Saturday, August 28, 2010


People always want to know, especially if you don't eat animals, where you get your protein and calcium from. Furthermore, if you are vegetarian, consume animal foods sparingly, or are allergic to dairy products, you may have lingering fears regarding getting enough of these essential nutrients. Here are some facts to put your mind (and everyone else's) at ease.
Calcium is an essential mineral. Calcium works with phosphorous for healthy bones and teeth and with magnesium for a healthy cardiovascular system. Calcium is important for good sleep, the body's ability to use iron, keeping a regular heartbeat, and helping in the transmission of nerve impulses.
Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D comes from being out in the sunlight and also from a few foods such as saltwater fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, etc.) and fish liver oils. Many dairy products are irradiated to raise the levels of vitamin D. The best way to get enough is simply to spend time outdoors daily, year-round, with some of your skin exposed. Too much sun, however, will work against you, since a suntan stops the absorption of vitamin D.
Calcium is present in many natural foods, especially dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and mustard greens. Broccoli, legumes (dried beans), almonds, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, cauliflower, soybeans, figs and oranges also contain notable levels of calcium. Although calcium levels in the plant kingdom can sometimes seem low compared with levels in animal foods, people who don't consume meat or other animal products have much lower calcium needs than omnivores do. Plant-source calcium will usually be sufficient if protein and phosphorous consumption is not too high.
Milk and milk products also provide calcium. Cows and goats get their calcium from the grasses (or other feed) they eat, some of which ends up in the milk they make to pass to their babies. Unfortunately, the protein in dairy foods causes calcium loss�more is lost than is taken in. That is why countries like the United States whose intake of meat and/or dairy is high also tend to have the greatest incidence of osteoporosis. It is wise not to rely on dairy foods for calcium.
Osteoporosis (loss of bone density, brittle bones) has been taught to be caused by too little calcium in the diet. This is not true. The biggest contributor is a diet too high in protein, particularly animal protein. The single most important thing a person can do to prevent osteoporosis is to limit consumption of animal protein. Animal foods create a situation in the body that leads to the significant loss of calcium from bones and teeth, regardless of how much calcium is taken in. Eating dark green vegetables, engaging in regular weight-bearing exercise, and spending time outside daily also helps bones tremendously.
Soft drinks are another problem-and many folks consume these daily! The high phosphorous content of soda pop causes calcium loss. So does caffeine found in colas, coffee drinks and chocolate.
Large quantities of fat reduces the absorption of calcium. So does phytic acid, found in some grains.
If you take a calcium supplement, best to do so at bedtime on an empty stomach. This reduces the likelihood of foods eaten previously inhibiting absorption of the calcium.
Because protein is so important to human life, God designed plant foods to easily meet our protein needs. Protein is adequately present in almost all natural foods, particularly beans, peas, nuts, seeds, grains, and vegetables. Most people's needs fall between 4-8% of total calories, and most plant foods supply more than enough to meet that need. Even if all you ever ate was broccoli, you would have plenty of protein in your diet (though you would lack other nutrients). In order to become protein deficient, you would need to consume only fruit, only highly processed junk foods, or simply not take in enough calories daily. By selecting a variety of natural foods and by eating enough food (calories) to maintain your body's current growth and energy needs, you are sure to get all of the protein (including all the various amino acids) your body needs.
People in the United States in general consume way too much protein! Teachers, educational institutions, media, and a public that has been mis-educated for a long time support this practice. Popular diets, such as the Atkins Diet and the Zone, encourage protein consumption as high as 30% of total calories, when our needs are generally between only 4-8%. These diets, while providing some followers with short-term benefits, have long-term consequences including osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer.
God designed our bodies to be fueled primarily by clean-burning carbohydrates. People displace needed carbohydrates when they consume more protein and fat than is necessary or beneficial. Carbohydrates are abundant in natural foods.
Once again, the answer to virtually any dietary dilemma is this: Eat natural foods as much as possible!

To Your Health!

John Hall NSCA-CPT

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