If you think you can only build your bones with the calcium from milk and dairy products, consider that building strong bones is a multifaceted process.
Milk advertising is catchy and pervasive, with the “Got Milk?” mustache being one of the top 10 advertising campaigns ever. It’s great advertising, but does it tell the whole story? Calcium is a part of building healthy bones, but it’s not the whole component, and milk is not the only way to get it.
Studies show that high dairy consumption may not reduce risks to fractures, and the increased intake of dairy products can lead to prostate and ovarian cancer. If dairy is the answer to healthy bones, why doesn’t the fracture risk decrease? It may be because more than just calcium goes into building healthy bones. Vitamins A, C, D, B12, and K, magnesium, and phosphorous are some of the other important nutrients necessary to build strong bones. Movement and activity are also necessary components.
Veggies can be a good source of calcium: one cup of cooked collard greens contains around 357 mg of calcium, plus the added benefit of other bone-building nutrients, such as vitamin K. Vitamins can have synergistic effects, such as Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. Without sunlight or extra supplementation, it may be difficult for your body to absorb the calcium you are consuming from dairy products alone. There is controversy that the dietary guidelines for calcium are too high and that ignoring the other nutrients important in bone building may be a detriment. Plus, with the low-fat craze, it is difficult to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins that are present in or fortified into milk, which can contribute to healthy bones.
Those advertisements pushing milk as the answer to strong bones are almost inescapable. But does ‘Got Milk?’ really translate into ‘got strong bones?’
– Harvard School of Public Health
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Strong bones are made by a multifactoral approach, not a one-nutrient cure. Even though calcium is the only nutrient emphasized in the “My Plate” government recommendations, it is clearly not the only player in bone development. Don’t just focus on milk and dairy for building strong bones. Focus on staying active with resistance training and getting sunshine. Vary your diet to include many varieties of green leafy veggies: collard greens, mustard greens, kale, and chard, just to name a few. Avoid soy for your calcium intake, even though substituting soy for dairy is a popular trend. Decrease stress levels because increased cortisol decreases calcium absorption. Ignore the catchy dairy advertising “3-A-Day for Stronger Bones” and realize that healthy bones are made from a wide variety of nutrient complexes combined with healthy movement patterns.
Dairy products can be quite controversial these days. Some people are lactose intolerant and cannot digest lactose, and for those concerned about blood sugar levels, milk can cause insulin spikes. Often when choosing dairy, people reach for the low-fat versions. Remember that low-fat/no-fat dairy has added sugars and chemicals to make it taste good and to improve the consistency. Plus, full-fat dairy products allow you to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins contained within.
These are the best ways to consume dairy:
- Raw and fermented full-fat cheese, kefir, and yogurt: Lactose is already partially digested, plus it has the added benefits of increased probiotics (beneficial bacteria to keep our digestive tract healthy).
- Raw, full-fat milk: Pasteurization rids the milk of valuable enzymes and decreases probiotics.
- Choose organic and fermented full-fat products.
- Never consume conventionally produced, inorganic dairy. Why? The cow’s diet requires them to be given more antibiotics and growth hormones, such as rBGH, which help the cows produce more milk. Although used in the United States, this growth hormone has been banned in Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, and other countries because of the potential increased cancer risk in humans and the decreased health of the cows when rBGH is used.
The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy, by Mark Sisson, gives compelling lifestyle advice and a balanced approach to dairy. His wildly popular blog at marksdailyapple.com has advice for primal living in a modern world.