Today's Post is brought to you by the letters: C and K

Fitness Expert
(If any of you saw the Presidential debate, you recognize my sot to Sesame Street in the title of this blog....Mr. Romney took a big risk announcing he'd cut funding to PBS if elected. I still haven't decided how I will cast my vote this November, so I'm not endorsing any candidate in anything I publish. I'd thought I'd attempt to be clever on this beautiful autumn day. )

October is well known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and as a way to honor my mother who survived Breast Cancer this past year I wanted to share with you two things that are big for her: Calcium and Kale...the letters C and K. (Now you see where I was going with that Sesame Street reference.)

I learned from the NIH (National Institute of Health) that Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is required for various functions like: vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, etc. Interestingly, only 1% of the body's calcium is used for these functions. The other 99% is stored in the bones and teeth to support their structure and function. Bone is constantly remodeling (changing, growing, breaking down, rebuilding) with constant resorption and depositing of calcium into the new bone tissue. This balance of resorption/deposition changes with age.

In children and adolescents, there is more bone formation vs resorption. In middle adults, it's pretty balanced, reaching maximum density at around age 30. In aging adults, there is more bone breakdown and less formation which results in bone loss and increases the risk of osteoporosis.

The recommended daily intake of calcium in 19-50 year old females is 1000 mg, and goes up to 1200 mg in 51-70 year old females.
The two best ways to get your calcium are through your diet and via supplements of Calcium Carbonate or Calcium Citrate. We'll hit diet in a minute, but I wanted to tell you briefly about the two supplemental minerals. First, your body can only absorb so much calcium at one time, with the maximum absorption at about 500 mg. Anything over 500 mg will be excreted out of the body. Most supplements come in varying dosages from 450-1200 mgs. In order to get your 1000 mg of calcium, break up your intake into 500 mg dosages so that you aren't wasting the excess via excretion.

On to the most popular supplements: Calcium carbonate and Calcium citrate.

Calcium carbonate is in alkali form and requires acid for best absorption so it's best to take this after a meal when your stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) is pumping, or take with an acidic juice like orange juice. Calcium citrate is the easiest absorbed form in supplemental form. You can take this on an empty stomach; however, if you have excess stomach acid you should avoid this form of supplement. Vitamin D helps absorption of both so look for a supplement that has this vitamin included.

In terms of calcium gleaned from your diet, the foods containing the highest concentration of calcium are dairy foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt. You can get up to 40% of your daily requirements from dairy (check the label). Non-dairy food contributors are Kale, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage. The calcium in Kale is more easily absorbed than that in milk, believe it or not.

Here is why Kale is a "super food" - for 1 cup of kale at only 36 calories, you get ~5 g of fiber, 15% of your calcium and vitamin B6, 180% Vitamin A, 200% Vitamin C, and a whopping 1020% Vitamin K. It's also a good source of Iron, Phosphorus, Copper, Potassium, and Manganese. It's high in the carotenoids Lutein and Zeaxanthin which help keep UV rays from damaging eyes and potentially causing cataracts. The high fiber content helps reduce blood cholesterol, too.

But, Marty, how do I get more Kale into my diet? Good question. There are many delicious ways to prepare Kale from salads to baked chips. Below is the link to collection of yummy Kale recipes. My favorites include sauteeing with bacon drippings, and chopped frozen Kale in fruit smoothies.

Happy Kale Munching!