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One of the most persistent criticisms of low carbohydrate dieting is the assertion that eating "all that protein" will cause calcium loss, and therefore osteoporosis. But is this true?
It's hard to say with certainty. There are a lot of factors that contribute to bone density, and they interact in complex ways that are still only poorly understood. Among the factors that affect bone density are calcium intake, calcium absorption, exercise, sun exposure and/or vitamin D intake, heredity, and body weight.
Osteoporosis is one of the few health problems that is more common in people who are slim than in people who are heavy. Again, the reasons are unclear - it could be because body fat increases estrogen levels, protecting bone mass, or because slim folks are eating less calcium, or because the extra weight adds stress to the bones, increasing the rate at which calcium is deposited, or because the gene for slimness is linked somehow to a gene for weaker bones. Whatever the reason, it's nice to know that if you need to lose weight, you're at a reduced risk for osteoporosis to begin with.
I've looked at a fair number of medical studies regarding protein intake and calcium status, and I'm not worried about my low carb diet, even though osteoporosis runs in my family. Recent research is reassuring. Two studies of high-meat diets, both done in 2003, showed no adverse effects on bone metabolism . A 2004 study of diets high in protein, but restricted in both fat and carbohydrate, showed an increased excretion of calcium - but this mirrored a 50% greater calcium intake, and therefore was not a threat to bones. Another 2004 study found that men and women between 50 and 69 who had a higher protein intake had less risk of hip fracture than those with a lower protein intake.
The most important factors in bone health appear to be calcium intake, and exercise., and the problem of people getting too little of both cuts across the diet spectrum. You need 800 - 1200 milligrams of calcium every single day, and most people don't get enough. Many people figure, "I drink a glass of milk every day, so I'm covered," but it takes a quart of milk a day, or its equivalent in yogurt and cheese, to get close to that 1200 milligram mark. Some of the more recent low carb diets encourage the consumption of dairy products - The South Beach Diet recommends low fat dairy products, while The GO-Diet recommends at least a serving a day of yogurt, buttermilk, or kefir. The new carb-reduced dairy beverages are also good sources of calcium,
Other good low carb sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, almonds, unhulled sesame seeds (find these at your health food store), and especially canned sardines and canned salmon - because the bones are soft enough to eat! It's a good idea to cook chicken on the bone, ox tails, pork neck bones, or other bony cuts of meat, in sauces with tomatoes, vinegar, lemon juice, or other acidic ingredients; you'll end up with a calcium-rich sauce. If you boil chicken or turkey carcasses to make soup, add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to the water, and you'll get a calcium-rich broth (you won't taste the vinegar.)
And of course, it never hurts to take calcium supplements. I do, every single morning.
Here's a main-dish salad with more than half of your daily calcium requirement per serving!
Ham and Cheese Salad
1/2 head cauliflower cut in 1/2" chunks
8 ounces Swiss or Cheddar cheese, cut in 1/4" cubes (Use reduced fat cheese if you like.)
8 ounces cooked ham, cut in 1/4" cubes
3/4 cup chopped dill pickle
1/4 cup red onion, diced fine
3/4 cup snow pea pods, cut in 1/2" pieces
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon brown mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 clove garlic, crushed
First chop your cauliflower, including the stem. Put it in a microwaveable casserole with a lid, add a couple of tablespoons of water, and cover. Nuke it on high for 7 minutes.
Dice your ham, cheese, and onion, and chop your pickle. Put in a big mixing bowl.
Pinch the ends off of your snow pea pods, and pull off any strings. Cut into 1/2" pieces, and put those in a microwaveable bowl. Add a tablespoon of water and cover. When the cauliflower is done, pull it out of the microwave, and uncover immediately - let it cool a little before adding to the salad. Put your snow peas in the microwave, and nuke them on high for just 1 minute. When they're done, uncover immediately, drain them, and add them to the mixing bowl.
Measure the mayo, mustard, vinegar, tarragon, and garlic into a small bowl, and stir together well.
When the cauliflower is cool enough to not melt the cheese, drain it and add it to the mixing bowl. Add the dressing, and toss to coat.
4 servings, each with 472 Calories; 38g Fat, 28g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber, 7 grams usable carb, and 577 milligrams calcium.Posted by HoldTheToast at March 15, 2006 09:18 PM