By Beverly Burmeier
IF YOU ARE taking a calcium supplement
every morning, you might just be flushing a
significant percent of it down the toilet.
Research reveals that consuming certain foods,
such as coffee or wheat bran (think cereal or
toast), can interfere with calcium absorption or
cause its elimination through urine. That’s
important, because, according to Elson Haas,
author of Staying Healthy with Nutrition
(Celestial Arts, 2006; not available at Costco),
you typically use only 30 to 50 percent of calcium from the foods you eat anyway.
When amounts fall short, the body takes
calcium from bones, decreasing density and
increasing the risk for fractures. Since your
body can’t make calcium alone, and you lose
calcium daily through skin, nails, hair, sweat
and urine, the National Osteoporosis
Foundation ( nof.org) says you’ve got to help it
Knowing which foods to avoid when taking a supplement or eating calcium-rich foods
can help your body use more of the calcium
Foods that dilute calcium
Spinach, sweet potatoes, rhubarb and
cocoa contain high amounts of oxalates,
which reduce absorption of calcium from
those foods. To increase calcium intake, add
cheese or a cream sauce to the veggies.
Sodium (salt) increases calcium excretion
through urine and sweat, according to the
National Institutes of Health (NIH; nih.gov).
It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference. For
example, a typical one-ounce serving of tiny
pretzel twists has up to 22 percent of your
total daily requirement of sodium, which can
increase calcium loss. The NIH suggests add-
ing potassium-rich foods like bananas or can-
taloupe to help counteract this effect.
High-fiber foods, like 100 percent wheat
bran, reduce the absorption of calcium in
other foods eaten at the same time. The result:
You lose the calcium benefit of the milk in
your cereal. When you increase fiber, try to
increase calcium intake, too.
Caffeine, a diuretic, can also increase calcium loss through urination. If you take a calcium supplement in the morning, wait a
couple of hours before drinking tea, coffee or
cola. A smart option is to consider taking your
supplement in the afternoon or evening, when
you’re probably already limiting caffeine.
Foods high in phosphorus, including
meat, poultry, corn and potatoes, also interfere with calcium absorption, according to
Haas. A diet with twice as much calcium as
phosphorus is ideal, but the typical Western
diet, which is high in meat, provides up to
four times more phosphorous than calcium.
Ways to boost calcium intake
• Increase vitamin D, either through
sunshine or supplements, to aid absorption.
• Add magnesium, which keeps calcium
soluble and available in your body.
• Take your calcium supplement with a
glass of orange juice, because vitamin C (
ascorbic acid) improves absorption of calcium.
• Get an extra 50 mg of calcium by adding a tablespoon of nonfat powdered milk
when cooking soups, casseroles, muffins and
• Split your supplemental intake into
doses of about 500 mg at one time. Haas suggests taking calcium supplements at noon and
• Consume more calcium-rich foods, like
beans (navy or white), Chinese cabbage, dairy
products, fortified cereals, leafy greens, nuts,
seafood (crab, salmon, ocean perch, sardines,
shrimp) and seeds. C
Beverly Burmeier writes about health for
many national magazines.
The Costco Connection
Costco offers a variety of fresh, healthful
foods at Costco warehouses, and health
supplements at Costco and on Costco.com.
Stop flushing your calcium away
for your health
NEARLY 77,000 NEW cases of bladder cancer will be diagnosed and more than 16,000
deaths will be attributed to the disease in 2016,
according to the American Cancer Society.
The urinary bladder is a muscular organ in
the pelvis; it expands as it stores urine from the
kidneys, and contracts upon urination. The
wall of the bladder has several layers made up
of different kinds of cells. Most cancers begin
in the innermost lining of the bladder when
cells start growing uncontrollably. If it grows
into other layers of the bladder wall, the cancer
is more advanced and harder to treat, possibly
spreading to other parts of the body.
Bladder cancer occurs mainly in older
people, and men are three to four times more
likely to develop it than women; it is the
fourth most common cancer in men. Average
age at the time of diagnosis is 73.
Researchers do not know what causes this
type of cancer, and some risk factors are
beyond your control, such as age, race, gender
and family history. But there are several ways
you can lower your risk.
• Don’t smoke. Smoking may cause as
many as half of all bladder cancers.
• Limit your exposure to chemicals in the
workplace. Certain chemicals put workers in
the rubber, leather, printing materials, textiles
and paint industries at higher risk.
• Drink plenty of water. It is reported to
lower the risk of bladder cancer.
Signs of bladder cancer
Blood in the urine (hematuria) is usually
the first sign of bladder cancer; it’s often discovered when urinalysis is done for other
medical reasons. Changes in urination might
also signal bladder cancer, including:
• Greater frequency of urination.
• Pain while urinating.
• Trouble urinating or a weak stream.
There are several treatment options,
depending on how advanced the cancer is.
Carefully consider the risks and side effects.
For more information, visit cancer.org
and search “bladder cancer.”—David Wight