Why a Plant-Based Diet May be all you Need for Adequate Calcium Intake
A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association is raising red flags about popular calcium supplements that many women take to boost bone health and their relationship to a higher risk for developing heart disease.
People getting too much calcium through supplements is a problem, and it’s important to talk to your doctor about the types and quality of any nutritional supplements you take. Indeed, this study regarding calcium supplements is as interesting as it is significant because we know that there’s really no way you can overdose on calcium through diet. However, studies show that you can overdose on calcium when you get the mineral through supplements. The body metabolizes calcium supplements and natural calcium derived through foods differently. And when you take too much calcium through supplements, calcium plaque can build up in the arteries, increasing your risk for clogged arteries that lead to heart attacks.
Getting Adequate Calcium From Foods Alone
At Shakthi, we counsel patients to meet their daily calcium intake through whole, fresh foods. There are an abundance of fortified foods on the market such as almond milk, cereals and orange juice as well as plant-based foods such as seeds and nuts and green leafy vegetables that are quality sources of dietary calcium.
Women especially need calcium for bone health as they age and as natural estrogen wanes with menopause, which is why we measure calcium levels and provide bone density testing. Post-menopausal women should have about 1,000 mg of calcium in their diets, and those diagnosed with osteopenia should take in 1,200 mg. People with osteoporosis (brittle bones) need to have about 1,500 mg. It’s also important to remember that calcium isn?t the only nutrient needed for optimal bone health; you also need vitamins D and K as well as boron, which are all very important minerals that benefit our bones. While a few people may need supplements in small doses under a physician’s orders, most of the patients we see actually get more calcium from plant-based foods.
Plant-Based Versus Animal-Based Diets, Why Does it Matter?
Interestingly, individuals who follow plant-based diets that are common in other countries and cultures around the world have less bone fractures, yet they also take in less calcium than the daily recommended dose. How is that possible? One thought is that when you eat animal products your body gets acidic. And when you have an acidic PH in the blood, your body needs more calcium to neutralize the PH. Thus your body leaches calcium out of the bones and into the tissues of the body to neutralize the acidic levels. So, it is possible that patients who have a more acidic diet due to eating more animal-based foods may actually lose more calcium. A plant-based diet doesn’t necessarily require as much calcium because when the body is not acidic, calcium isn’t getting leached out of your bones at a higher rate.
The bottom line is this, there is a danger in over supplementation. We can, however, counter this danger by changing our diets a little at a time to include more plant-based calcium to naturally protect not only our bones, but our hearts.
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