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For years we believed that we need to eat dairy products to provide calcium for strong and healthy bones, but the truth actually lies elsewhere: fruits and vegetables that have higher calcium absorption. This article will give you information about other options for better sources of calcium and how much to consume of them.

If you have a look through your bone tissue, you will find a living and dynamic tissue that is very sensitive to our way of life. Bone is constantly in the process of loss and construction: until the age of 30 or so the pace of construction exceeds bone loss and we reach to the peak of bone mass. Then there is a balance between the processes of bone loss and bone building, but at about the age of 40 there is decrease in the rate of bone construction which starts the process of bone loss, which increases at around the age of 50 in women and age 70 in men.

Advanced bone loss will eventually lead to osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weak and brittle. This condition increases the risk of fractures, especially the hips, wrists and vertebrae. Osteoporosis can be described as the disease of old age but we build our bones from a young age. Therefore, you need to make sure to start and prevent it from a younger age. See more information in my article discover the 4 steps to prevent osteoporosis.

But what is the ideal nutrition for our bones? are there better sources of calcium than dairy products? In a recent article published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, leading scientists from Harvard University claim that milk provides significant amounts of protein and other essential nutrients, and may provide health benefits for children and adults with poor nutritional quality. But for people who enjoy a nutritious diet – which includes greens, legumes, nuts, seeds and enough protein – researchers claim that the nutritional benefits of milk consumption probably don’t outweigh the negative effects.

How much calcium do you need?

There is no doubt about the importance of calcium for the bone, but there is a dispute about the amount required, as reflected in the recommendations for calcium intake over 50 different countries: in New Zealand and Australia it’s 1,300 mg, in the United States 1200 mg, in Scandinavia 800 mg and in the UK 700 mg – nearly 50% less than in the United States.

Harvard researchers claim that the recommended amount in the United States is primarily based on three studies that lasted three weeks or less, and probably this recommendation is higher that what the body really needs.

Is it possible to get enough calcium without dairy products?

The recommended calcium intake in the U.S. is high, and some argue that without dairy products this daily intake cannot be practically achieved. People aged 50 and older need 1,200 mg of calcium as stated, the age group of 19-50 needs 1,000 mg, the age group of 9-18 needs 1,300 mg, and 800 mg is required for ages 4-8.

It is important to know that three dairy products provide only about 600 mg of calcium on average, about half the recommended intake, when it is assumed that balanced diet will provide the remaining calcium. However it is possible to provide all the necessary calcium intake through plant food sources only, although it may not be easy for many of us:

Here are examples of plant food sources containing together about 1,000 mg of calcium:

1/2 cup cabbage -20 mg calcium
1 orange – 60 mg
1/2 cup parsley – 41 mg
2 dried figs – 60 mg
1/2 cup arugula – 48 mg
10 almond – 30 mg
1 cup of cooked green beans – 57 mg
1 cup cooked broccoli – 80 mg
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes – 88 mg
1 fennel – 99 mg
1 cup white beans – 160 mg
2 tablespoons hummus spread – 37 mg
1 tablespoon raw tahini paste – 125 mg
100 g tofu (not calcium fortified) – 110 mg

Here are examples of calcium-fortified plant foods that supply together 1,450-1,980 mg calcium:

100 g tofu calcium-fortified – 440-670 mg
1 cup fortified cereals – 130-220 mg
100 g ​​seitan – 590-800 mg

This list is a partial of course, and there are other good plant sources of calcium, such as: okra, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, butternut squash, butter beans, leeks, artichokes, celery, coriander, Chinese cabbage, kale, tangerines, carob products, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, flaxseed, fenugreek and poppy seeds.

Does calcium from plant food sources is absorbed well in our body?

Except spinach and Swiss chard, which has absorption rate of only 5%, calcium is absorbed well from plant food sources. The absorption rate of legumes, nuts and seeds is 21% -27%, and the highest calcium absorption rate – 50% to 60% – is from green vegetables like kale, arugula and broccoli, roughly twice higher in comparison to dairy products whose absorption rate is about 32%. For example, 100 ml of milk (half a cup) contains 100 mg of calcium, and 100 grams of broccoli (about two-thirds cup) contains 50 mg, but the amount absorbed is similar: about 32 mg milk and 30 mg broccoli.

Is calcium the whole story?

Most of us think of the skeleton as a calcium casting, but bone is composed of 40% protein, and calcium in the end is only half of its contents. Also, a proper functioning required various nutrients in addition, for example – calcium and vitamin D which helps to absorb calcium.

Here are other essential components of the bone:

Vitamin K – participates in bone building and reduces urinary calcium excretion. Can be found in green vegetables: various leaves, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and okra.

Vitamin C – essential for creating the main protein in the bone (collagen) and is also an antioxidant. Can be found in pepper, parsley, cabbage, tomato, citrus and mango. Berries are especially high in vitamin C. You can find easy and nutritious berry recipes in my my e-book The Healing Berry Guide. This e-book will teach you how to transform your health with berries and their incredible health benefits

Antioxidants: Lycopene and Beta Carotene – these are antioxidants that fight many diseases, including osteoporosis. Can be found in red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and watermelon, orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, mango, and Green leaves

Potassium – helps in creating an alkaline environment in the blood, known as protecting the bone. Can be found in greens, sweet potatoes, broccoli, melon, fig, orange, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Magnesium – helps in creating alkaline environment in the blood, is essential for creating vitamin D and required for the metabolism of calcium. Magnesium can be found in green leaves, seeds, almonds and beans.

All the above components received recognition for their contribution for bone health and are reflected in the latest recommendations of leading health organizations such as the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).

Also the dietary supplements market is not left behind, and today you can find specialized calcium supplements containing additional minerals and vitamins such as magnesium and vitamin K. These supplements aim to mimic the diversity and combination of the existing components found naturally in plant food sources.

Potassium and magnesium are also found in dairy products, but in a smaller amount than in plant sources. Vitamin C, vitamin K, beta-carotene and lycopene are found only in plants.

What you should not consume?

Sodium (salt) is very harmful to the bones because it increases calcium loss in the urine. The main source of sodium in the modern diet is processed foods, so for this reason it is recommended to prefer home-cooked food. When buying packaged food, it is recommended to check the sodium content, compare brands and choose the best product that is relatively low in sodium. Food containing less than 100 mg sodium per 100 grams is considered low sodium.

Cabbage, for example, contains a moderate amount of calcium that is absorbed at maximum rate. It also contains vitamin C, vitamin K, beta-carotene, potassium and magnesium, but on the other hand does not contain sodium. However, hard cheeses are among the richest in calcium but have lesser absorption rate of cabbage. Also they don’t contain the beneficial components mentioned above, and they are rich in sodium.

Harvard researchers also refer to the broad health effects of various calcium sources, and point out that while the hypothesis that dairy products protect against colon cancer, it has been found that high consumption of dairy products can probably increase prostate cancer risk and maybe ovarian cancer risk as well.

However, according to dietary guidelines issued in 2012 by The American Cancer Society (ACS), a diet rich in vegetables (especially cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage) and legumes is associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Moreover, the high consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a significantly decreased risk of colon cancer.

To summarize, similar to other diseases common in the Western world, the risk of osteoporosis decrease through appropriate diet rich in quality plant food sources. It is recommended to get the calcium we need from plant food sources such as vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and consume dairy products in moderation. The plant food sources provide, in addition to calcium, a unique package of nutrients that work together to maintain bone and general health.

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and milk is not the only source of calcium.

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I was browsing a local forum recently and came across a group of young people discussing what brand of fresh milk is the best, and cheapest. I can understand the need to watch one’s budget, especially when one is young and starting out on a career, but I think they missed a very important point – milk may not be necessarily good for them. I couldn’t resist penning a response to the topic, which I reproduce below:

“Medium to long term consumption of dairy (and this includes fresh milk) has now been proven to cause breast cancer in women and prostrate cancer in men.

The notion that we should drink milk for calcium so as to prevent brittle bones has since been debunked by a study undertaken by Harvard University. This is just but one article on it: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0820/is_n243/ai_19986663/

As to the reasons why we have been brainwashed to think that dairy is good for us, now that’s a long story. Do your research. All I will say here is that it involves the big farms, the big companies that produce these dairy products. In short, its about BIG profits.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with milk from cows, or goats, for the matter. Similarly, there is nothing much wrong to consume red meat now and then. It is not the animal’s fault. It is the way we do farming now, especially the way we feed these animals. Long ago, cows and goats ate GRASS. Now they eat a mixture of corn, soy and wheat – basically junk food for animals. What happens when these animals eat this junk food? Their bodies become imbalanced – they now have much, much more omega 6 in their bodies compared to omega 3. If they ate grass, God and nature had intended that there is a perfect balance of omega 3 and omega 6 intake (a balance close to 1/1). If they eat corn and soy, the resulting imbalance in our bodies (yes, after consuming their milk or meat) is as much as 1/15, even 1/40. If you want to know what this does to your body, go research. A clue – cancer.

I have not even mentioned about the pellets they feed to pigs and chicken and cows. Add all this up and you will get my drift.

So here we are, eating all this dairy, supposedly good for us and enjoying our steaks. What we are actually putting into our bodies are zero nutrients, bad omega 6 and best of all – chemicals (that the animals consume).

I do not mean to be a bringer of negative news. After all, its your own body and your health and that shouldn’t be my business. 

Just thought you should be informed. 

P.S. Forget about asking doctors about nutrition. Most of them know next to nothing about it. They DO NOT TEACH nutrition in medical schools, period. Want proof? Ask any relative or friend who has undergone major surgery, especially for cancer. When they ask their doctors what they can eat after the surgery, 99% of doctors will advise “Eat anything you want.” So go ahead and eat your bak kut teh, steaks, satay, char kway teow, barbecued delights, etc…..”

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