I am dairy intolerant, so am avoiding it at the moment, but I am amazed at how often people ask me how I get my calcium from my diet when I don’t eat dairy.
The dairy industry has done such a good job of marketing milk as a good source of calcium, that many people think it is the only way to get calcium, other than supplementation. Some studies indicate that cows’ milk might actually deplete calcium from your bones.
All foods are either acidic or alkaline in nature, but once they enter the body, that changes1. For example, lemons contain fruit acid, but when the body assimilates lemon juice, it makes the pH of the body more alkaline. Cow milk has an alkaline base, but when ingested it turns acidic.
Why should you care? Well, anything that is acid forming within the body can potentially take calcium out of the bones. Maybe it is not so good to “Get Milk” afterall.2 There is much debate on this even in the health and wellness community however, so what is a person to do?
If you don’t do dairy, regardless of the reason, you still need to ensure you are getting enough calcium. Some of the best sources of calcium are actually found in dark leafy greens and legumes. Collard greens contain one of the highest amounts of calcium3, along with being a great source of anti-oxidants and fibre.
Soy-beans contain high amounts too, but if you have thyroid issues, you might want to be cautious of eating soy4. Most of the soy on the market is GMO as well, so organic is recommended. It is hard on our bodies to digest soy though, so eating it in fermented form is the best idea5. Please note that soy-based infant formulas are not recommended.6
I am not a vegetarian, but I would rather get my calcium from the best source possible, especially since I am female and bone health is a greater concern as I get older. Lifestyle factors such as drinking too much caffeine, alcohol or carbonated beverages, or eating too much protein, leeches calcium from the bones, so best to get your stores replenished from your diet, and supplements if necessary.
A final word on milk, if you do drink it – go for full fat versions. The vitamins found in milk (A, D, E & K) are fat soluble, meaning they need fat to be absorbed by the body7. If you’re drinking skim or even 1%, that means you are not getting these nutrients at all (unless you are having another fat source with it), so you would be better off either skipping it, or supplementing.