Calcium for Plant Eaters

One of our bunnies recently taught us that plants are full of calcium. Our Flemish Giant is  sensitive to the calcium content of certain plants so I had to do some research on which green leafy vegetables would be gentler on his urinary tract. It turns out that leafy dark green vegetables contain significant amounts of calcium.

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100 grams of kale or parsley contains 14% of your recommended daily intake of calcium.

100 grams of dandelion greens contains 19%.

100 grams of spinach contains 10%

One hundred grams of skim milk contains only 12% of your recommended daily intake. That’s less calcium than an equal weight of dandelion greens, kale or parsley per 100 grams. Those plants also are free of fat and cholesterol, have way fewer calories and just as much protein as skim milk. Weird, right? Conventional wisdom says that milk is the best source of calcium. Period. End of story.

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This is where marketing has cheated us out of healthier alternatives. What I’m getting at (particularly with the holiday buzz) is that a big part of being vegan is fact checking, educating yourself and challenging conventional wisdom. I’m a little biased as a scientist and I hope you’d feel the same way: the plural of anecdote isn’t data. If someone says they knew someone who ate only vegetables and their teeth fell out of their head (or insert other horror story here), keep in mind that few vegans or vegetarians meet this fate. I’m not sure if you’ll be surprised or not but there’s actually a dearth of scientific literature regarding food choices and health. This literature is peer reviewed. That means other experts, usually friendly competition, have challenged every detail of the study before it was permitted to become part of the body of work scientists present to society as justification for the money we give them every year to continue doing research. In other words, scientists are incentivized to produce accurate thoughtful studies that are relevant to society that charitably portray data and thoughts of competitors in their field.

On the other hand there are books. Anyone can write a book. Just about anyone can self publish a book. If the contents of a book aren’t quite factual (or are in fact fictional) the author’s speech is protected. Critics who point this out have “a difference of opinion” and unless the book makes a claim about your health (without a disclaimer in the fine print or a hokey reference that affirms the point) it’s impossible to tell what’s good for you and what isn’t. I’m not saying all books are bad, I’m just saying that appeals to common sense or conventional wisdom are the easiest way to bamboozle people with advice that might be bad about their health.

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On some level I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted. If that’s the case, just know I’m waxing on about people who have read one bad book, perused the crummy references and treated it all like gospel while dismissing the critiques. This is something we all do from time to time, just know there’s always someone smarter than you out there and when you’re humbled (like me, every day at the lab… talking to my boss) treat it as an opportunity to learn something instead of retreating inward with your wounded hubris.

Thanks for letting me shout into the void of the internet and know someone might see it.

This is Christie, signing off!

One thought on “Calcium for Plant Eaters

  1. Somer says:

    Green calcium rules!

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