Thursday, March 24, 2011

Farty Girl Guest Post - The Great Calcium Debate part 2

You guys are in for a treat today!!  I have been pestering a few bloggers out there for "Calcium" related guest posts for all you dairy free folks!  And they lovely Anney from Farty Girl agreed!!  I read her blog, and her posts are always fun and witty, so I knew it would be a great match - plus, she's spent TONS of time researching this topic too!!

Thanks Anney for doing this and I hope you guys enjoy!!  (PS. I'm having major internet troubles right now, and when I hit publish, I am off to school, so if some of the photos don't load, I apologize!)

***Please note, these Calcium posts (and all the posts on DFB) are strictly opinions, and should you be having any problems, please talk to your doctor.

Every time I see one of those "Got Milk?" ads, I roll my eyes.
You rolling your eyes too? I thought so.

In my experience, getting enough calcium has NOTHING to do with drinking milk. It has everything to do with eating kale. And swiss chard. And spinach.

When Dairy Free Betty asked me to write this post, that's exactly what I wanted to say. But I wanted to get all researchy on your asses. So I sifted through my bookshelf to find some facts n' stats, as my English students say, proving that a person can get enough calcium from leafy green vegetables.

Imagine my surprise when I came across this in one of my loves, "The Complete Vegan Kitchen:"
“Dark leafy greens contain oxalates that bind calcium and iron, making it unavailable to the body.”


So all of my green smoothies have been for NOTHING?!

Further research added to this stone in my shoe. Pretty much any veggie that's green and contains calcium, also contains oxalates. The only non-oxalate food I could find that has lots of calcium? Sesame seeds.

Start guzzlin' that tahini!

Next I went to my favorite, Alex Jamieson. Jamieson is author of "The Great American Detox Diet," "Living Vegan for Dummies," "The Week in a Weekend Cookbook," and Delicious Vitality. You may also remember her from Supersize Me!

In "The Great American Detox Diet," Jamieson explains that too much animal protein makes the blood acidic. To heal the blood, calcium is drawn out of the bones (134-136). This means that if you want to eat a diet high in dairy to get calcium, the protein in that dairy can adversely affect your intake of calcium.

Didn't anybody tell you that, Miley?

This makes no sense to me.
There are millions of vegans on the planet! How are we not holed up in the emergency room with osteoporosis? How are we not lugging casts and limping around like Quasimoto?

Welcome to the fight, ladies and gentlemen.

It's Calcium vs. Oxalates.

The battle for your bones is ON!!!

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Welcome Marion Nestle to the ring. Meat and cheese-eater and nutritionist, Nestle tells it like it is. In her book, What to Eat, she'll tell you that yes, meat and cheese are tasty, as well as Easy Mac, Coco Puffs and other processed foods. BUT she'll add that studies show vegetarians (not vegans) to be the most healthy people on the planet.

I love her. Her writing is cutting, sarcastic, and down-to-Earth. If you are interested in food and haven't read her, read her. Even if you are NOT interested in food, read her. You will be by the time you are done the book!

Enough butt-kissing!

What does Nestle have to say about calcium?

In her book, What to Eat, she points out that the DRI (Dietary Reference Intakes) for calcium is a little off-the-chain. To get that much calcium, she says, one has to eat lots of dairy, plus calcium supplements. She adds:

"Calcium balance depends on getting enough of every one of the nutrients involved in building bones, and also depends on how active you are, whether you smoke cigarettes, and how much alcohol you drink" (73).
Anyone who's read John Robbins' "Healthy at 100," or is familiar with centenarian cultures knows proof of this. An overwhelming majority of Hunzas, Abkhazians, Vilcabamans, and Okanawans lived well into their hundreds with little to no instance of osteoporosis. All except the Abkhazians are dairy free, and they eat yogurt only once in a while.

Some Abkhazian dudes chillin', back in the day

Let me return to Nestle. In "What to Eat," she starts with milk and takes it back to the cow. Guess what? The cow doesn't want it! That's because cows don't drink milk after calfhood. Do cows get osteoporosis? NO! (74).

Nestle reminds us: Cows eat grass. So eat a lot of veggies. The calcium in those veggies adds up. And - unlike meat and dairy protein - veggies are less likely to pull calcium from the body (74).

I'll just return to my green smoothies then...

Easy Green Smoothie

Two fistfuls of spinach, chard, and/or kale
One fistful of basil
1 Vita Coco coconut water
1/2 cup of nut milk
5-10 drops stevia (to taste)


Bennett, Jannequin. The Complete Vegan Kitchen. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2001.

Jamieson, Alexandra. The Great American Detox Diet. Rodale. 2005.

Nestle, Marion. What to Eat. New York: North Point Press. 2006.


  1. I'm linking this to my next post_such a controversy with anyone I tell I dont drink milk and don't eat cheese (too often)

  2. I LOVE this post! Thank you so much for posting more helpful information! So many people (my mother included!) tell me I am in trouble and will get osteoporosis if I don't eat dairy products. I am glad that I can now cite more research on this topic, because there really is not much out there! This is very helpful. Thanks!

  3. This is a great post! It really bugs me every time I see a "Got Milk?" AD...they make you think you NEED dairy. Not true!

  4. Thanks for the info! (And the laugh! Farty girl, haha, I loooove it!)

    We have been talking about this a lot around here lately, with osteoporosis and cancer in our family. I think the pH balance of your body is a MAJOR factor in how much calcium stays in your bones. I like the chart in this Greens+ brochure:

    I also wonder if deeper research will someday shed more light on oxalates and how they affect calcium absorption.

  5. My great grandma didn't believe in drinking milk. She died last year at 101.

    Her daughter, my grandma, is in her 80s, healthy as a whip, and doesn't drink milk. My other grandma, same thing. Same with my 70 year old dad who is in better shape than most 50 year olds.

    I believe that dairy actually REDUCES our calcium. Dairy has an acidifying effect on the body. To counter act this acid, the body uses calcium to alkalize (thus sucking it out of bones).

    2 of my favourite books that talk about milk:

    - Natural Cures they don't Want you to Know About
    - The China Study

  6. I found your blog via Farty Girl's post and I'm happy you invited her over for a guest post! :) This is such a great topic and I'm loving all of the facts that I can share with my milk-guzzling husband.
    And I'll be following your blog! :)

  7. This is why there are lactose intolerant people, though no reports of vegetable allergies except for rare medical cases.

  8. To my understanding, calcium can only do so much good. Once you've reached your threshold, calcium is only important when you need damaged bones to recover.

  9. This is so true. Variety in your diet contributes to nourishment.


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