Saturday, December 10, 2011

Calcium and Magnesium: Our Calming Minerals and Bone Builders

Sorry it's been so long since I last blogged. I have been extremely busy and yet have still been faithfully doing my raw smoothie qwest.

Some exciting news since my last blog: my co-worker has actually joined me at work in drinking juices during lunch. They are still eating everything else normally, but at least it's a start in adding some extra nutrients in their diet. They bring their juicer, I bring my Vitamix, and we make beautiful smoothies together! They were the ones to introduce me to the documentary "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" which also, by the way, finally arrived at my home so my hubby was able to watch it. He's also doing more smoothies, but I still can't seem to turn him on to veggie juices....YET. :)

Today's blog is going to be about the two minerals calcium and magnesium. I am writing about both of them since they need to be together to absorb one another.

We all know about Calcium being the mineral that builds strong bones and that prevents osteoporosis. This has been marketed to us to sell milk, calcium supplements, Tums and just about anything else. And yet, osteoporosis is still a problem even among some vegans.

I was shocked when I first heard about some raw vegans who were getting osteoporosis. I couldn't understand why since calcium is excreted copiously to buffer acidic minerals such as phosphorus and sulfur in animal foods and thus it was being proclaimed by some vegan authors that a vegan diet was insurance against osteoporosis.

Not quite. Not unless you take some precautions and avoid some unhealthy VEGAN habits and foods.

Coffee is a major villain which excretes both of these minerals in our urine when we drink it.

This substance washes out several vitamins and minerals in the body, but calcium and magnesium are two of the biggies sacrificed to buffer this extremely acidic substance in your body. "Coffee Jitters" are the result.

When we are deficient in either of these minerals, we become grouchy and irritable and get insomnia which further aggravates this problem. For women, the last 10 days of their monthly cycle plummets their calcium levels and when they start their menses, it drops even further. Adding more calcium and magnesium-rich foods during this time will make this "time of the month" so much easier in terms of PMS mood, sleep and even cramps as both of these minerals are muscle relaxants.

Some symptoms of a deficiency of these minerals are muscle twitches such as when you are sleeping and your feet twitch or when the under eye starts twitching. Epileptics have gotten great results by upping their intake especially of magnesium. Some have even see their epilepsy stop.

Magnesium helps absorb calcium, so a deficiency in magnesium can cause you to be deficient in Calcium which is why milk is not a good source even though it has 246g per cup---ir only has 12.2 g of magnesium which is not a good ratio.

That's why we crave chocolate when we are PMS-ing: one chocolate bar of Mr. Goodbar has 23 g of magnesium  and 53 g of calcium---but it also has sugar, caffeine and saturated fat---all of which make PMS and cramps worse. We may need to drink water on a daily basis, but if there's a drop of arsenic in it would you drink it? Same with chocolate--get your magnesium from a better source that doesn't have the unwanted other "stuff".

You can actually get a calcium and magnesium deficiency on a cooked or even raw vegan diet. Here's how:

1) Eat mostly grains and beans. Both are high in magnesium, but they also contain phytic acid which inhibits it's absorption. Tofu, a popular vegan subsitute for diary, is actually quite low in magnesium and only provides modest calcium.

2) As for calcium, the RDA is 1000 mg a day. Fruits, except for figs, oranges, berries, sapotes and melons, are rather low in calcium.. For example, if you are on "banana island" which is a mono-diet of bananas only, you are only getting 7 g of calcium per banana. Oranges and sapotes are the highest at approx 80 g per fruit, but most other fruits would need you to eat a volume that is way too high in order to get the RDA of 100g a day. Most fruits have a modest amount of magnesium, but you need BOTH for strong bones and teeth. Dates would be an exception: 20 dates provides 320 g of Calcium and 270 of Magnesium, but provide no Vitman C (it is destroyed during drying) and no Vitamin E or Selenium, so make sure you balance your diet with foods with these nutrients if you use dates as a main calorie source.

That's why raw vegans need to eat greens. They are by far the best source of calcium and a great source of magnesium. Cooked vegans need to do this as well. Here's a break down of magnesium and calcium in leafy and cruciferous greens:

One head Romaine lettuce:     mag- 88g /calc- 207
One head cabbage:                mag-109 /calc--363
One bunch broccoli:               mag--128 /calc--268
One head cauliflower:             mag--86/calc--126
One honeydew--                   mag--100/calc--60
Carrot Juice (6 carrots)--       mag--51 /calc--163
One head green leaf lettuce--  mag-47 /calc--129
One head red leaf lettuce--     mag--37/calc--102

The RDA for calcium is 1000g a day and for magnesium is 320-400 g a day. You can see by the above numbers, that it is attainable on a raw and cooked vegan diet if plenty of raw greens are ingested daily.

Right before my menstrual period would begin, my mood would often make me feel like I was falling out of the sky:

I realize now that my body was telling me that I was not getting enough of these minerals. By upping my intake of parsley, kale and especially trying to get FOUR HEADS of Romaine lettuce daily, I immediately level out and notice that my sleep and cramps improve. Calcium is used to control pain due to it's muscle relaxing properties. Eating these foods are important for women giving birth as it eases labor pains.

Sensitivitiy to noise is another symptom of magnesium deficiency as well as kidney stones as magnesium keeps calcium in a solution in the body until it is eliminated. Without enough magnesium, calcium deposits in the kidneys as stones, in the eyes as cataracts and in the joints as arthritis.

If you are fruitarian and experiencing teeth issues, check your daily calcium AND magnesium intake to make sure you are getting enough. Some fruits are high, other's aren't.

Finally, remove substances from your diet that use up these minerals to buffer their detoxification or prevent their absorption. Coffee, alcohol , salt, animal foods and soda wash them out. Grains, beans and nuts have phytic acid which prevent their absorption. And, of course, white flour, sugar and white rice contain NONE of these minerals and actually use the body's stores in order to buffer the phosporous in these foods.

Again, we see that a raw plant-based diet with a variety of foods, ensures that we get enough. Our bodies will tell us if we are not getting enough if we know which symptoms to watch for. RDA's are just guidelines; your lifestyle and specific needs ultimately will determine how much you really need.

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