(NaturalHealth365) Of all the nutrients in food, calcium is one of the most popular nutrients among the scientific community as well as the general public. It is necessary for muscle contraction, blood clotting, bone building and nerve function. It also participates in many important biological processes and maintains the structural frame work of the body.
But, like any other food, it’s important to know your source…
’Think calcium, think milk’ (Wrong idea)
For years, the dairy industry has drilled a myth deep into our mind that calcium is synonymous with milk. This is absolutely false. As a matter fact, the recent findings on the negative effects of calcium in our health is primarily because of calcium from animal sources and supplementation.
In fact, there is strong evidence now that both high dietary calcium (animal-based) and supplemental calcium is associated with heart disease and heart attacks!
But if I don’t consume milk – where will I get my calcium from?
If milk is the best source of calcium for bone health, the rate of fracture and osteoporosis should be low in the leading dairy producing nations (UK, Finland, Sweden and the US). But, WHO statistics suggest that osteoporosis is high in nations with high dairy and dairy product consumption. On the contrary, Dr. Campbell’s The China Study shows that Chinese with their very low intake of dairy have about one-fifth of the rate of hip fractures compared to the Western population.
Clearly, the reason for this striking difference is the source of calcium.
Is there any proof that plant-based calcium is best?
Epidemiological data from various studies across the globe clearly indicate that the source of calcium and the amount of calcium play a significant role in influencing a disease-state in a community. African Bantu women consume less than 400 mg of calcium per day from predominantly plant sources as opposed to the 1000 mg per day of US recommendations for calcium and enjoy a remarkable bone health throughout their lives.
By the way, there is no evidence of calcium deficiency among these women who have a minimum of 5 pregnancies in their life time.
A closer look at plant calcium and milk calcium
Plant calcium is better because it comes in combination with boron, a mineral that helps retain calcium in the bones. Milk calcium does not provide this nutrient. In addition plant sources of calcium are alkaline, while animal sources are acidic.
Acidic blood pH promotes the release of calcium (an alkaline nutrient) from the bone into the blood stream. Plants are also good source of other nutrients like vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals which promote health and decrease the risk of many degenerative diseases.
Conversely, for many people, animal-based foods are loaded with an unwanted concentration of environmental pollutants and undigested (excess) fats – which can lead to disease in certain metabolically-disadvantaged people. In addition, plants are great source of fiber that regulate bowel movements, while calcium from dairy products are associated with constipation – especially the mass-produced varieties milk and cheese.
Let’s do a comparison of calcium-rich products
Milk gives 37.5 mg in an ounce, tahini (sesame butter) gives 120 mg in an ounce, almonds provide 74 mg in an ounce, chia seeds contain 74 mg per ounce, a cup of broccoli gives 175 mg of calcium, consuming just five figs (dried) per day can provide you 135 mg of calcium. These are just a few examples of plant calcium in food.
Many plant-based research experts like Dr. Colin Campbell believe that 1000 mg per day of calcium is a very high recommendation. Based on his research and many other epidemiological analysis of dietary calcium, calcium from plant sources can promote a favorable alkaline environment – which decreases the need for high levels of calcium.
With overwhelming evidence on dietary calcium, it is about time that we look at our dietary source of calcium. This leaves us with the question: is the current recommendation of 1000 – 1200 mg of calcium really necessary – if on a plant-based diet? There exists a strong evidence that obtaining calcium in food from plant sources is the safest, healthier and the better choice.
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1. Michaëlsson K, Melhus H, Warensjö Lemming E, Wolk A, Byberg L. Long term calcium intake and rates of all cause and cardiovascular mortality: community based prospective longitudinal cohort study. BMJ. 2013 Feb 12;346:f228.
2. T Colin Campbell and Thomas M Campbell II, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health , First Ben Bella books, Paperback edition 2005.
3. Nordin BEC, Marshall DH. Dietary requirements for calcium. In: Nordon BEC, ed.. Calcium in Human Biology. London: Springer-Verlag, 1988.
4. Hanks GT, Milk as Obstipant, Journal of the American Medical Association 230(4) Oct. 28, 1974.
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