The very first question I get asked when I tell anyone that I am vegan is the “But proteins?”. Funnier is that I get asked this by people who are overly obese and get out of breath even while talking or unhealthy and clearly underweight malnourished looking adults.
I always ask them if they know literally anyone on planet earth who has died of protein deficiency. Then ask them how many of their family members currently suffer from cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetics, cancer etc (multiple studies have confirmed the relationship between animal proteins and these diseases by the way!). But anyways since this article is really not about proteins (and believe me I am tired of talking proteins ;), the second most common question I get asked is “where do you get your calcium from”?
Firstly, no, I no longer take any supplements for calcium (about one year now). My workout intensity is extremely high, and of course I do not consume any milk or milk products for calcium either. In fact, whatever calcium I consume from plant based sources has a higher bioavalibility (better absorption by the body) than dairy products. I am also on a high carb (low protein) diet. Research has also confirmed that excessive protein consumption (more than 0.8grams per pound body weight) increases excretion of calcium from the body. Just doubling the amount of protein consumed can reduce the absorption of calcium by the bones by as much as 50%! Dairy products have a high sulphur amino acid and protein content and when consumed they not only fail to prevent osteoporosis, but may very well contribute to the weakening of bones and joints. So even though milk does provide calcium, due to the consumption of excessive proteins in milk, the calcium is not only excreted but also raises the acidic environment in the body. (I will talk about the exact process called metabolic acidosis a little later).
Let me first tell you a little bit about the “calcium” derived from animal milk first before giving you multiple vegan calcium options that are absorbed much better by your system. If it were true that milk really helped build strong bones, then countries with the highest milk consumption should technically have the least cases of osteoporosis and hip fractures correct. However, time and again studies have shown that wester diets rich in dairy products have the highest rate of osteoporosis and hip fractures at a later age.
One explanation for understanding this is Galactosemia. Galactosemia is a disorder where babies are born without the enzyme that helps breakdown galactose (the type of sugar found in animal milk). Elevated levels of galactose in the blood has been linked to bone loss. However, when further research has been done with milk, it is discovered that even with the general population that do not suffer from Galactosemia, it is not advisable to drink milk on a daily basis as this still leads to excessive levels of galactose in the bloodstream that is not processed by the body. Excessive galactose has also been linked by brain degeneration, premature ageing, chronic inflammation etc.
If I were to explain Metabolic Acidosis in the most simple terms, it would be as follows. When animal milk enters the body, it creates an acidic environment. To counter this acid production, the body draws its most readily available acid buffer, which ironically is calcium from our bones. Thus, with increased dairy milk consumption, the body extracts more and more calcium from our bones to buffer the acidic environment it causes in the body. Thus only weakning the bones.
But what about low fat milk products then? Well think about this, if the fat content from milk products are extracted, what is it left with? High protein right. If you know anything about or have read “The China Study”, you should be well aware that the relation between milk protein (casein particularly) and cancer is as high as the relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. So really, low fat dairy products are even worse for the human body.
Now coming to some calcium sources I take in my diet. Since I am on a high carb diet, I consume A LOT of veggies and fruits (almost 6-8 servings of veggies per day and 2-3 servings of fruits). A lot of them add up to my daily calcium requirements (1000-1200 mg no more). Blackstrap molasses (very easily available on amazon india and not too expensive either), brocolli, almond butter, fortified non dairy milk, fortifies tofu or other soy products, amaranth, adzuki beans, oranges (yes!), dates, green leafy’s, some nuts etc. You will not need any supplements as long as you up your fibre (helps with calcium absorption) and do not over consume proteins.
I hope this read gave you some insights or provoked you to at least research on calcium and dairy consumption. It almost kills me to see parents force feeding their young once with milk and milk products in the name of health.
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