Calcium and Iron -- how to get more?

Sun 30 Nov, 2008 11:07 am
I've been dieting for close to a year now and it's going very well. However, there are two nutrients that I have some trouble making sure I get enough of. Deficiency doesn't happen every single day or even every week, plus I take a supplement. But I'd rather be more consistent and try to get these nutriments through what I eat rather than what I take.

Keep in mind the following: I only eat 1800 calories per day. I watch salt, fat, carbs and cholesterol. I don't eat beef or pork.

In terms of iron, I do eat tofu, eggs, fish, chicken and turkey. Canned tuna is a salt issue. Eggs are a fat and cholesterol issue unless I just eat the whites.

In terms of calcium, I eat cheese but it is a serious carrier of salt so I eat very little of it. I eat yogurt and skim milk and those help a lot but it would be nice to have the sources a bit more varied.

Plus I eat pretty much any sort of fruit and vegetable and I know that spinach and broccoli are decent sources for both calcium and iron but I am looking for some other ideas.

Recipes, of course, are always welcome.

Thank you in advance.
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View best answer, chosen by jespah
Sun 30 Nov, 2008 11:38 am
When I used to get anemic my mother (a nurse) would make molasses milk for me. It's probably pretty high in calories but covers both calcium (milk) and iron (molasses).

In addition to providing quickly assimilated carbohydrates, blackstrap molasses can increase your energy by helping to replenish your iron stores. Blackstrap molasses is a very good source of iron. Particularly for menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency, boosting iron stores with blackstrap molasses is a good idea--especially because, in comparison to red meat, a well known source of iron, blackstrap molasses provides more iron for less calories and is totally fat-free. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. And, if you're pregnant or lactating, your needs for iron increase. Growing children and adolescents also have increased needs for iron. Just 2 teaspoons of blackstrap molasses will sweetly provide you with 13.3% of the daily recommended value for iron.

Oh, and there's calcium too:

Two teaspoons of blackstrap molasses will meet 11.8% of your daily needs for calcium.

Very simple to make -- glass of milk, a dollop (two teaspoons sounds about right) of molasses, mix together thoroughly. I love the taste, but not sure how much is the taste per se and how much is the associations I built up because it always made me feel much better.

edit: just checked my jar of molasses, it's 60 calories per serving; serving is one tablespoon. So that's 40 calories for a 2-teaspoon dollop of molasses in milk. Not bad.
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Sun 30 Nov, 2008 11:49 am
I'm big on the molasses as well, jes...

(good on a sweet potato)

All bran, and some other cereals like it are where I get the rest.

(i do as much salmon as I can, but not sure of the iron compared to tuna)
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Sun 30 Nov, 2008 11:59 am

Leafy greens of the cabbage family, such as kale, mustard greens, and turnip tops, and bok choy.
Salmon, Rhubarb, broccoli, brussel sprouts, okra, sesame seeds, almonds


Leafy greens of the cabbage family, such as broccoli, kale, turnip greens, collards; lima beans, green peas; swiss chard, asparagus, parsley, watercress, brussel sprouts dry beans and peas, such as pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and canned baked beans . dried fruits, such as raisins, prunes, dates and apricots, liver
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Sun 30 Nov, 2008 12:08 pm
I find lots of low fat, low salt, low carb recipes here. Check out their archives of side dish recipes for a very long list of veggie recipes and the archives of entrees for fish and poultry dishes. When I'm looking for some nutritious recipe ideas, this is the first place I go to. Their recipies also give the nutrition facts at the end of each.


Chef2Chef is my second goto place.


I highly recommend each of them. Have tried and liked many recipes from both places.
Sun 30 Nov, 2008 12:58 pm
I find it difficult (I keep trying) to find high fat, high salt, high carb recipes. I have to go to the "organic" foods section just to get "normal" fat yogurt.
Sun 30 Nov, 2008 01:16 pm
jespah :

do you have your iron and calcium levels checked - ever ?
you can easily overdose on those two items - and that can be quite unpleasant : joint pain from calcium , as mrs. h found out to her surprise some years ago .

also keep in mind that breakfast should be THE MEAL of the day !
breakfast : eat like a king !
dinner : eat like a pauper !
take care of your health !

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Sun 30 Nov, 2008 01:17 pm
You aren't watching enough of "Cooking With Paula" on the Food Network!
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Sun 30 Nov, 2008 04:24 pm
Thank you all. Molasses --- a lovely idea but a carb blowout. Also, since it's sweet, a potential dietary temptation problem.

I eat a lot of beans and greens. Perhaps I should eat more. Thanks for the link re the recipes, BFN.

And, hamburger, I know my iron and calcium levels very, very intimately. One thing about this diet is that I track every single thing. I tend to get iron and calcium at the 60% of RDA every day, sometimes more. Usually not less.
Sun 30 Nov, 2008 05:12 pm
jespah wrote :

And, hamburger, I know my iron and calcium levels very, very intimately. One thing about this diet is that I track every single thing. I tend to get iron and calcium at the 60% of RDA every day, sometimes more. Usually not less.

i hope the "60 %" is based on an actual analysis and not just on your personal tracking . what you eat and want your body actually takes up , can often vary widely .
is 60 % considered adequate for maintenaining a healthy body ... long-term ?
(i'm not asking for an answer ; just want to mention it )
take care !
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Sun 30 Nov, 2008 05:31 pm
How often do you get your blood tested to determine the actual levels?
  Selected Answer
Sun 30 Nov, 2008 06:11 pm
List of Iron in Foods : Vegetarian Iron Rich Foods

Iron in Breads, cereals, and grains
Bran flakes, 1 c 11.0
Oatmeal, 1 packet 6.3
Samolina, Cream of wheat, 1/2 cup cooked 5.5
Wheat germ, 2 tablespoon 1.2
Whole wheat bread, 1 slice 0.9
White bread, 1 slice 0.7
Iron in Vegetables (1/2 cup cooked)
Sea vegetables 18.1-
Swiss chard 2
Turnip greens 1.6
Prune juice, 4 oz 1.5
Spinach cooked 1.5
Beet greens cooked 1.4
Potato, 1 large 1.4
Bok choy cooked 0.7
Peas, cooked 0.65
Green beans, cooked 0.60
Tomato juice 0.6
Broccoli, cooked 0.55
Watermelon, 1/8 medium 0.5
Iron in Legumes (1/2 cup cooked)
Lentils 3.2
Black eye beans 2.6
Navy beans 2.5
Pinto beans 2.2
Lima beans 2.2
Kidney beans 1.5
Chick peas (200 g) 6.2
Iron in Soy foods (1/2 cup cooked)
Tofu 6.6
Soybeans 4.4
Tempeh 1.8
Soy milk 0.9
Iron in Nuts/Seeds (2 Tablespoon)
Pumpkin seeds 2.5
Figs, dried, 5 2.0
Dried apricot, 5 1.6
Almond, 1/4 cup 1.3
Tahini 1.2
Sesame 1.2
Sunflower seeds 1.2
Cashew nuts 1.0

with plenty of VITAMIN C.... helps iron absorption.
Sun 30 Nov, 2008 06:20 pm
All my pasta, except that which I make myself, rarely, is 100% durum semolina. But.. I saved something on Bittman's Bitten blog a while ago, about chickpea things. I forget what, fritters? I remember more like chick pea pancakes.. or, maybe, crepes. Chick peas are high on that iron list - the problem is, I can't find chick pea flour at my behind-the-times stores. Probably at Whole Foods, but that is not handy. There's another flour that worked for his recipes, but I forget the name, and it's not one I see in the stores either.
Green Witch
Sun 30 Nov, 2008 06:21 pm
Cook in cast iron pans. The iron transfers to the food. I also don't believe real fat makes you fat, just crappy processed fat (same for crappy , processed carbs). Eat some chopped liver, it's good for you, especially if it's made from grass fed cows or free range chickens. You might want to read "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon for more ideas about getting full nutrition via your diet and how to staying thin without being hungry.

Sun 30 Nov, 2008 06:23 pm
I know what you mean about the supplements. I take calcium and vit D. Pain in the a...

Re: iron, what about clams?


Chicken liver?
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Sun 30 Nov, 2008 06:23 pm
@Green Witch,
Not arguing with Green Witch, tend to agree.
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Sun 30 Nov, 2008 07:06 pm
Jespah wrote:
Thank you all. Molasses --- a lovely idea but a carb blowout.

The molasses jar seems to indicate it's moderate -- the tablespoon (50% more than needed) is 5% of the RDA.

Interesting about the possibility of calcium overdose, hamburger, I didn't know that. (I dislike milk as a beverage -- another use for molasses -- and tend to worry about my calcium intake.)
Sun 30 Nov, 2008 08:56 pm
Ok, here's the Bitten chick pea thing -- read along over several posts...

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Sun 30 Nov, 2008 09:25 pm
soz wrote :

Interesting about the possibility of calcium overdose

about 30 years ago our doc recommended calcium supplements for mrs h .
she took it for about a month and developed leg cramps . so i asked the druggist about something to relieve the cramps - i thought ben gay or something similar might help .
she asked : "your wife taking calc. tablets ? "
"tell her to stop them immediately ! "

no more leg cramps !

i took a low dose of vit E suppl. some years ago (100 units ?) - supposed to be good for heart and circulation etc - after a few months my gut started to rebel - druggist told me to stop taking the vit E - i later read about possible side effects incl. stomach upset .
as they say : "investigate before you invest - and that goes for meds too " .
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Sun 30 Nov, 2008 09:59 pm
Red meat is the richest source of iron, but unfortunately is currently out of favor on many nutrition plans these days. (I am guessing that anemia was relatively rare or even unknown before that was the case.) Poultry and fish also provide iron but in lesser concentrations.

Otherwise, the easiest way to get iron is in fortified cereals, nuts, seeds dried fruits (raisins,prunes,apricots et al), and those dark green leafy vegetables. And cook it all in your cast iron pot or your cast iron skillet. Both leach trace iron into the food and it is quite effectively assimilated when you get it that way. It is important to get plenty of Vitamin C too as iron is not assimilated without it.

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