Since I follow the Paleo/Zone diet, I get asked often how could such a diet be sustainable, since I excluded dairy from my menu. How do I get my calcium and aren’t I worried about being deficient in this essential mineral? First of all let’s find out what calcium is and why is everybody so worried about it!”Calcium is a mineral that is essential to bone health, cardiovascular health, muscle maintenance, circulatory health, and blood clotting. Calcium also acts as an enzyme activator.” When a calcium deficiency arises in the body, it starts breaking down the bones to free up calcium.On one hand this causes bone density to decrease, and on the other hand it weakens the bones and increases the risk of developing osteoporosis. Depending on how old you are, people need between 1000mg-1300mg calcium per day.
As I’ve stated before, our body does not function as simple as the media is trying to convince us! We hear tons of recommendations every day, concerning our diets, but truth is that most of them are total crap! They are just bare words that aren’t backed up with the information needed. It seems to me like they took a piece from the puzzle, and use it to fool us that this piece is the whole picture. But as dull as we may seem, we actually have enough brain to connect all the information and doubt it! If that was everything, if it was so easy: “Just take calcium and your bones will be ok”, why are there so many people suffering from osteoporosis, blood clotting, bad cardiovascular health and so on…
Let’s take the piece thrown to us by the media and put it back to the puzzle.Calcium by itself won’t solve the problem, excess calcium can even harm your body! Magnesium is needed for calcium absorption. Without enough magnesium, calcium can collect in the soft tissues and cause harm. Besides that without magnesium calcium is poorly absorbed into blood and bones. If your solution to this problem is to just take more calcium, you are only gonna make it worse! Think of it as chemistry. If you know that two chemicals make something work, and you have only one of them in excess and the other one is deficient, no matter how much you put from the first substance, things will never work out the desired way, because you are missing the key element!
In order to understand why the body needs magnesium, in order to absorb calcium, let’s go back to our ancestors and see how did the evolution go. In ancient times people used to eat food that was richer in magnesium. Because calcium supplies were scarce and the need for it was vital, the body effectively adapted to store it. Since magnesium was available in enough external quantities(meaning food), our body did not adapt to retain it. Our bodies still function this way and retain calcium -not magnesium. The bad news is that today we tend to eat much more dairy than our ancestors, but eat foods that contain less magnesium. In addition, our sugar and alcohol consumption is higher than theirs, and both sugar and alcohol increase magnesium excretion through the urine. Thus, we give our body excess calcium and rob it from magnesium. This leads to inability of our body to use calcium in a proper way!
There are two hormones in the body which regulate the absorption of calcium. One of them stores calcium in the soft tissues and the other stores it in the bones. When calcium is stored in the soft tissues that may lead to osteoporosis or arthritis. Good new is that the influence of this two hormones is not left to God’s will. They are regulated by magnesium. When enough magnesium is available it surpasses the hormone that stores calcium in the soft tissue and thus let’s the body absorb calcium in the bones. But when you give your body excess quantities of calcium it surpasses the absorption of magnesium. It is an enchanted cycle which can be broken only by magnesium.
So here we come to the conclusion that for good bone health we do not need to take just calcium but also magnesium. Let’s add up to it, and say that bone health depends much more on Vitamin D and Vitamin K . Why? Because your body needs Vitamin D to absorb calcium. On the other hand you also need Vitamin K. It is a critical vitamin for producing osteocalcin protein, which acts as structural framework holding calcium in place in your bones. Besides that osteocalcin can’t perform its duties until vitamin K converts it to an active bone-building form.
Look at this that way. Calcium is not the solution. It may be the main mineral involved in bone health, but as every governor needs his advisers, calcium also needs the back up of other nutrients in order to do its work!
If the media changes its focus and puts it on Vitamin K for example, would that mean you need to take vitamin K in excess to be healthy? No, because it ill lead to other complications. Our body is a complicated machine that needs thousands of nutrients in the right proportions in order to does its functions properly!
Besides, a lot of foods contain enough calcium to satisfy our daily needs.For example 100grams hazelnuts contain 226mg calcium; egg yolk-140mg; brazil nuts 136mg; olives 94mg and so on… But the thing is that these foods contain not only calcium but other nutrients that will help you absorb calcium. So instead of focusing on eating foods rich in calcium like dairy I encourage you to focus and eat foods that are balanced in nutrition. In life everything comes up to balance, it is the same with your diet! Make sure you do not give some nutritions in excess to your body and make it deficient in others!
From my experience, I will tell you that since I stopped eating dairy and grains, I’ve had a couple blood tests and all of them show that my calcium levels are up, actually the last time they were close to the upper range but not more! Do you have to say something about my calcium? Still wonder how I survive without eating dairy? Actually I might be more concerned about your calcium when you rely on dairy to provide it, then you should be about me! Be smart! Think with your own head and don’t make wrong assumptions, by the information circulating in the media!