Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA)

All in Good Taste: Cool Calcium Choices

Published June - 1 - 2010 Print This Post

By Chef Michelle Austin

Name three ways that people with asthma or food allergies risk bone disease. Can you do it?

Sure. This is a food column written by a chef. So naturally, it figures that the first answer is diet. When it comes to building strong bones and healthy bodies, one thing we all need is calcium. The best dietary sources of this essential mineral are milk, cheese and yogurt.  However, milk protein is also one of the top eight food allergens in the U.S. and not on the menu for a lot of Allergy & Asthma Today readers and their kids. 

Exercise, or the lack thereof, is answer number two. Many children and adults with asthma tend to avoid things that make breathing difficult – especially exercise. But lack of exercise makes brittle bones.

Medications round out the third answer. Oral and to a lesser degree, inhaled corticosteroids rob the body of calcium particularly when taken over time – by decreasing the amount of calcium that gets absorbed by your intestine and increasing the amount that gets excreted through your kidneys. No one knows exactly the dose or tipping point at which these lifesaving medications begin to affect the bones but we do know it’s a fine balance.

But none of these issues is insurmountable. Exercise can actually build bone strength … and adding calcium to your diet may be easier than you think.

Nature provides a wealth of calcium-rich tasty treats so that even those of us with food allergies can still enjoy quite a variety:

oranges (fresh, 1)                   52 mg
papaya (2/3 cup)                   41 mg
blackberries (2/3 cup)        32 mg
raisins (2/3 cup)                    49 mg

Leafy green vegetables:
broccoli (fresh, 3 spears)    51 mg
celery, (fresh, 2/3 cup)        40 mg
spinach (fresh, 2/3 cup)      99 mg
Swiss chard (2/3 cup)           51 mg
beet greens (2/3 cup)          119 mg

navy beans, (1 cup)               130 mg
white beans (1 cup)                202 mg
chickpeas (boiled, 1 cup)       80 mg
soybeans (green, boiled, 1 cup)    261 mg
soybeans (mature, boiled, 1 cup)  175 mg

almonds (1/2 cup)                206 mg
sesame seeds,  (1 oz, roasted and toasted)        277 mg 
flaxseeds  (1/2 cup)             214 mg 

salmon (1/2 cup canned)   181 mg

Many breakfast cereals, puddings, fruit juices and soy beverages are fortified with calcium. And candy-like supplements can be found in the vitamin section of most food and drug stores.

But before you go down the supplement/fortified road, remember that the benefit of whole foods is that natural goodies come with a host of other benefits, including magnesium, which actually helps the body absorb and retain calcium, and folic acid, which protects the body from diseases like Alzheimer’s, various cancers and even heart problems.

Here are a few easy breezy summer calcium treats for the whole family that are quick to prepare. If you are allergic to any of the ingredients in one recipe (undoubtably a number of readers are), have fun experimenting with substitutions or try a different recipe. The point is, don’t get discouraged. Cooking – and eating healthy – is fun.

  • Home-style cereal-nut bars (see recipe below)
  • Navy-bean-laced spinach Caesar salad for a gourmet twist (or top with salmon for extra calcium kick!)
  • Celery stick or broccoli dippers for chickpea hummus (or white bean hummus)
  • or go for a favorite summer indulgence, the creamy orangesicle.

All are great choices for snacks or meal times and of course, they are All In Good Taste.

Orangesicle Recipe  (10 servings – 1/2 cup)

2 tbsp grated orange peel
1/2 cup orange juice (room temp)
12 oz low-fat ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
*nondairy substitute: tofu

1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks (beaten – add pinch of salt)
1.5 cup 2% milk
3 tbsp nonfat powdered milk
*nondairy substitute: vanilla soy, almond or rice milk

Mix grated orange peel with orange juice. Stir in sugar. Chill in fridge until needed.

Combine cheese and nonfat powdered milk in blender. Blend for 5 minutes or until completely smooth.  Set aside in fridge.

Heat milk in saucepan until it begins to boil. Pour hot milk over beaten egg, mix well. Pour milk and egg mixture back into saucepan; heat. Stir constantly until mixture begins to stick to the back of spoon and becomes thick.   *Do not let it boil* 

Chill for minimum of 3 hours. Then stir 3 mixtures together.

If you have an ice cream maker, pour mixture into maker and mix for 25-30 minutes. If you do not, here’s a freezer alternative:

  • Transfer ice cream mixture to freezer-safe bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, foil or an airtight cover. Freeze for 2 hours
  • Remove from freezer and beat with hand mixer to break up ice crystals. Cover and place back in the freezer for 2 more hours.
  • Remove from freezer and beat again. Ice cream should be thick and soft to scoop. If mixture is not thick enough, return to the freezer for additional thickening.
  • Transfer to plastic popsicle molds, small plastic cups or recycled yogurt plastic cups. Leave 1/2″ from the top for expansion. Cover individual containers with plastic wrap or foil and make as airtight as possible.
  • Check for firmness. Put popsicle sticks in ice cream when still soft enough but hard enough for stick to stand.
  • Remove from individual containers and enjoy creamsicle.

Chef Michelle Austin is a chef, founder of On Thyme Consulting and contributor to SOBeFiT magazine. She’s also co-owner and creative director of Just to Please You Productions, an event production and consulting company, and has been featured on food and design segments on NBC and CBS. Michelle lives in Miami with her daughter, Gabrielle.

First published in Allergy & Asthma Today, Summer 2010

Medical editors: Carol Jones, RN, AE-C, and William Berger, MD