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ESSENTIAL VEGETARIAN

Got Kale?

By Katharyn Jeffreys

Features Editor

First, I would like to wish you all (vegetarians and meat-eaters alike) a happy “World Vegetarian Day.” October is a month of outreach and celebration for the vegetarian community, and it begins today. So, go out and hug a vegetarian. Or try not eating meat for just one day. Just a thought.

I want to expound on one of the topics mentioned in last week’s column: calcium. I mentioned that a high protein diet results in reduced calcium absorption. This is widely supported by vegetarian advocacy groups, but is not acknowledged by National Fluid Milk Promotion Board. Their milk moustache ads have recently been cited as misleading, or even blatantly false by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. A recent press release states the PCRM “pointed out that the dairy ads fail to note that exercise and reducing the intake of sodium and animal protein are important for reducing calcium losses.”

The ads imply that all people need calcium to ensure proper bone density. The truth is that certain groups, such as African-Americans, men and older women, have adequate bone density and do not require additional calcium. However the ads show personalities such as Spike Lee, Conan O’Brien, and Whoopie Goldberg touting the benefits of milk.

The PCRM also notes that “other milk mustache ads have been even more brazen. An ad featuring Larry King suggested that milk could lower the risk of high blood pressure, a claim specifically rejected by the FDA and not entirely supported by scientific evidence.” The ads also insinuate that milk products are the only source of calcium.

The National Academy of Sciences’ Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of calcium is 1000 mg for men and women aged 19-50, and higher for those outside this range. This limit assumes a high-protein meat and milk based diet. By eliminating meat and high-fat milk products from their diets, vegetarians and vegans effectively reduce the amount of calcium required by the body. Some studies, cited by the Vegetarian Resource Group, have determined that even high amounts of soy protein do not reduce calcium absorption.

There are many vegan sources of calcium. The Vegetarian Society cites the following foods as providing 100 mg of calcium.

* Almonds (42g)

* Brazil Nuts (59g)

* Soya flour (44g)

* Oatmeal (192g)

* Wholemeal bread (185g)

* Black molasses (20g)

* Dried figs (40g)

* Parsley (50g)

* Kale (67g)

Tofu processed with calcium sulfate and tortillas made of lime-processed corn are both low-fat, low-protein calcium sources, according to the USDA. Collard greens, okra, and bok choy are other vegetable sources of calcium. Another obvious source is calcium fortified soy or rice milk. Be careful with calcium fortified products however, for many of them may be made with animal-based calcium.

In the interest of encouraging vegan calcium sources I have included a recipe for a side dish made with calcium-rich dark greens. It is a nice complement to pasta, mushrooms, or potatoes. As always, e-mail me any questions or comments at <veggie@the-tech.mit.edu>.

Kale and Collards with Garlic

4 cups fresh kale, torn into bite-size pieces

3 cups collards, torn into bite-size pieces

2 T. olive oil

4 cloves garlic

1 t. sea salt

pinch cayenne

2 t. cumin

3 t. lemon juice

pinch freshly ground pepper

3 T. parsley or cilantro, finely chopped

Wash greens well. Steam the greens in a large steamer. (Cook collards first; they take longer than kale.) Five minutes should make the greens crunchy yet tender. Put the greens in a large colander and drain well. In a heavy skillet, put the oil, garlic, cayenne, and cumin. Stir to cook lightly for 2 minutes. Add the greens and toss and blend with the oil mixture to cover. Transfer to large serving bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Serves four.