Hello beautiful friends,
Ah, I love how the Universe works– when you focus on something, the way it delivers everything you need right into your “inbox” so to speak. You can be browsing an article, a website, a book, someone can mention some ‘one’ or some ‘thing’ to you and suddenly before your eyes, exactly the information you’re looking for springs to light.
So today I have all the “light” on calcium for you. There’s the best sources, absorption factors and the causes of calcium depletion, as well as ‘to dairy or not to dairy’, the issue of supplementation and what does protein have to do with it anyway!
THE INPUT Chapter
THE ACID/ALKALINE OR 'PH' STORY
So if you’ve been wondering…. there’s a really good reason why I’ve put Protein and Calcium together rather than as two separate articles. There’s a profound link between the two besides the obvious ‘meat’ and ‘bones’ association.
Protein and calcium have a relationship through our body’s acid/alkaline or ‘pH’ level, but before we get behind the scenes, let’s take a closer look at ‘pH’.
A ‘pH’ of 7 is neutral, higher is alkaline and lower is acidic.
Essentially our bodies ‘pH’ level is determined by the amount of acid and alkaline minerals we consume. In fact it’s one of the primary functions of nutrition to maintain the ‘pH’ level in the body. It’s critical that we don’t become too acidic.
Disease thrives in an acidic environment.
Bacteria, yeast and fungi all grow happily and everything from inflammation, arthritis, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel, eczema, diabetes, a weakened immune system, atherosclerosis and osteoporosis can be traced back to excess acid levels in the blood and tissues. And in the extreme state, ‘acidosis’, it’s lethal.
For optimum cellular health and happiness your blood’s ideal state is ALKALINE at 7.35pH.
THE 80 : 20 RATIO
It’s suggested that we need to be consuming as much as 80% alkaline foods and only 20% acid foods to maintain our ideal ‘pH’ level.
Alkaline foods are all your fruits, leafy greens and vegetables.
Acid foods are all animal products including red meat, white meat, fish, eggs and dairy, as well as grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Clearly most of us don’t live by this model, hence it’s common to be more acidic than more alkaline and with today’s modern diet, many people are in dangerously acidic states, around 6.3 pH or less.
Protein is particularly high in the acid minerals- phosphorus, chlorine, iodine and nitrogen.
There are a lot of people today who have jumped on the “Protein Bandwagon” believing that a high intake of protein is beneficial for their health, but is it? The more protein you eat, the more acidic you become.
To neutralise excess acidity and maintain an alkaline state, your body takes alkaline minerals from its’ storage facilities to restore balance. Calcium, magnesium and potassium are alkaline minerals and our bones contain the richest source of calcium in the body. So if your diet is too acidic, over time, calcium is being drawn from your bones to maintain the critical level of blood alkalinity and conditions like osteopenia and osteoporosis arise.
The dairy industry tells us that we must consume milk products because they contain calcium and “calcium keeps our bones strong”. However, did you know that dairy is also high in protein, containing up to 4 times the amount of protein compared to human mother’s milk? This increases the relative acidity of dairy, creating an even higher demand for calcium. And low fat only makes the acidity factor greater!
Once you take the fats from milk, you’re left with proportionately more protein and carbohydrate, which are both acid-forming. Clearly then, when consuming high quantities of animal protein and dairy, acid wins the day and we plummet into an acidic state.
Our bodies are very intelligent at maintaining life and in it’s recipe for survival, keeping our blood at that delicate alkaline level is far more important than having strong bones. Broken bones won’t kill you – just immobilise you. So when we become too acidic, our body in it's wisdom will borrow the calcium it needs from our bones.
And when consuming dairy products, are we actually absorbing any of the calcium for our bones and other metabolic functions or is it just being used to maintain the alkalinity of the blood?
Research points to the fact that dairy is a poor source of calcium. Multiple studies have shown that…
… countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis, such as The USA, England and Sweden, consume the most milk and in China and Japan, where little or no dairy is eaten they have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.
Furthermore extensive studies including over 200,000 women and men have shown that calcium supplementation did not only NOT reduce hip fractures but possibly increased their likelihood!
Rather extraordinary, don’t you think, considering the medical model for healthy bone management? Another wake-up finding is that increased dairy consumption promotes the growth of ovarian and prostate cancers.
So whilst Protein and Calcium have a beneficial relationship and role to play in providing the body with acid and alkaline minerals, too much protein can disastrously affect their balance.
Eating vegetarian wholefoods, with an abundance of fruits, leafy greens and vegetables (as well as small amounts of whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds) means that you’re taking in more alkaline minerals than acid minerals. Thus you'll keep your calcium where it’s needed – in your bones.
But not only that, these foods unlike animal protein and dairy, also contain the WHOLE SPECTRUM OF ESSENTIAL and BALANCED NUTRITION- protein, carbohydrates, fats and yes, calcium as well as the all-important micronutrients- live enzymes, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals.
These little guys are utterly necessary for the complete digestion, absorption and utilisation of your food.
So with a wholefood plant-based diet you’re much more likely to be getting your daily dose of alkaline minerals, including calcium, as well as all the essential micronutrients for your body to not only heal disease and inflammation and relieve pain, but to thrive.
Read ... strong digestion, cracking immune system, fist-pumping organs, clean pipes, brain-power, shining skin and boundless energy!!!
See the blog Protein and Calium Part 1 for more information on plant sources of protein.
I wish that was all there is to maintaining our natural alkalinity and providing our bodies with an adequate supply of calcium. However our bodies are complex organisms and there are many more factors to consider to nourish your bones and eliminate diseases. Read on for some more tips as well as the best ways to alkalise your body and the best sources of plant food calcium.
THE ABSORPTION Chapter
There are other factors besides the acid/alkaline balance that influence the absorption and utilisation of calcium.
1. Phosphorus:- It’s recommended that we eat foods with a calcium-phosphorus ratio of 2:1 or better, as our primary source of calcium because phosphorus combines in the digestive tract with calcium and prevents the absorption of calcium. In vegetables the ratio is 2:1 but in dairy it’s 1:1. (“Food and Healing” by Ann-Marie Colbin). Therefore besides the detrimental acidic effects of consuming dairy, we may not be absorbing any of the dairy calcium into our bones anyway.
2. Fibre:- You may not be doing yourself the favour you thought by taking that bran or psyllium every day. Excess fibre, such as raw bran, causes calcium to be excreted. Phytates in the bran bind to calcium and prevent its absorption. Hence pass on the bran and psyllium and hello!– the case for whole foods arises again. You’ll find all the fibre you need in fruits, vegetables (with skin on) and whole grains.
(Photo by Chiots’ Run)
3. THE VITAMIN D FACTOR
Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium as well as iron, magnesium, phosphate and zinc. Vitamin D is freely available from the sun and since our bodies store Vitamin D, if you get out in the sun regularly, you probably have more than enough to get you through the grey days. You’ll also find Vitamin D in mushrooms, the colourful yellow vegetables, whole grains and cod liver oil but if in doubt, see your doctor. You can take the supplement D3 or for vegans, D2.
4. MASHED OR BAKED?
Do you love your mash and baked potatoes? Then beware! Alkaloids in the nightshade family of vegetables- potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and tobacco, affect the calcium balance. “Nightshades foods may subtly remove calcium from the bones and deposit it in joints, arteries and other areas of the body where it does not belong.” Annmarie Colbin “Food and Healing”. So Colbins’ advice is not to eat these foods all together or daily but perhaps just three times a week. See how creative you can be. Seriously, there’s so many vegetables to choose from.
5. PUS AND PASTEURISATION
Sadly today with the dairy industry being such a juggernaut much of its’ practices are mechanised and well, personal attention to cows is limited. Thus blood and pus from painful and infected udders goes into your milk. It’s a given! They know about it because there is an ESTABLISHED ACCEPTABLE LEVEL OF PUS – 100 million pus cells per litre of milk- gross! However according to the USDA (The United States Department of Agriculture), the average pus content in milk is much, much more that that- up to 316 million pus cells.
That’s why it’s pasteurised. However pasteurisation destroys beneficial enzymes and makes calcium even less available.
So perhaps if you really want to drink milk and eat dairy products in moderation, source yourself some organic raw milk products from lovingly cared for cows. And remember there’s lots of scrumptuous alternatives today like the variety of easy to make raw nut-milks.
For the full dirt on dairy then check out the dvd “Forks Over Knives” from your local video store or buy T. Colin Campbell’s book “The China Study”.
Milk- there’s more choice than you think.
THE OUTPUT Chapter
We’ve seen from the absorption chapter that calcium may be lost from the body in a number of ways but the biggest loss by far is due to the leaching of calcium from our bones, which occurs when we have excess acidity in the blood. So lets look a bit closer at all the factors that contribute to acidity:-
Sugars / Protein / Processed Food / Alcohol / Caffeine / Drugs, chemicals or toxins / Shallow breathing / Anxiety / Stress / Anger / Fear
So reduce, give up, lessen what you can from this list (or in the case of your breath, enhance it) and for all the ways to increase your alkalinity and hence your mojo check out the chapter ‘the happy ending’ at, you guessed it, the end….just a little more juice to come.
Here I’ll refer you to the wonderful Leisa Wheeler, Naturopath and an article she produced recently. If you’re on calcium supplements, I suggest you have a good read of her blog as well as the article she refers to.
Photo from Leisa’s article -see link below
“More important than calcium for bones, are the minerals magnesium, boron, silica and zinc; we need good levels of vitamin D, adequate protein intake, good hydration, an alkaline diet, hormone balance and weight-bearing exercise to support our bone strength and to prevent osteoporosis, much more than any dangerous calcium supplement. And as this article below shows, calcium supplementation increases your risk of heart attack and cancer, not to mention painful calcification in other areas of the body such as joints and soft tissue.” Leisa Wheeler
You’ll find her blog and a link to the article here:- http://www.embracinghealthblog.com/2013/02/14/calcium-doubles-heart-disease-risk/
THE HUMANE STORY
The reality is that when it comes to a lot of our food (and medicines) we just don’t know how it’s produced and what’s involved in getting it to us. I’m finding that the more I look into animal husbandry practices sadly, the more horrified I become.
There are stories behind the scenes that we would never have imagined. For example, menopausal women, do you know that horses, mares, are impregnated and catheterised for the collection of their oestrogen-rich urine which is used to make the third largest selling drug on the earth, for menopause. The mares are confined for six months of their eleven-month pregnancy, unable to turn around or lie down because of the small stalls, short chains and urine collection bags strapped to their bodies. This happens year after year, until they’re barren or lame and are sold for slaughter. This drug has cost the lives of over one million horses! (source:- animal-lib.org.au).
The picture for dairy mothers is no better. (Photo by Marker)
“The dairy cow is exposed to more abnormal physiological demands than any other farm animal. She is the supreme example of an overworked mother.” Professor John Webster, Bristol University’s Veterinary Science Department.
Baby calves are taken from their mothers after a day or two. Yes, the cow feels it.
Then because her milk would dry up after 9 months, a big inconvenience for the milk industry, she is artificially inseminated just 3 months later to ensure another pregnancy and ongoing lactation. “A crushing double burden of pregnancy and lactation for seven months out of every 12! It inevitably takes its toll — excruciating mastitis (udder infection), lameness, infertility and low milk yield. A quarter of all UK cows, mostly under five years old, are killed every year – physically exhausted.” (excerpt from Animal Cruelty Exposed). Sad, sad, sad.
THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER...
So on the basis of what I’ve presented today here’s the main guidelines for keeping yourself refreshingly alkaline, gleaning lots of calcium for strong bones, minimising inflammation in your body, saving a few cows and perhaps sailing through menopause like I did, not only completely drug-free but symptom free (if you don't count feeling hot about 5 times):-
diminish your consumption of animal products and dairy
eat an abundance of alkaline plant foods such as fruit, leafy greens, salad and vegetables, except root vegetables,
eat moderate amounts of root vegetables, grains and legumes,
eat small amounts of nuts, seeds and sweet treats.
THE NEW FOOD PYRAMID
NATURE'S CALCIUM-RICH SMORSGASBORD
Here’s the calcium-rich foods you can eat your way to cartwheels on:-
LEAFY GREENS, BROCCOLI, GREEN BEANS, CABBAGE, CELERY, CUCUMBER, CAPSICUM, ASPARAGUS, AVOCADO, CAULIFLOWER, GINGER, SESAME SEEDS / TAHINI, ALMONDS, PECANS, WALNUTS, FIGS AND DATES
You’ll increase your alkalinity by having a big dose of this every day:-
Fruits & Leafy greens / Vegetables / Fresh Unprocessed Food / Spring Water / Herbal Teas / Medicinal Herbs / Slow, deep breathing / Acceptance / Peace / Laughter/ Love
And smaller doses of these:-
Whole grains, Legumes, Nuts and Seeds
And to cap it all off take a look at some calcium comparison levels per 100grams. Clearly, tahini is a great calcium-rich food. Dip some carrot sticks straight into the jar and devour. Spread it on toast instead of butter and make hummus regularly. See your RawJOY newsletter for the Raw Zucchini Hummus recipe- yes, anything you can do, we can do raw with vegetables!
Cow’s milk: 119mg
Unhulled Tahini: 420mg
Blackstrap Molasses: 1000mg
Well that’s it for me. This has been a marathon. Phew!
From all that I’ve talked about today, it’s clear, the path to healthy bones for many people means taking a more holistic approach to diet, embracing lots of plant foods and reducing some of the practices and habits we’ve come to consider a normal part of life. Give up coffee? No way, you say! And I understand. The way to go is to take small sustainable steps. Change happens slowly – don’t let anyone tell you differently. Whenever I attend a talk or a course I find that although it may consist of a myriad of jewels of experience and information, often after several weeks have passed by, there may be just one thing that becomes a habit in my life. So, after reading the ‘light’ on calcium, can you make-
Just one change to your diet.
One or two less meals of animal protein? Just one more salad or serve of vegetables in your day? Is there a juicer sitting in your cupboard not being used?
The one big change I’d love to see, is for us to make VEGETABLES the STARS on our plates. Something I bemoan about the plethora of cooking shows on television, is that it’s all about the ‘meat’! I’d love to hear your comments.
Love, Oodles of Vegetables and butt-kicking strong bones to you,