Animal Aid

CALCIUM - And the myth about milk

As part of our Veggie Month campaign, we expose the myth about milk.

Many people are tempted to give up milk, butter and other dairy products because they are high in fat, can cause allergies and have been linked to juvenile-onset diabetes. But they resist because they are worried they'll lose out on calcium and that this will lead to osteoporosis and other bone weakness conditions.

In fact, as Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has reported (www.pcrm.org) there are many good plant sources of calcium and, in any case, keeping your bones strong depends more on preventing the loss of calcium from the body than on boosting calcium intake.

Some cultures consume no dairy products and ingest low quantities of calcium - but have low rates of osteoporosis. Scientists believe that exercise and other factors are the explanation rather than the volume of calcium consumed.

Calcium in the body

Most of the calcium in our body is in our bones. The small amount in our bloodstream plays an important role in functions such as muscle contraction and maintenance of the heartbeat. This bloodstream calcium is constantly being lost through urine, sweat, and faeces. Replacement comes from the bones, which depend on fresh supplies from the foods we eat. Plant sources include nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, tofu, dried fruit and some soya milks. (See the Recipe Collection for lots of animal-free recipes.)

As we get older, our bones start to lose more calcium than they take up - too much loss can result in soft bones or osteoporosis. There are several factors that accelerate calcium loss or poor absorption of calcium. They include diets that are high in protein - especially animal protein. Also, excessive consumption of caffeine, salt and alcohol. Exercise is excellent for slowing bone loss and for strengthening bones.

For more information about vegetarian nutrition, see No Problem with Protein and More about milk.

Go veggie - it's easier than you think.

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