We recently discussed how a person on a raw food diet gets enough protein (here). Another question that comes up frequently is, what about calcium? How can you protect yourself from osteoporosis if you are not eating dairy products? Especially since we have been taught for years that we need to be eating dairy products to get adequate calcium. The raw food diet is typically vegan (no animal products), it is normally dairy free. Some raw foodists do consume raw dairy.
Where does calcium come from? It comes from the earth. Plants absorb the mineral from the soil through their roots and then disseminate it throughout their leaves, stems, etc. Animals eat the plants to get their calcium. Plants are loaded with minerals, enough to support the skeletal frames of the largest animals on the planet.
Why do we need calcium? Calcium is an essential mineral. 99% of our calcium is found in the bones. The other 1% is circulating through our blood stream, organs and tissues. Calcium is crucial for heart function, muscle development, regulation of nerve tissue and blood vessel function as well as skeletal support.
What happens if we don’t get enough calcium? If you are not getting enough calcium, your body will steal it from your bones and teeth, weakening them.
What is osteoporosis? Characterized by a loss of bone density, osteoporosis is a disease where bones become fragile and break easily. It is estimated that in the U.S. over ten million people suffer from osteoporosis. Millions more have low bone mass called Osteopenia.
What are the causes of osteoporosis? Here is where it gets interesting. We have always been taught if we get enough calcium, (as in consumption of dairy products) that will protect us against osteoporosis. But it is more complicated than that. Many studies are showing that osteoporosis is directly tied to an over consumption of animal proteins. To complicate matters even more, consumption of dairy has been linked to many cancers, heart disease and diabetes.
Many studies and peer-reviewed scientific journals have found “a direct and consistent association between animal protein consumption and calcium loss in urine.” (Dr. Isac: The Truth about Protein and Calcium)
“But as your body digests protein, it releases acids into the bloodstream, which the body neutralizes by drawing calcium from the bones.” (Harvard School of Public Health)
It is important to note that this calcium loss does not occur when plant based proteins are consumed.
What are the best plant based sources of calcium? Good sources of calcium can be found in dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, parsley and watercress. Dried figs and dates along with nuts, especially almonds and Brazil nuts also contain significant calcium. Sesame seeds and tahini are very rich in calcium. Seaweed can be another great source.
Other ways to protect your bones: Regular, weight-bearing exercise is very important to maintaining bone density. Making sure you get enough vitamin D and also Vitamin K (found in green leafy vegetables) is essential. And do get your calcium. Just be informed when you are considering the source.
An interesting article on Dairy by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine can be found HERE
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In writing this article, I am not trying to give you personal medical advice. My attempt is to bring to light nutritional information that tends to get lost in main stream media. Just more food for thought, so you can make your own informed decisions.