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Calcium Rich Foods - Milk, Dairy, and Lessons From Our Paleolithic Ancestors

Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN


Calcium is an essential mineral that has numerous functions in the body which include building strong bones and teeth, enabling muscular contraction, and buffering excess in the blood.

As such, calcium rich foods have become a popular topic of discussion. This is very noticeable in westernized countries where the "big" dairy industry spends millions of dollars advertising to a mostly naive consumer about the need for milk and dairy for preventing osteoporosis and promoting the healthy growth of our youth.

But the fallacy is that milk and dairy are in fact one of the worst dietary sources of calcium!


Milk and Dairy Are Great..For a Baby Cow!

Remember that, throughout our lives, we've been marketed to incessantly about how dairy is the most calicum rich food that exists. And most people actually believe it. You hear people all the time talking about how they need to drink milk or eat yogurt to get their calcium. In fact, not to long ago I overheard a prominent track and field coach preaching to one of his athletes that he needed to be drinking lots of milk for calcium! I simply could not believe my ears. But I guess he didn't know what I'm about to tell you.

The reality is that the calcium in dairy is not readily absorbed into the human body because of several other inherent nutrients that impair its absorption. For starters, cow's milk has roughy 4 times more protein than human breast milk. This is perfectly fine if a calf is the end consumer, since they will grow very rapidly and weight nearly 4-5 times as a much as human. So for a cow, having that amount of protein is necessary.

But such a large quantity of protein is one of the factors that makes cow's milk (and dairy) the most acid-forming of all foods. It actually promotes a net acid load in the body which, over time, will be rendered more neutral through the withdrawal of calcium from our bones and teeth. Calcium is an alkalizing mineral and is used, as a last resort, by the body to neutralize excess acid in the blood. Put simply, cow's milk leaches calcium from our bones and teeth.

Second, cow's milk has a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1.27 to 1. In comparison, human breast milk's ratio is 2.35 to 1. What this means is that cow's milk has far more phosphorus, relative to calcium, than our body requires. And when it comes to minerals, the relationship (ie. ratios) between each one is critical. In fact, most experts agree that only foods with a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2 to 1 or greater should be considered calcium rich foods.

Phosphorus is an acid-forming mineral and, thus, also adds to the acid load that dairy provides. Perhaps more importantly though, phosphorus inhibits calcium absorption in the human stomach! So wouldn't it make sense to limit the amount of phosphorus in your diet if you wanted to fully absorb your calcium rich foods? Cow's milk is an unacceptable calcium food because its calcium is barely even absrobed by our body!

Let's not forget that roughly 75% of the population is intolerant to dairy. Whether from lactose or casein, milk and dairy products are not meant to be consumed by the human body. If they were, you would think that our body would produce the lactose-digesting enzyme, lactase - but it doesn't!


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