What about vegetable proteins?
Many Americans believe they can’t get adequate protein if they don’t eat animal foods. This is not true. Nutritionists agree that vegetarians can get more than enough protein for good health. In fact, the diseases that kill most Americans (heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes) are all closely linked to diets too high in animal foods. That’s why a low-acid diet not only helps prevent osteoporosis, it can also reduce your risk of Western society’s major killers.
Although fruits and vegetables do contain enough protein to keep you healthy, their protein counts are much lower than those of animal foods. But when you eat fruits and veggies, only a small amount of acid enters the bloodstream, along with a great deal of alkaline material that immediately neutralizes the acid. As a result, the body doesn’t need to draw calcium compounds from bone, resulting in healthier bones.
Meat, fish, poultry, and dairy, on the other hand, contain five to 10 times more protein per serving than fruits and veggies–and very little alkaline material–which means the blood’s acidity level skyrockets and the body must look to bone for additional calcium to neutralize it.
Healthy bones: the whole picture
Although fracture studies show that increasing calcium doesn’t prevent breaks, research on bone-mineral density (BMD)–which measures the amounts of calcium and other minerals in your bones–says otherwise. By a slim majority, studies found that calcium improves BMD. So how do we explain this apparent contradiction? By remembering that bones are more than calcium and that strong, fracture-resistant bones require a balance of calcium and at least 16 other nutrients. Once again, consuming lots of calcium but not enough of the other nutrients is like building a brick wall without enough mortar. The wall may look strong, but it isn’t.
In fact, more than 100 studies have explored the effects of fruits and vegetables on BMD. Although calcium improved BMD in 52 percent of studies focused on the mineral, fruits and vegetables improved BMD in 85 percent of more than 100 studies on these foods. That’s no surprise, since fruits and veggies contain not only calcium but plenty of other bone-building nutrients as well.
Remember, how you live your life is up to you. If you want to eat the American-standard 220 pounds of meat a year and only two to three servings of fruits and vegetables a day, go for it. But this type of diet carries a high price–substantial risk of osteoporosis and other top causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Low-acid eating is the key to healthier bones and decreasing your risk of osteoporosis. It’s a safe, effective, low-cost prescription for health, vitality, and longevity.
Michael Castleman is a San Francisco�based health writer and coauthor with Amy Lanou, PhD, of Building Bone Vitality (McGraw-Hill, 2009).
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