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  • Writer's pictureSarah Fraser

Where do you get your calcium?

The next question people always ask me after the protein question is, "where do you get your calcium?"

Well, if we look literally at where calcium comes from, it comes from the ground. All essential minerals originate in the soil and enter into living systems through the roots of plants. In other words, cows get it from eating plants! With that being the case, I prefer to skip the cow and get my calcium directly from the source - plants.

Below are some of the basic (kid-friendly I might add) foods that contain calcium. Add to this list, chia seeds, avocado, blackberries, asparagus, beans and any of the leafy greens. There's a reason we keep being told to eat our greens - they are indisputably the healthiest foods for us!

If there is any one group of people who are most concerned about calcium, it would be parents. I know, because I am one and used to be in that group of concerned parents. Parents have been told for years that children need cow's milk to grow strong and healthy. You don't have to look too hard on the internet these days to find that this simply is not true. There are so many health problems associated with cows milk and dairy products for our kids. Numerous studies are showing links to all kinds of illnesses; enlarged tonsils, acne, constipation, ulcerative colitis, crohns disease, skin conditions, ear infections, asthma and even cancer. The list goes on and on. It's a leading cause of food allergies. It took me a while to learn this because I grew up drinking milk and my parents believing that it was necessary and good for us. In turn, after I stopped breastfeeding my own children, I introduced them to cows milk. My middle guy had years of ear infections and what I would describe as general congestion. He developed enlarged tonsils at age 3 and I was advised by the medical profession that he needed an adenotonsillectomy. I firmly believe had I known then what I know now, his problems would have been alleviated had I removed dairy from his diet. I don't think it's ironic either that he never liked milk as a child. Sometimes your body innately knows what does and doesn't agree with it.

I recently completed a course by Dr. McDougall. He's been a medical doctor for over 40 years and prescribes a plant-based diet to all of his patients with varying illnesses. He is passionate about telling patients to give up dairy. In fact, he says if you can only give up one of the four basic food groups, it should be dairy. He also says that "disease due to calcium deficiency is essentially unknown in humans on natural diets". In other words, like protein deficiency, there is no need to worry! If we are breastfeeding our children and then feeding them a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes, they are getting enough. End of story. After weaning, there is no need to give them milk from another mammal. Dr. McDougall would see so many cases of children coming into his practice with painful stomach troubles and constipation. Almost always, removing dairy would fix the problem.

So, what specifically is wrong with dairy? For one, it is loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol, both associated with many of today's chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancers.

It is highly acidic. Our bodies are naturally alkaline. You've heard about the body's PH levels right? I never really understood what that meant. Our bodies maintain a PH of around 7.4. Cheese is the most acidic food at a level of 10 followed by fish, chicken and beef. Our bodies do not like being in an acidic state. Plants are naturally alkaline, for example, spinach is at a level of -56. When we consume highly acidic foods, our body has to find some way to neutralize that acid. Studies are showing that high intake of dairy is actually causing increased cases of osteoporosis and hip fractures. Crazy right? Haven't we been led to believe the opposite is true?

Milk is often loaded with environmental contaminants and microbes. We've all heard of mad cow disease and bovine leukemia virus. Howard Lyman made mad cow disease infamous on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1997 when he discussed the horrible cow farming conditions. I think we can all admit that current factory farming conditions are cause for concern. I don't want to get into too many specifics because it's enough to turn anyone's stomach. I have to believe that what they are feeding cows and injecting into them to keep them "healthy" has to be passed through to our milk somehow.

In addition to the contaminants and microbes, we should also be concerned about growth hormones. Milk production stimulates a growth hormone called IGF-1. This hormone is what helps grow a calf in 6 months. This same growth hormone in humans is being linked to cancer.

Finally, most of the world's population is lactose intolerant. Asians (except perhaps the ones that are unfortunately adopting a more western diet) don't consume dairy and they are some of the healthiest people on the planet. Why are we consuming a product that, in reality, was designed by mother nature to rapidly grow a baby calf into a full-grown cow in 6 months?

This issue is resonating with people because studies are showing that cows milk consumption is on the decline and plant milks are on the rise.

I don't write these things to traumatize and scare people. I write them because I actually feel quite frustrated. I feel like I've been duped for years into believing that cow's milk does a body good. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. And the fact of the matter is, we just don't need it.

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