The Calcium “Myth”
Each and everyone of us have been told that we need calcium to build stronger bones, and this nutrient has been blasted on the airwaves, promoting the mass consumption of milk and dairy products. I do believe that raw dairy products are beneficial, but the conventional pasteurized dairy is what is being touted as the healthy source of our daily calcium, and this just isn’t true.
If you are only focusing on calcium for building strong bones, you are going to increase your risks for developing fractures and osteoporosis later on in your life. This is because many minerals work together synergistically to combine a strong support system for bone health and growth. Calcium is an important nutrient; however, there are minerals that are essential that you may be missing out on while only focusing on drinking your milk.
Let’s look at the most important minerals and nutrients you need to grow stronger bones. Listen to that last part of the sentence–stronger bones, not just denser bones. Density and size of bone doesn’t always equal strength.
Incorporating these nutrients are quite easy to do, and do not provide much effort or money to place into your healthy lifestyle.
Vitamin D. I’ve written about Vitamin D before (specifically Vitamin D3), and you are probably already aware of the importance that Vitamin D has in our body. This vitamin is usually added to milk to fortify it, as it helps increase the absorption of calcium into our bodies. However, sometimes this is in the form of Vitamin D2, not D3 which is what you need, or even worse, it isn’t absorbable by the majority of your body.
I have a few plants growing outside, and they require sunlight at all times. Humans require sunlight as well; not as much as the plant kingdom, but it still provides this incredible vitamin for us when we expose our bare skin to it a few minutes a day. When sunlight hits our naked skin (meaning arms and legs and face uncovered–not necessarily your entire body, unless you have a private place to yourself…), it converts the cholesterol in our skin to Vitamin D and regulates over 3,000 genes in our body. It also helps facilitate and transport the calcium in our diet to the bones and muscles that need it.
Vitamin D can be found in food sources in small quantities, and also in supplement form. However, the best source is from the sunlight, and is completely free. Dr. Joseph Mercola, from Mercola.com, advises to go outside in the sun just until your skin turns a light shad of pink. This is when all the Vitamin D that your body can produce has been produced, and any more exposure to the sun can lead to free radical production and damage to your body. One food source of Vitamin D comes from egg yolk, which also provides a high quality protein.
Vitamin K. This vitamin is almost like Vitamin D, except it acts a “binder”, in a way, to help ‘insert’ the calcium that you take in from food sources into your bones. It is essential that you receive this vitamin in the forms of K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 is found in most green, leafy vegetables, and K2 is found in fermented foods raw, fermented dairy products (natto, kefir, yogurt, aged cheese). K2 is probably the most significant, whereas K3 (synthetic version) can have adverse health effects due to the likelihood of toxicity.
Protein. Most people believe that those who consume more protein will actually secrete it in their urine, and lead to the leeching of calcium from your bones. This is true, but increasing your levels of calcium intake, along with your protein intake, will compensate for the loss and help you build stronger bones. In the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was reported that those who consumed the most protein had a 7.5-8% higher bone mineral density and strength than those who consumed less. Today’s conventional animal protein (those that are NOT organic, do not have access to grass or free range) can challenge your body’s pH levels, leading to an acidic reaction in your body. This will steal important minerals from your bones. Therefore, when choosing an animal protein, be sure to try and get local, free range and preferably organic (if dairy, perhaps raw).
Folic Acid and B Vitamins. In The Journal of New England Medicine, they showed that increased intake of B vitamins in the diet led to lower homocysteine levels in the body. This hormone raises the risks of bone fractures. Good dietary sources include green vegetables, carrots, avocados, cantaloupe, apricots and almonds.
Omega 3 Fats. This fat, found primarily in fish, flax and chia seeds, has been shown to provide stronger bone density in a study recorded in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Exercise. Believe it or not, but this is an essential nutrient. We must all try to aim for as much physical exercise during our day unless we want our bodies to slowly rust. Numerous studies have shown that weight bearing exercises and resistance training can help build strong bones and protect bones from becoming thin and weak. Squats and weight training are very powerful sources of this nutrient.
Egg Shells as a Bioavailable Calcium Source
Even though calcium isn’t the only mineral we need for strong bones, it is an important nutrient to consume to ensure adequate protection of them. Eggshells are about 90-95% calcium carbonate, and is easily absorbable by our bodies, unlike most dairy products and fortified foods today. This is a completely safe and health source of calcium that anyone can incorporate into their diets.
Find a source of locally grown, free range and organic eggs. The likeliness that you contract salmonella from raw eggs and egg shells are actually quite low, and in fact decrease when choosing local, free range organic eggs. In fact, nutrient quality (such as omega-3 fatty acids) are much more available in these eggs, compared to ones you find at the store.
Use the eggs as you normally would, and instead of discarding the egg shells, run them under clean, cool water. Make sure to get all the egg white out of the egg shell. You can then boil the egg shell in hot water, if you feel as though you need to kill any bacteria, and then place it in a place to air dry. Then, using a blender or coffee grinder, pulverize the egg shell into a powder.
1/2 tsp. of dry, powered egg shell contains around 400 mg of calcium. The average person should consume around 1000 mg of calcium, which is easily done if you are eating a proper diet. A good source of calcium that is bioavailable, besides egg shells, include any green leafy vegetable, as well as sardines (which contain mercury, but not as much as other fish–consume with knowledge 1-2 times per week, unless you can find a source that tests mercury free).
Use 1/2 tsp. in drinks, smoothies, cereals, recipes, etc. Excessive intake of calcium can lead to muscle cramps, so be sure to eat a banana or a magnesium source food to negate these effects.
Next post, I will discuss what you want to avoid at all costs if you are trying to protect or build your bones. Some fascinating bits of information you do not want to miss, so stay tuned for Thursday’s post.
For now, this is The Healthy Advocate.