Where do cows get their calcium?
By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
Cows have such big bones and muscles. Their bones are so strong that even if they jump over the fence of our garden to steal the camote leaves, they don’t fracture a leg. Just imagine their heavy weight pushing on their relatively slim legs as they land on the um-a. Someone with brittle bones would buckle & fracture. But no, their bones are strong and sturdy and won’t fracture and they would run away as fast as they could. Why are their bones so strong and not brittle? Meaning these cows are not osteoporotic! They don’t drink their milk everyday, except for their babies, di ba? We don’t give them our human milk either. Think about that. Where, oh where, do these big strong bones come from?
We have been taught since we were young that strong bones are built primarily by calcium and vitamin D. Ok, we know where cows get vitamin D. No, they don’t get it from supplements. Yes, they get enough vitamin D from their daily exposure to the sun. Now, where do you think they get their calcium? We don’t give them milk or cheese or ice cream. Although, of course, you can try. We don’t even give them calcium supplements! They only eat grass and when the grass is gone, they feed on your camote leaves and even sayote plants and young rice seedlings (rice is also grass). Where, oh, where, do they get such big amounts of calcium to build and maintain such big strong cow bones? How about the elephant whose ivory tusks are even tougher than bone? Where do elephants get their calcium? Tusks are made mostly of calcium. And does the agudong or ket-an or kuhol gets calcium for its shell?
Well, where else? Yes, Virginia, they get calcium from the grass and the camote leaves and sayote leaves and yes, the “pana” (young rice seedlings). For your information, the Philippine Food Composition Tables 1997 show that for every 100 grams of boiled camote leaves, you get 57 milligrams calcium and if you eat these camote leaves raw, you get much more- 137 mg of calcium! These tables are my bible for food composition information as the studies are done with food we have in the Philippines. The researchers compared 100 grams of each food so all figures cited here refer to the contents of 100 grams edible portion of that particular food.
Sayote (or chayote) leaves have less calcium – 51 mg. if boiled and 81 mg. if raw. You see, dear readers, we destroy some vitamins and minerals with cooking.
What about the grass? We don’t eat grass so its composition is not in these tables. But rice has calcium also! Unpolished rice (brown rice) has 38 mg calcium and well-milled rice (white rice) has less at 27 mg. You see, dear readers, polishing the rice removes its minerals and vitamins. When we study these food composition tables very well, we will realize that all plants contain calcium, albeit, in varying quantities. God, the Creator, certainly likes variety. These tables will also show us that plants don’t only contain calcium. They also contain magnesium, phosphorus and all the micronutrients that health authorities all over the world claim are important to our health. So science is just discovering the wisdom of the Creator. But I digress.
Let’s get back to our topic this week, calcium. Dark green vegetables, too, are rich in calcium. Take a look at the following: (for every 100 grams edible portion)
Amti leaves, raw and cooked – 363 mg
Tawa-tawa leaves & stems – 426 mg
Guava leaves – 301 mg
Saluyot leaves, boiled – 194 mg
Kalunay( or kulitis) leaves, boiled – 314 mg
Pechay leaves, boiled – 155 mg
Legumes contain substantial amounts of calcium also. Here are a few examples:
White beans, boiled – 215 mg
Soybeans, yellow, boiled – 97 mg
Black beans, boiled – 85 mg
Red beans, boiled – 81 mg
What about the calcium content of cow’s milk? Surprise, surprise. Plain fresh cow’s milk contains 139 mg, almost same as raw camote leaves! But this is what sustained the cow when still a baby. Those milk products now sold in the grocery are fortified with calcium thus their high calcium content. The bad news is that more calcium doesn’t necessarily translate to stronger bones. Data show that countries, like USA, which have the highest calcium consumption in the world have the largest risk of hip fractures. Countries with the highest consumption of milk and other dairy products have the highest rates of fractures. Why is that? Too much calcium in the bones actually makes the bones more brittle- something we are not taught. A 12- year study by D. Feskanich, et al. in 1997 that followed up 77,000 women showed that women who drink 2 or more glasses of milk are almost 50% at higher risk of fracture than those who don’t drink milk. And don’t forget our local data. Although we don’t have written records, people of my generation and those older will testify that hip fractures in the past were rare. And yet, Igorots in the past didn’t drink milk and if they did drink milk, it was rarely, precisely because God did not give us dairy cows. BTW, “osteoporosis” is the medical term for brittle bones.
The point here is that we don’t need to drink milk to get calcium. We get enough calcium from all the variety of plants provided by our Creator. And the bonus of eating a variety of plants is that we also get all the other vitamins and minerals our body needs, in the right amount and proportion that only our Creator knows. Let’s just trust Him. So if we say “NO” to milk, it is because we are concerned about your health and well-being. If we say “NO” to milk, it is not only preventing osteoporosis, but it will also prevent the other diseases linked with milk such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, allergies, ashthma, cough and colds, etc. If, despite this information (and we have repeated this again and again) and yet, you insist on drinking milk, chocolate and other dairy products on a regular basis, it is because you like it, not because you need the calcium.***
“I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.” Ephesians 3:17