Smoothies can boost fruit, calcium intake

photo: Hemera

photo: Hemera

My teenage daughter has a sudden affinity for smoothies. She is making them all the time. Is this something I should encourage?

Smoothies can be a great way for anyone to consume more produce, and even additional calcium if milk, yogurt or calcium-fortified juice is part of the mix.

And most teens need more fruits, vegetables and calcium in their diets. A 2006 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that less than 1 percent of boys and less than 4 percent of girls aged 14 to 18 years ate the recommended amount of produce. (For girls 14-18, the recommended amount is 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. Boys that age need an extra half-cup of each.)

Both boys and girls from 14 to 18 years need 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day — about the amount in 4.5 cups of milk. A national nutrition survey in 2005-2006 found that 42 percent of teen boys and only 10 percent of teen girls consumed enough calcium every day.

So, in a word, yes! If your daughter’s smoothies help her consume enough produce and calcium day to day, by all means encourage her on her smoothie craze. But it’s important to make sure they’re healthy beverages, not sugar-laden frozen slushies or milkshakes in disguise.

When prepared healthfully, smoothies can provide a big boost in nutrition. According to a study published in Health Education and Behavior in 2015, when smoothies were introduced as an option at school breakfasts at a middle school and high school in Utah, students eating a full cup of fruit during breakfast increased from 4.3 percent to a whopping 45.1 percent.

Another study, published in the Journal of Child Nutrition and Management in 2015, showed that 68 percent of high school students who chose yogurt as a breakfast option didn’t choose milk, suggesting that yogurt products — including many smoothies — may offer an appealing calcium-rich alternative for non-milk drinkers.

The smoothies made for the Utah school study included milk or juice, vanilla yogurt, and fruit — usually bananas, strawberries, pineapple and mandarin oranges, but sometimes cherries and pears — and even spinach for green smoothies. No extra sugar, frozen yogurt or ice cream was added — a good guideline for keeping the nutritional profile of a smoothie high. Adding ice will provide a nice chill and help lower the calorie count. Using frozen fruit — even frozen bananas — helps keep a smoothie thick with or without ice cubes.

For healthy recipe ideas, try the “Fruits and Veggies: More Matters” website Click on “Recipes” and choose “Beverages and Smoothies.” You will find 16 pages of recipes for everything from an Orange Banana Frosty to a Watermelon Strawberry Shake (no ice cream included).

In addition, consider introducing your daughter to This website encourages teens to adopt healthy food and activity habits to last a lifetime.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043,

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carol Smathers, Youth Nutrition and Wellness specialist with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Calcium important, dairy a good source

chow_032015_178493804A friend started a new diet, and he said he was surprised to learn milk and other dairy products can actually cause, not prevent, osteoporosis. Can you explain?

This notion pops up from time to time, but rest assured that there’s broad consensus among nutrition researchers and registered dietitians that getting enough calcium, along with vitamin D, is an important part of a healthful diet, and dairy products remain a good source of these critical nutrients.

But the factors affecting calcium absorption and how the body uses calcium are complicated, and researchers are still discovering information about it. So, be prepared to continue to hear occasional back-and-forth about the best guidance.

One of the studies often cited by those who warn people off dairy products is from 1997. This Harvard University study examined data from more than 77,000 women who self-reported their food intake in questionnaires in 1980, 1984, and 1986. Surprisingly, they found that higher reported consumption of milk and other dairy didn’t protect women against hip or bone fractures.

However, other examinations of the evidence on dairy foods and bone health indicate that the 1997 study doesn’t tell the whole story.

For example, a 2000 comprehensive review of research conducted on dairy foods and bone health between 1985 and 1999, including the above study, was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It determined that 42 percent of the studies’ findings showed favorable effects of dairy foods on bone health, while 53 percent showed insignificant effects and only 5 percent showed unfavorable effects.

One of the issues regarding dairy foods and calcium is related to dairy’s protein content. When a person eats more protein, more calcium is lost through the urine. So, wouldn’t it make sense to get calcium from foods without protein?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are many things that affect how the body handles calcium. While dairy might have some issues, so do other foods.

Even the “Nutrition Source” from Harvard’s School of Public Health, whose researchers conducted the 1997 study, doesn’t advocate abstaining from dairy products. Just read its article “Calcium and Milk: What’s Best for Your Bones and Health?” online at You’ll see that the authors suggest that while American adults “may not need as much calcium as is currently recommended” (which is 1,000-1,200 milligrams a day), they still recommend one daily serving of milk in addition to another 300 milligrams of calcium from other sources.

While deliberation about calcium and dairy foods is sure to continue, you can rely on this piece of guidance: Eat a balanced diet with a wide variety of nutritious foods, limited in added sugars and saturated fat, and with plenty of produce and whole grains, while maintaining a healthful weight and getting enough physical activity. If you do that, everything else should fall into place.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carolyn Gunther, Community Nutrition Education specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Dairy an easy way to get calcium

173771158I know a few people who insist that dairy foods are bad for you. Is there any truth to that?

It does seem like a lot of people have concerns about dairy. Although it’s possible to have a healthful diet without dairy, consuming dairy products makes it much easier to get critical nutrients. So, the blanket statement that “dairy is bad for you” should be met with skepticism.

Arguments from the “anti-dairy” side are numerous. Some people are concerned about the saturated fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates and even protein in dairy. Others are troubled about hormones, which occur naturally in milk from cows regardless of whether they are treated with synthetic growth hormones to boost milk production.

Some people do have dairy-related health issues. A small number are allergic — they must stay away from milk and dairy to avoid a reaction. More are lactose intolerant. Their intestines don’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase to break down natural milk sugar, which can cause gas pain and bloating if they’re not careful.

Still others are anxious about other issues — weight gain or even acne. The list goes on and on. But talk to a registered dietitian, and you’ll hear a different story. Dairy foods provide many important nutrients, such as potassium, vitamin D (in products that are fortified — read the label) and, of course, calcium.

Most people, particularly adolescents, simply don’t get enough calcium in their diet. While not the only possible source of calcium, dairy products can be an easy, convenient way to get the calcium you need.

Consuming enough calcium and vitamin D during our younger years helps strengthen bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and related bone fractures later in life. And as we age, we still need to consume enough to prevent the body from robbing calcium from our bones for other uses, such as the proper functioning of nerves and blood vessels and for muscle contraction. Recommended calcium intakes range from 1,000 to 1,300 milligrams a day from age 4 through adulthood. See for details. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends three servings of non-fat or low-fat dairy a day to help people meet those goals.

People who choose not to consume dairy products should do their homework to make sure they’re getting the calcium they need. Non-dairy sources include orange juice, soy beverages, tofu and breakfast cereals that are fortified with calcium; bok choy, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale and other leafy greens; and some beans including black, Great Northern, navy and white beans.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043,

In college? Study labels for calcium

79073988I just started my first year of college and I’m living away from home for the first time. My mom keeps telling me to watch my diet, especially my calcium intake. Why is she so worried about that?

It’s not unusual for young adults in your situation to fall into poor eating habits. You’ll be dealing with stress and an irregular routine, and you could lose easy access to nutrient-dense foods, including dairy foods.

Calcium is a special concern because getting enough as a young person has long-term implications. The body uses calcium in a lot of different ways, including helping muscles and blood vessels expand and contract, helping release hormones and enzymes, and helping send messages from the brain throughout the body through the nervous system. And, of course, you need it for strong bones and teeth.

If there’s not enough calcium in the bloodstream, the body takes it from your bones in order to get everything done that needs to be done. If this happens too much, your bones will get weak over time, increasing your risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures.

It’s especially important to get enough calcium during your formative years, because by your 20s, your bones will be the strongest they ever will be. And getting enough vitamin D is important, too, because it helps your body absorb calcium.

You need the most calcium in your diet when you’re 9 to 18 years old — 1,300 milligrams a day. That’s the amount in more than four 8-ounce glasses of milk. Between the ages of 19 to 50 years old, you still need 1,000 milligrams a day. Milk contains about 300 milligrams of calcium per cup.

Of course, milk isn’t the only food with calcium. Check Nutrition Facts labels. Calcium is listed as a percent and is based on 1,000 milligrams a day, so “10 percent” means a serving contains 100 milligrams of calcium.

Some other options:

  • Plain fat-free yogurt, 1 cup, 450 milligrams.
  • Orange juice with added calcium, 1 cup, 350 milligrams.
  • Fruit yogurt, low-fat, 1 cup, 230 milligrams.
  • American cheese, low-fat, 2 ounces, 310 milligrams.
  • Raw broccoli, 1 medium stalk, 180 milligrams.
  • Spinach, cooked from frozen, 1/2 cup, 140 milligrams.
  • Frozen yogurt, soft-serve vanilla, 1/2 cup, 100 milligrams.
  • Cooked broccoli, 1 cup, 95 milligrams.