Everything about calcium and its role in our body
How much calcium do we really need?
Today, the general recommendation for adults is 1000 - 1200 milligrams per day. But there is an opinion of plant-based health experts that these recommendations are too high. Their opinion is based on the the fact that when we eat foods high in animal protein it washes out higher calcium amounts from the body (through the excretory system) than when we follow a plant based diet. When we follow plant based diet which is low in salt and caffeine, the amount of calcium that leaves our body is much lower, which means that we need to consume it less.
How much lower? A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionshowed that “individuals with low, but nutritionally adequate, intakes of sodium and protein may have calcium requirements as low as 500–741mg/day.”
Can we really get enough calcium by eating only plant based foods?
Calcium is a mineral just like iron, magnesium, and cooper. It is found in the soil, where it is absorbed into the roots of plants. Animals get their calcium by consuming these calcium-rich plants. So even though we are all conditioned to believe that calcium comes from milk and dairy products, the real source of calcium is the earth. No wonder that a whole-food, plant-based diet has plenty of calcium.
A well balanced plant based diet consisting of vegetables, fruits and a variety of starchy vegetables (as potato) and grains (no dairy products) has a sufficient amount of calcium to meet our needs it.
Research in this area reveal once again how our body wisely arranged. When following a relatively low-calcium diet (415 mg/day), our intestines become more efficient at absorbing calcium, and our kidneys conserve it better. Equally, when overfed with calcium (1,740 mg/day) our bodies adjust as well: our intestines block the calcium absorption, while our kidneys eliminate more. The excess calcium would get deposited in our soft tissues (heart, kidneys, muscles, and skin), making us vulnerable to illness and even death.
“Disease” of calcium deficiency from a calorically sufficient natural plant-based diet does not exist!
What is calcium absorption, and why is it important?
The amount of calcium we ingest may be less important than how much we actually absorb. For example, 1 cup of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium. But only about 30% of it (90 mg) is actually able to absorb available to our bodies.
The calcium content and absorption rate of cow’s milk vs some plant-based alternatives:
- the calcium in firm tofu has about the same absorption rate as dairy products, hovering around 31%. And while ½ cup of tofu yields the same amount of calcium as 1 cup of milk (300 mg), it contains more protein, far less saturated fat, and about a tenth of the sodium.
- 1 cup of bok choy, 1½ cups of kale, or 2 cups of broccoli contain the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk, due to their much better calcium absorption rate (in the 50–60% range! )
What factors (or foods) make us
Many factors contribute to the loss of calcium from the age (older people lose more calcium) to the content of vitamin D in the body (people lacking vitamin D3 usually lose more calcium). As major role in calcium loss plays caffeine, sodium (salt) and the main content of the intestine.
Sodium is the main enemy of the issue of the loss of calcium. With 1,000 mg of sodium (2,500 mg of salt) that are excreted by the kidneys, the body loses about 40 - 60 mg of calcium.
An increase in protein intake by half, the amount of calcium excretes urine increased by 50%.
When it comes to dairy products, which have always been considered the main sources of protein, calcium we lose 1/3 of which we get milk and 2/3 which is derived from cheese.
Also affects the person's ability to retain calcium. By acting as a diuretic, it pulls calcium from the body.
Many leafy green vegetables provide lots of easily absorbed calcium without causing calcium loss!
Can’t we just fix everything by taking calcium supplements?
Studies show that the supplementation of calcium in the form of supplements risk of bone fractures is reduced by 10% (fractures related to the pelvis and hip in is not included), but this increases our chances of heart disease and stroke, are formed kidney stones and provoked gastrointestinal disturbances.
But if we don’t drink milk or take calcium supplements - what happens to our bones?
When comparing bone mineral structure of long-term vegans and omnivore people, researchers found that despite the fact that vegans consume a smaller amount of calcium and protein of bone density is the same as that of meat-eaters.
In conclusion, you don’t need dairy or supplements to get enough calcium (in fact they may be a hindrance rather than a help). As long as you eat a calorically sufficient whole-food, plant-based diet that drastically reduces or completely eliminates added sodium, you’ll get all the calcium you need.