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Reality Response

Posted Feb 13 2011 8:57pm
I'm excited to take this time to respond to some of the requests of my readers and students.

Jennifer asked me to respond to an article in the New York Times a few weeks ago about calcium and vitamin D ( , which begins:

"The new daily recommendations for calcium and vitamin D, issued in November by the Institute of Medicine, have left many people wondering whether they are getting enough, or perhaps too much, in their diets and supplements.

The institute’s expert committee, which included bone specialists, concluded that most people don’t need supplements of these critical nutrients and warned of serious health risks from the high doses some now take — including kidney stones and heart disease linked to calcium supplements, and the very falls and fractures that vitamin D is meant to protect against."

Unfortunately, the article goes on to simply tell us how to derive our daily recommendations for calcium and vitamin D from dairy products and supplement pills! The author does not address the warnings by the Institute of Medicine's expert committee that high doses of calcium are linked with kidney stones and heart disease (based on two very large, separate studies), or too much vitamin D causes bone fractures.

There is a curious phenomenon that takes place with nutrients in our diet: very high levels of a nutrient (such as calcium or vitamin D) often have the same effect as a shortage of said nutrient. There is a fine line between not enough and too much, when it comes to vitamins and minerals, defined as "deficiency" and "toxicity". We really need to be aware of the dangers of nutrient toxicity, which is difficult to do when we only seem to hear about the dangers of deficiency from the media (I'm sure this makes the supplement industry very happy).

My response to this article is simply this: listen to the experts! I agree that most people do not need supplements of these nutrients, but simply need to eat a healthy (that is, mostly plant-based) diet, avoiding calcium losers like high levels of animal protein, soda, sodium, and alcohol and coffee. Also, since vitamin D is fat-soluble, our body can store it for months at a time. Just make sure to get a small amount of sun exposure daily when possible, even when it's cloudy or cold.


Next, one of my current students asked me to make a list of foods I buy at Trader Joe's. I think this is a wonderful request as TJ's is a mixed bag of healthy and very not-healthy foods. The following is a near exhaustive list of what I purchase at Trader Joe's, mainly due to the excellent prices compared to health food stores
1) Low-sodium vegetable broth (in the boxes)
2) Organic, unsweetened soy milk (in the refrigerated cartons)
3) Tempeh (in the "fake meat", refrigerated section near the cheese)
4) Organic avocados (Trader Joe's avocados tend to be the best in my experience)
5) Whole wheat flour
6) Recycled Toilet Paper
7) Organic Hemp Protein Powder (I sprinkle on my granola in the mornings - found in the vitamin section)
8) Frozen blueberries, raspberries and corn (in separate bags!)
9) Sprouted Wheat Berry Bread
10) Organic Peanut Butter

Things I almost never would buy at TJ's include produce (besides avocados and bananas), since I do not find the fruit and vegetables to be fresh, or pre-made frozen dinners.


Finally, a another student asked for an example of a day's worth of fibrous meals and snacks that would give us 25-40 grams/fiber. I'll list some typical meals for me...

Breakfast: granola (5 grams fiber) + 1 scoop Hemp Protein Powder (11 grams fiber) with soymilk

Lunch: 2 black bean burritos with salsa and avocado (14 grams fiber)

Dinner: 2 Vegetarian "Reuben" sandwiches made with tempeh, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, swiss cheese on whole grain bread (11 grams fiber)

Snack: 1 Orange (4 grams fiber)

Conclusion: I eat a LOT of fiber! Wow!
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