We’ve all been grown up being told that milk builds strong bones. Obviously, lactose-intolerant people need other sources. But what about the rest of us? Should we even be drinking milk?
Your body has more calcium than any other mineral and while it is critical for healthy bones and teeth, it
is also essential for a healthy heart beat, nerve signalling, muscle functions and hormone regulation. As you age, your bones break down faster than they build up, so daily calcium requirements increase, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health.
Calcium is notoriously difficult to absorb from dietary sources, especially from cow’s milk. Milk from cows in most of North America is Type-1 milk, which scientists say is good only for calves and is difficult for humans to digest (Type-2 milk is the type that is easier to digest and a lot of Asia has this kind).
What’s more, cow’s milk goes through two types of processing before it reaches you: pasteurization and homogenization. Most of the store milk available in U.S. stores is ultra-pasteurized, which means it has been heated to very high 280 degrees for a few seconds. This kills harmful bacteria but also destroys all the vitamins and proteins, which you need, so you can absorb the calcium in the milk. Homogenization is a process that shrinks the fat in milk so that it is more evenly distributed and not sitting on the top, which extends the shelf life. This too disrupts how much calcium you can get from your milk.
Supermarket-bought cow’s milk could actually harm you. Cow’s milk, according to research conducted by O’Keefe et al., has been linked to an increased risk for diabetes, Parkinson’s, inflammatory conditions such as fibromyalgia and the greatest irony of all, increased risk of bone fractures!
So if you like your milk, you may want to get your cow milk from raw, organic sources. If that’s difficult to source, almond milk makes a tasty alternative but is not high on calcium. In fact, there are several non-milk sources of calcium that may be better for just about all of us.
For Calcium to be properly absorbed from dietary sources, your body also needs sufficient levels of Vitamin D, Vitamin K and Magnesium. Researchers James O’Keefe et al., found that while pairing Vitamin D with calcium decreases bone fracture rates, pairing Vitamin K with calcium encourages your body to use calcium for bone growth, and pairing magnesium with calcium may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Nature has a variety of vegetables and fruits that have the perfect balance of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K and magnesium. Some excellent non-dairy sources of natural calcium include:
If you prefer to get your calcium from a dietary supplement, make sure it has it’s “companion nutrients” in the right balance. The Open Heart Journal study with James O’Keefe et al., recommends 1000 to 1200 mg of calcium a day for adults, with increasing levels as you age. Combine your calcium with 600 to 800 IU’s of Vitamin D for best absorption. For best bone-building results, also add 500 to 600 mg of Magnesium
Remember: Your body uses calcium more than any other mineral. Stay up with the research and get yours from the right sources.