Are You Getting Enough Calcium on Raw Foods?
Raw reader Tegan asks:
One concern i have is people ask me about calcium that i wont be getting enough through just eating raw food,
i know like everyone we still need a balanced diet to make sure we get enough vitamins and minerals but can you give me some info on calcium?
Great question, Tegan!
But before we can get to the bottom of the calcium conundrum, I have a little question of my own…
How much calcium do we really need?
It’s Much Less Than You Think…
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the average adult needs about 1000 mg of calcium every day.
In reality, our needs are likely about half of this.
According to this World Health Organization (WHO) report from 2004:
It has been known at least since 1961 that urinary calcium is related to urinary sodium and that sodium administration raises calcium excretion, presumably because sodium competes with calcium for reabsorption in the renal tubules.
…lowering sodium intake by 100 mmol (2.3 g) from, for example, 150-50 mmol (3.45 to 1.15 g), reduces the theoretical calcium requirement from 840 mg (21 mmol) to 600 mg (15 mmol).
Unfortunately, salt isn’t the only substance that increases calcium excretion:
The positive effect of dietary protein—particularly animal protein—on urinary calcium has also been known since at least the 1960s.
…a 40-g reduction in animal protein intake from 60 to 20 g would reduce calcium requirement by the same amounts as a 2.3-g reduction in dietary sodium (i.e. from 840 to 600 mg).
In other words, the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of 1000 mg is not for the individual eating a healthy diet. It’s for your average American consuming an unhealthy diet high in animal protein, salt, and processed foods and low in fruits and vegetables.
So for those of us who aren’t consuming massive amounts of animal protein or salt, how much calcium do we need?
According to the WHO report, if both sodium AND protein consumption are reduced, the requirement should be just 450 mg per day!
Can this requirement be met on a raw vegan diet? Yes, very easily. And I’ll show you how, but first…
Other Calcium Stealers
Here’s a list of other foods and substances that can negatively affect calcium absorption or increase calcium excretion:
Alcohol interferes with the pancreas and its absorption of calcium AND vitamin D (a nutrient necessary for proper calcium absorption).
Several studies have demonstrated that smokers do not absorb calcium as well as non-smokers and are at higher risk for bone loss and osteoporosis.
Certain drugs like corticosteroids, thyroid medications, antacids that contain aluminum, and antibiotics either interfere with calcium absorption or increase calcium excretion by the body.
Due to the high protein content, dairy products actually increase calcium excretion. Yes, the most recommended source for calcium is actually a poor source of calcium!
Phytic acid is found in high amounts in grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. This antinutrient binds to calcium, as well as other minerals, and inhibits absorption.
Insoluble fiber from wheat, oats, and other grains binds to calcium and hinders absorption.
The Best Source of Calcium?
It certainly isn’t milk, cottage cheese, or yogurt. The best source of calcium is actually tender leafy greens!
Don’t believe me? Let’s have a look at spinach…
100 grams (3.5 oz) of spinach contains 99 mg of calcium! Compare that to the same amount of cottage cheese (supposedly a great source of calcium), which has only 61 mg of calcium.
Other excellent calcium sources include kale, broccoli, swiss chard, bok choy, and cabbage.
As long as you get in your greens, you can easily meet your calcium needs on a raw food diet. Take a look at this sample meal plan:
- Breakfast: 5 medium bananas
- Lunch: 3 mangoes
- Mid-Afternoon: 8 peaches
- Dinner: Salad of 1 bunch spinach, 1 cucumber, 4 med. tomatoes, and 1 ounce brazil nuts
First, limit the foods and substances that inhibit calcium absorption and/or increase calcium excretion, especially meat, dairy, and salt.
Second, make sure you are getting enough vitamin D, as this nutrient is necessary for proper calcium absorption.
Third, meet your calcium requirements with generous helpings of tender leafy greens. Make delicious green smoothies, super salads, and savory soups to help you get in your greens.
Go raw and be fit,
P.S. Do all of your greens-packed, savory raw recipes taste like crap? You certainly aren’t alone. I was once in your exact same position for a long time after I went raw.
It wasn’t until I made one of Roger Haeske’s Savory Veggie Stews that I found a love for grassy greens.
Savory Veggie Stews
Idiot-Proof Recipe System
These “stews” are so tasty, hearty, savory, HEALTHY, packed with greens, and 100% raw, of course. Thanks to Roger, I now make a big super salad or savory stew every night for dinner and have no problem getting in my veggies!
To learn more and purchase your copy, click on the link below (and be sure to try the Pizza Stew…it’s my favorite):