By Sigrid Bjarnason
Originally published in The Flying Shingle, July 1, 2013
My lifelong friend, Monica, still tells people about The Milk Incident. One day in the mid-60s, my mother bought a huge new-fangled plastic milk bag with a spigot. The first time Monica opened the fridge and helped herself to a glass matters got wildly out of hand. The spigot jammed in the “on” position, her glass filled, then overfilled. Monica started shrieking, I started shrieking and we both threw our bodies in front of the cascading milk but the whole mess slithered out of our control and by the time my mother showed up we were soaked and slopping helplessly about on the kitchen floor in a spreading sea of white.
Mom had to milk cows as a child so she loathed the stuff and was perfectly happy to see it coating the linoleum. In fact she thought the scene was hilarious and ran to get her camera (not the wooden spoon Monica is sure her mother would have grabbed).
Mom wouldn’t do milk, but she knew the importance of calcium. She took a supplement. While I can’t do justice to the entire subject of calcium in this small space, I do want to make one point. If we want to get our calcium from plant sources because of lactose intolerance, ethical or environmental concerns, high cholesterol, high fat, high cost, flavour, or any other reason, we have lots of choices.
One fine day, when the Collard Greens Farmers of America can invest billions of government-subsidised dollars advertising their crop, we’ll all know that it’s greens, not milk products, that are really good for us. Maybe a full-page glossy of George Stroumboulopoulos with foamy olive-tinged teeth and a “Got greens?” caption would convince us (George is vegan by the way. Not sure how he feels about kale though).
These days, thanks to the subsidised efforts of the international milk lobby, most of us are surprised to learn that a cup of collard greens has more calcium than a cup of milk. Where milk wins hands down is in saturated fats and animal misery.
The beautiful leafy greens available right now from the gardens of Gabriola are a nutritious way to strengthen our bones. Broccoli, kale, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, and turnip greens are all loaded with healthy absorbable calcium.
Other excellent sources of calcium include dried figs, sesame seeds, tahini, and blackstrap molasses. Village Foods has a wide array of calcium-fortified milks made from rice, almonds, and coconut. They also stock canned and dried beans of all sorts that have plenty of calcium and fibre without all the saturated fats found in dairy products.
If we eat a varied, whole-foods, plant-based diet we get plenty of calcium. If not, we always have the choice of taking a fat and cruelty-free calcium supplement. Just like Mom.