“Many people avoid milk because it contains saturated fat, cholesterol, allergenic proteins, lactose sugar, and frequent traces of contamination, or simply because they don’t feel well after consuming dairy products. Milk is also linked to type 1 (juvenile-onset) diabetes and other serious conditions. Happily, there are many other good sources of calcium that can be found in a plant-based diet” 1 .
If you think that you need cow’s milk (baby calf growth fluid) to get the calcium your bones and teeth need, then think again. It’s not just that you don’t need cow’s milk, you will be likely to lose bone density if you do consume the “white stuff”2 3 . And, losing your bone density would not be the only problem 4 .
And popping the calcium pills is also shown as not only ineffective, but positively damaging to bone health 5 .
And it gets worse, since there’s evidence 6 at: “Researchers found that milk-drinking women had higher rates of death, more heart disease, and significantly more cancer for each glass of milk. Three glasses a day was associated with nearly twice the risk of premature death, and they had significantly more bone and hip fractures. More milk, more fractures.”7
Some cultures consume few or no dairy products and typically consume less than 500 milligrams of calcium per day. So does that means these people have a higher risk of bone wastage? Not at all. In fact, quite the opposite. They generally have lower rates of osteoporosis.
When you do get research results that endorse the amazing power of cow’s milk to make our bones stronger, you’ll not be surprised to find out who sponsored the study. The acknowledgements from this ‘research’ project is a prime example: “Acknowledgements: Writing and editorial assistance were provided by Dr. Kim Russell (PhD) and Dr. Lisa Buttle (PhD) of Chill Pill Media LLP, whose contribution was covered by a grant from the Danone Company and from the Centre National de l’Economie Laitière (CNIEL).” Oooohh Danone!!
So, leaving aside the nonsense that’s been drummed into our heads for decades by the profit-motivated milk industry 8 9 , which plant foods provide the calcium you need so that you can get away from having to (in effect), torture and then suck the teats of huge herbivores? I say this, because non of the happy milky TV adverts tell you that cow’s milk has hugely more protein in it than human milk, and that high levels of protein intake (especially in vulnerable babies) is something to be really worried about 10 .
Good plant sources of calcium
|Calcium in Foods
(content in milligrams)
|Broccoli (1 cup, boiled)||62|
|Brussels sprouts (1 cup, boiled)||56|
|Butternut squash (1 cup, baked)||84|
|Carrots (2 medium, raw)||40|
|Cauliflower (1 cup, boiled)||20|
|Collards (1 cup, boiled)||266|
|Kale (1 cup, boiled)||94|
|Sweet potato (1 cup, baked)||76|
|Black turtle beans (1 cup, boiled)||102|
|Chick peas (1 cup, boiled)||80|
|Great Northern beans (1 cup, boiled)||120|
|Kidney beans (1 cup, boiled)||62|
|Lentils (1 cup, boiled)||38|
|Navy beans (1 cup, boiled)||126|
|Pinto beans (1 cup, boiled)||79|
|Soybeans (1 cup, boiled)||175|
|Soymilk (1 cup, calcium-fortified)||368|
|Tofu (1/2 cup, raw, firm)||253|
|Vegetarian baked beans (1 cup)||86|
|White beans (1 cup, boiled)||161|
|Rice Milk (1 cup, enriched)||300|
|Wheat bread (1 slice)||
|Whole wheat flour (1 cup)||41|
Dried figs (10 figs)
|Naval orange (1 medium)||60|
Orange juice (1 cup, calcium-fortified)
|Raisins (2/3 cup)||53|
|Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2004. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 17. Nutrient Data Laboratory Web site,http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp|
(Source: PCRM1 .)
It’s important to add that exercise 11 , avoiding soft drinks 12 and other lifestyle factors 13 are also strongly related to bone strength. But this does not relate directly to whether or not we need the baby calf growth fluid from cows to ensure we maintain optimal bone and teeth. Oh, and by the way, be careful if you think that just piling in the maximum amount of calcium (from any source) is the healthiest option 14 15 – think again…
For further information, there’s nice site 16 listing the 20 veg which are highest in calcium, along with a blog by Dr Michael Greger 17 which also includes links to his videos, which, of course, are normally full of valid research data and links.
So what’s the “take home” bullet point? I guess I would say it’s that you are doing okay if you let the cows get on with feeding their own babies, and we feed our own species’ offspring with human (mummy’s) milk and, as we progress from babies onward, we get our calcium from the wonderful plants that have been our dearest friends for eons of time.
- PCRM: Calcium in Plant-Based Diets
- JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Jan;168(1):54-60. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.3821. Milk consumption during teenage years and risk of hip fractures in older adults. Feskanich D, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Frazier AL, Willett WC
- J Bone Miner Res. 2011 Apr;26(4):833-9. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.279. Milk intake and risk of hip fracture in men and women: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Bischoff-Ferrari HA1, Dawson-Hughes B, Baron JA, Kanis JA, Orav EJ, Staehelin HB, Kiel DP, Burckhardt P, Henschkowski J, Spiegelman D, Li R, Wong JB, Feskanich D, Willett WC.
- Casein in Dairy = Cancer in Humans?
- Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1):175-88. Calcium supplementation and bone mineral density in females from childhood to young adulthood: a randomized controlled trial. Matkovic V1, Goel PK, Badenhop-Stevens NE, Landoll JD, Li B, Ilich JZ, Skugor M, Nagode LA, Mobley SL, Ha EJ, Hangartner TN, Clairmont A.
- BMJ. 2014 Oct 28; Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies. Michaëlsson K, Wolk A, Langenskiöld S, Basu S, Warensjö Lemming E, Melhus H, Byberg L.
- Why Is Milk Consumption Associated with More Bone Fractures? Written By Michael Greger M.D. FACLM on January 31st, 2017.
- Never Doubt The Power of Big Farming – EU Law Being Milked
- Cow’s Milk – But It Looks So Innocent…
- Perfect human protein source: Eat Enough Food & You Eat Enough Protein
- NIH: How does physical activity help build healthy bones?
- Afr Health Sci. 2017 Jun; 17(2): 524–531. doi: 10.4314/ahs.v17i2.28. Lifestyle factors influencing bone health in young adult women in Saudi Arabia. Lina F Hammad1 and Nada Benajiba.
- Arch Osteoporos. 2016; 11(1): 3. Published online 2015 Dec 22. doi: 10.1007/s11657-015-0250-3. Accumulation of risk factors associated with poor bone health in older adults. Jean Zhang, Karen Jameson, Avan Aihie Sayer, Sian Robinson, Cyrus Cooper, and Elaine Dennison.
- Nutrients. 2010 May; 2(5): 505–522. Published online 2010 May 17. doi: 10.3390/nu2050505. Is Excess Calcium Harmful to Health?
Robin M. Daly and Peter R. Ebeling.
- Mayo Clinic: Dangers of Too Much Calcium.
- Top 20 Vegetables Highest in Calcium
- Calcium: Blog by Dr Michael Greger