In the Western culture we have been taught for years that “milk does a body good,” especially for calcium intake. On average, about 25% of the American diet is dairy, yet our culture suffers from some of the highest rates of osteoporosis and arthritis, two conditions that could be prevented, in part, with adequate calcium.

Although dairy does have calcium, the path that transforms raw milk into what is sold on the shelves involves removing essential fat for nutrient absorption and therefore, killing the enzymes that would assimilate the calcium. Our dairy products have greatly deteriorated in quality throughout the years with mass levels of antibiotics and hormones injected into the cows as well as through the pasteurization process. In addition, when dairy is consumed with other substances like sugar and artificial ingredients, the blood becomes acidic. Calcium and phosphorus will then be pulled from the bones to alkalize the body. So, not only is the calcium from pasteurized dairy not well absorbed, but taking in highly processed dairy foods could actually be causing the body to leach its preciously-stored calcium.

Why is it that osteoporosis and other calcium dependent diseases are practically non-existent in many traditional Asian cultures where no, or very little, dairy products are consumed? Instead of dairy, these cultures rely on a balanced, varied diet of grains, vegetables, and small amounts of soy products to ensure adequate calcium intake. A whole foods diet ensures proper mineral balance, which is essential for calcium absorption. It is recommended that adults consume about 1000mg of calcium per day and 1200mg for women over 50 and for those under 35 with higher risk factors for osteoporosis.

 

THE ABSORPTION CONNECTION

Ingesting calcium without ensuring its absorption is pointless, right?  So, it is essential to also take in other vitamins and minerals that are needed to properly absorb it. Those nutrients are vitamins A, C, D, and K, and the minerals magnesium and phosphorus.

Vitamin D
Consider supplementing with good quality vitamin D3. Many people are deficient in vitamin D, even if they live in a sunny place, so make sure to get your vitamin D levels checked at least twice a year. Vitamin D3 transports calcium into the bone, and without it, calcium can get deposited in the wrong place.

Magnesium
It was once thought that the proper ratio of calcium to magnesium was 2 to 1.  More recently, supplement manufacturers are using research to advocate an even 1 to 1 ratio, while others even feel the ratio should be reversed to 1 to 2. Magnesium stimulates a hormone that increases calcium in the bones and keeps it from being absorbed in the soft tissues. This is what happens in several types of arthritis. A magnesium-rich diet, in conjunction with calcium intake, might be enough to cure several forms of arthritis and help keep bones dense.

 

Magnesium-rich foods include:

dried seaweeds
black, mung, and lima beans
buckwheat (soak for 1-8 hours to eliminate phytic acid and cook it with a 3″ strip of kombu for maximum mineral content)
millet
wheat berries
barley
rye
brown rice
most nuts and seeds, especially almonds, cashews, and sesame seeds
all chlorophyll foods–algaes, wheat grass
chocolate (of high quality but not when mixed with denatured ingredients like sugar, milk, and hydrogenated oils)

Calcium-rich foods include:

green leafy vegetables
collard greens
broccoli
beet greens
bok choy
mustard greens
dandelion
parsley
watercress
nuts
hazelnuts
legumes
kale
tempeh
garbanzo beans
black beans
navy and white beans
pintos
salmon
hijiki (seaweed)
wheat grass
almonds
sardines
kombu (seaweed)
brazil nuts
sunflower seeds
oysters
wakame
fish
sea vegetables
agar agar (sea vegetable)
sesame seeds

 

DIETARY AND LIFESTYLE SUGGESTIONS TO INCREASE CALCIUM INTAKE AND ABSORPTION

1. Eat plenty of greens, such as broccoli, kale, wheat grass, seaweeds, and other green veggies. Eat those higher in oxalic acid sparingly, i.e., spinach, chard, rhubarb, plums, cranberries, and beet greens.

2. Eat different types of whole grains regularly. Soaking them for 1-3 hours before cooking will help reduce phytic acid.

3. Exercise regularly with cardiovascular work AND weight resistance training.Moderate exercise will help to prevent calcium loss, but extreme exercise over extended periods of time, especially in females, can actually increase calcium loss.

4. Get plenty of sunshine to get your vitamin D but keep in mind you must be sweating (pores open), and your skin must be exposed to the sun to absorb vitamin D. You can get vitamin D from good quality, raw dairy products and pastured meat.

5. If you are taking calcium supplements, be sure they contain at least the amount of magnesium to calcium, if not more, as well as Vitamin D3.  It is good to take these with high mineral foods such as dark leafy greens or an alfalfa or kelp supplement.

6. Fermented dairy is most easily assimilated: organic yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk. Try to choose organic and eat goat’s milk products over cow when possible. Low fat and skim milks are stripped of enzymes and the fat necessary to absorb the calcium. Pasteurized milk is devoid of essential nutrients needed for bone density, which is why we always recommend a high quality raw milk.

7. Healing Bone Broth: The slow process of cooking bone broth draws the minerals out of the bones, making it pure medicine for immunity and gastrointestinal strengthening. The minerals in bone broth are highly bioavailable.  You can use broth for cooking grains, beans, and soups, or just drink from a mug.  Our favorite is from The Flavor Chef, Chef Lance Roll.  Check out The Brothery to see what this amazing healing food is all about.

THE FOLLOWING WILL INHIBIT CALCIUM ABSORPTION

coffee (too much caffeine)
soft drinks
diuretics
excess animal protein
refined sugar and too much of any sweetener
alcohol
marijuana and cigarettes
excess salt