Boning up on Calcium
As a society, we are developing low bone density and osteoporosis earlier in life than ever before. This isn’t due to a lack of dietary calcium as originally thought, but rather to the overconsumption of processed, refined foods that cause calcium to be leached from the bones.
For most people, calcium’s major role is building, strengthening, and repairing bone. Active people, however, have another important job for the mineral: muscle contraction and rhythmic heartbeat coordinator. Calcium makes up 1.6% of the human body, and about 95 percent of the body’s calcium is stored in the skeleton. However, it’s the remaining few percent that’s the first to decline.
Calcium in the blood stream is lost in sweat and muscle contractions, so active people need more dietary calcium. The presence of vitamin D also maximizes calcium absorption. Vitamin D comes from the sun, so regular exposure to daylight will assist bone maintenance.
If blood pH is acidic (low), highly alkaline calcium leeches out of the bones to neutralize the acid and level out the blood’s pH. Calcium-rich foods suppress acid buildup, thereby maintaining an alkali environment necessary to maintain oxygen. This is called survival. The blood needs a pH in a very specific range in order to transport oxygen and function efficiently. Therefore, anything that causes low blood pH can cause calcium to move out of the bones.
Low body pH can lead to the development of kidney stones, loss of bone mass, and the reduction of growth hormone, which results in a loss of lean muscle mass and an increase in body fat production – all which can increase the risk of developing a stress fracture. Most prescription drugs, artificial sweeteners, and synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements are extremely acid forming.
The typical refined food diet of North Americans – which is low in absorbable forms of bone-building calcium but also extremely acid-forming – promotes bone degeneration. Refined, processed, denatured foods, animal products, and foods with an excess of sugar and phosphoric acid such as soda create an acidic environment within the body. Over time, this leads to weaker bones and stress fractures, especially in active individuals. If not resolved, osteoporosis is likely to occur later in life.
Everywhere we go, we’re told to take calcium supplements for bone health. Unfortunately, the body doesn’t properly absorb the inorganic forms of calcium found in supplements. In order for our bones to benefit, we need to supplement with a very large dosage of calcium. The consumption of inorganic calcium therefore is a poor use of energy. In fact, people who take calcium supplements often suffer a dip in energy soon after.
Plants take inorganic calcium from the soil and convert it into an organic form that the human body can efficiently and completely make use of. Consuming an adequate supply of organic calcium from plant-based whole foods ensures that bones stay strong and that muscle contractions remain smooth and efficient. It’s also important that the calcium that’s already in the body isn’t removed. Therefore, avoiding acid-forming foods that weaken the bones is crucial.
Plant Based Powerhouses
Whole, natural plant-based foods that are alkaline-forming should be consumed to prevent bone mass from being broken down in an effort to maintain the blood’s neutral acidity level. Eating such food provides a wide spectrum of nutrients, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and trace elements that work together to make a perfect, whole food that nourishes the body. Calcium is better absorbed in harmony with other nutrients. The body, when given whole food and proper nutrition, works effectively to process foods, eliminate the substances it doesn’t need and protect itself against disease and other health problems.
Many plant-based foods are rich in the best usable calcium. In the leafy green vegetable category, you have many choices, including spinach, collards, kale, Swiss chard, okra, bok choy, lettuces, rhubarb, mustard, turnip greens, and even broccoli. Cabbage, green beans, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and celery are also great vegetable sources of calcium.
Fruit sources include apricots, figs, oranges, grapefruits, avocados, grapes, peaches, plums and blackberries. Beans and legumes such as navy beans, white beans and chickpeas also provide a good source of calcium.In cereals and grains, calcium can be found in quinoa, amaranth, oats and brown rice. And you might be surprised to learn that many sea vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and even blackstrap molasses all contain significant amounts of calcium. Your mother was right when she told you to eat your vegetables!