Debunking Milk Myths
By Sarah Axtell, ND • December 6, 2014
Got Milk? Sure…almond, hemp, coconut or goat. Or even better, grab some collard greens for your calcium source.
For years, we have been inundated with the Got Milk campaign. Conventional wisdom advises people, women in particular, to up their calcium intake, particularly by drinking cow’s milk. However, many recent studies assert that most adults have no need for a large calcium intake. Furthermore, an overabundance of calcium can contribute to calcification of arteries and thus increase your risk of degenerative diseases.
So wipe off that milk mustache, and let’s debunk some myths and get to the bottom of this dairy confusion.
- While calcium is beneficial to the body, many people believe that more is better. This is not the case. Over time, calcium can accumulate in arteries. It makes them stiffer and less responsive to the demands of the body. Stiff, rigid arteries contribute to high blood pressure, chest pain, and heart failure. Calcium also builds up in plaque, contributing to narrowed arteries. This can lead to heart attack, stroke, or sudden cardiac arrest. When it comes to supplementing with calcium, talk to your doctor about the best dosage for you. If you have osteoporosis, calcium supplements may be indicated. But if you do not have osteoporosis, food sources of calcium are better than supplements.
- The dairy industry will have you believe that calcium can only be obtained through milk products. However, the following foods are excellent sources of calcium: collard greens, bok choy, spinach, tofu, broccoli, molasses, and almonds. One serving of collard greens, for example, has 360 mg calcium as compared to one cup of milk, which contains 290 mg. Collard green wraps are a delicious and easy way to incorporate them into your diet.
- The USDA encourages consuming three cups of dairy per day. However, this can cause more harm than good. Many people are lactose intolerant. In fact, dairy products rank with wheat as the two most common symptom-evoking foods in adults and children. Milk also generally increases inflammation in the body, even in people who don’t have a true milk allergy or intolerance. This is due to the hard-to-digest protein in cow’s milk, casein. Goat milk, however, has a much lower amount of casein and is thus a better tolerated alternative. Click here for more info on Goat’s milk vs. Cow’s milk.
- High amounts of calcium do not guarantee bone health. 58 published studies were analyzed, and the majority of the studies found no relationship between dairy or dietary calcium and measures of bone health.
Best ways to obtain calcium and build bone:
- The best thing you can do for your bones is engage in weight-bearing exercise. Lifting weights, walking, running, and taking pilates/yoga classes are all great bone-strengthening activities.
- Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collard greens and spinach. Aim for at least 2 servings of these green leafies. Spinach does however contain oxalic acid and other phytic acids that bind calcium. Steaming them prevent this from occurring and will enhance their absorption.
- As for cow’s milk alternatives, choose hemp, almond, coconut or goat milk.
- If you do have osteoporosis, talk to your naturopathic doctor about the best form and dosage of calcium supplements.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.