic.
So, if milk and dairy products aren’t your best sources of calcium what foods should you be eating?
This is the fun part. There are 5 foods I typically recommend to help breastfeeding moms boost their calcium supply. As you read keep in mind that the recommended daily allowance of calcium for breastfeeding women is 1,000 milligrams. And in case you want to compare my top 5 picks to milk, know that one-cup of milk has about 300 milligrams of calcium.All calcium data comes from the 2012 USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25.
Ok, so, here’s my list of delicious calcium rich foods every nursing mom should keep on hand:
Blackstrap molasses: found in the same place you’d see honey at the health food store, 1 tablespoon of blackstrap contains 20% of your daily calcium needs. It’s also a great source of iron. Drizzle it on your morning oatmeal or take it as a tea in 1 cup of hot water with a squeeze of lemon.
Collard greens: This leafy green veggie is a powerhouse of easy to absorb calcium. One cooked cup
of frozen collards contains 357 milligrams of calcium. WOW! Sautee some up with ginger, garlic, tofu (1/4 block contains 163 milligrams of calcium) and a splash of soy sauce, serve it up over brown rice and you’ve got dinner–or lunch!
Figs: This sweet snack is often under appreciated for it’s nutrient value. Just 4 figs contain 124 milligrams of calcium. I don’t know about you but I can eat 4 figs without thinking about it. Try adding them to your morning oatmeal or granola. Eat them as a midnight snack with 24 crunchy almonds. The almonds add an extra 75 milligrams of calcium! SWEET!
Soybeans (organic): one cup of boiled soybeans has 261 milligrams of calcium. Add them to soups and stir-fries or eat them as a tasty snack. They are great add-in to your diaper bag.
Turnip Greens: one frozen, boiled cup of this delightfully peppery green provides 249 milligrams of calcium. I like to sauté mine with onions and vegetable stock and serve them with spelt pasta and a side of mushrooms…YUM!
Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”
[i]Benajamin Spock, MD, Dr Spock’s Baby and Child Care
8th edition, (Pocket Books), 253
Ebeth Johnson is a plant-based culinary nutritionist who specializes in the unique nutritional and lifestyle needs of breastfeeders-to-be and new nursing moms. She is the woman behind the Breastfeeding Chef™ and mother to her daughter Cayenne, whom she still breastfeeds at 19 months. Find out more about her, register for her next class or schedule a consultation at www.breastfeedingchef.com