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USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine



Is spinach a good source of calcium? spinach

Although food tables show that a cup of cooked spinach has almost as much calcium as a cup of milk, the calcium isn't available in a form that our bodies can absorb.

"The percentage of a nutrient that is actually absorbed from a food is known as its 'bioavailability'," says Dr. Paul Nakata, a plant physiologist at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine. Humans only absorb about five percent, or 12 out of 244 milligrams, of the calcium present in a cup of cooked spinach. On the other hand, about 100 of the 300 milligrams present in milk is absorbed.

Although bioavailability varies from food to food and nutrient to nutrient, this isn't something consumers should worry about if they're eating a healthy diet, says Nakata. The dietary recommendations set for nutrients, such as calcium, have taken bioavailability into consideration and also have a considerable margin of safety built in.

To make sure you're eating a healthy diet, follow the guidelines set by the USDA/ARS Food Guide Pyramid. Those guidelines emphasize a variety of foods that provide all the nutrients needed by healthy individuals.


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