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Where Does My Calcium Come From?

January 6, 2010

Since switching to the Paleo diet and giving up dairy products, particularly milk itself, I get a lot of questions about where I get my calcium from. Before I even name some paleo foods that have sufficient calcium in them, I’d like to present some facts and thoughts that should alter the way of thinking about Calcium (and dairy consumption) you’ve been conditioned your whole life to believe.

Fact 1: The biological need for Calcium has been overstated. In contrast, excessive Calcium consumption causes osteoporosis. Click on the link and read this well researched, cited, and easy to understand article.

Fact 2: Bone health is not as dependent on Calcium alone as are supporting vitamins and minerals. Too much calcium intake inhibits magnesium absorption. Vitamin D is very crucial (some experts argue more so than Calcium) to bone density and health, and Americans fall grossly short of vitamin D needs.(although sadly, it’s the easiest one to obtain!) Vitamin K and boron are a few more nutrients that are important. (3)

Fact 3: If we really need cows’ milk, man could never have existed.Why? Because we have already been on this planet for millions of years. And we have only consumed milk for a maximum of 0.01 million years. This means that we did not drink a single drop of milk from other animals in more than 99% of human existence; in our entire development from ancient times to now.(1)

Fact 4: Dairy contains a high amount of calcium, but that doesn’t mean it’s bio-available in the body, in-fact research shows calcium from plant sources are absorbed much better than that of calcium in milk. The reason why is that calcium is a mineral that needs an alkaline environment in the body to be absorbed effectively, un-fortunately dairy as a food is acidic (2)

So, we don’t need as much Calcium as we once thought, and we certainly don’t need it from other animals’ milk. We do still need it though, in concert with the other nutrients mentioned above. Here are some good sources, all Paleo approved:

Calcium in mg / 100 g

  • 226    Hazelnuts
  • 140    Egg yolk
  • 132     Brazil nuts
  • 96      Olives, green
  • 87      Walnuts
  • 54      Figs
  • 44      Black berries
  • 42      Orange
  • 40      Raspberries
  • 38      Kiwi
  • 33      Mandarin
  • 32      Human milk (included for reference only)
  • 20      Coconut
  • 18      Grapes
  • 16      Apricot
  • 16      Pineapple
  • 14      Plum
  • 13      Salmon
  • 12      Mackerel
  • 12      Mango
  • 11      Watermelon
  • 10      Avocado
  • 9      Banana

Some other sources I don’t have numerical values for:

  • Leafy greens, notably spinach and broccoli
  • Sesame and flax seeds
  • Pecans

Remember, more is not really better. You don’t need to go eating hazlenuts like crazy to get tons of calcium. I cannot give you a numerical daily value to shoot for, but I can point out a study that showed vegan nuns consuming less than 400 mg per day had the same bone density as non-vegetarian women who consumed over 1000mg. For reference, the National Academy of Science currently recommends 1000 mg/day for women ages 19-50 and 1200 mg/day for women 50+. Men need slightly less.  Instead of shooting for a number, I advise just eating good Paleo foods and trusting that your body will take what it needs. That is the beauty Paleo eating. As always, for more info on eating better, check out the Primal Nutrition page, or consider buying the Primal Blueprint. For great Paleo recipes that have all the calcium and great taste you need, check out the Paleo Cookbook. Please also take a look at this article that fellow Paleo Diet advocated Don Wiss sent me after reading this very post: http://paleodiet.com/losspts.txt .It offers insight as to how calcium is lost through the body, factors many don’t consider in their ultimate quest to just consume lots of calcium. Thans, Don.

References:

(1) “Excessive Calcium Causes Osteoporosis” http://www.4.waisays.com/ExcessiveCalcium.htm  retrieved 1-4-10

(2) “Dairy Isn’t the Only Answer” http://www.livingpaleo.com/articles/Dairy-Isnt-The-Only-Answer.html  retrieved 1-4-10

(3) “Calcium for Women” http://www.marksdailyapple.com/calcium-for-women/ retrieved 1-4-10

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2010 9:47 am

    Everyone discusses getting more calcium into the body. No one bothers to wonder just where all the calcium goes. Here is a page discussing the many ways that calcium is lost from the body. If you are paleo in your diet you will see that you won’t loss as much.

    http://paleodiet.com/losspts.txt

    • aardvark102431 permalink
      January 22, 2010 9:47 pm

      Hey Dan,
      Cool article. I’ve posted it up in the blog article so others can read it. I always love finding well researched articles that support the paleo diet! Cheers, Greg

  2. Robin permalink
    January 24, 2010 10:55 am

    I like to use nutritiondata.com for looking up the nutritional facts for foods.

  3. February 1, 2010 7:08 pm

    Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so, Excellent post!

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