What The Dairy Industry Doesn't Tell You About Milk - And Where Else To Get Calcium In Your Diet
Although I grew up favouring milk and juice to water, it's been more years than I have fingers since I had a glass of milk. I'm not a vegan, or even a vegetarian for that matter (though I can't deny the feeling inside me that those choices are soon to change)... but I am a Nutritionist and a Naturopath and I know more than enough about health and food to know that I could never encourage the daily intake of dairy milk.
I do a lot of food testing in the clinic, and dairy milk is one of the most common reactions that I see. When people come to see me with skin issues, the first piece of advice I give is to stop dairy. You'd be amazed how much that one thing can do for an over-sensitive body. The big misconception about milk is that it provides us with the calcium that we need for strong bones. Milk does contain calcium, however the absorption of this calcium is nowhere near what we are led to believe. In fact, there are a bunch of studies just like this one that show that increased milk consumption leads to a higher risk of osteoporotic fractures, as well as inflammation and oxidative stress.
Straight from this Swedish study, scientists say "The high amount of lactose and therefore D-galactose in milk with theoretical influences on processes such as oxidative stress and inflammation makes the recommendations to increase milk intake for prevention of fractures a conceivable contradiction."
Dairy consumption may not be the root of all evil (though this is a debatable issue), but milk certainly gets praise for benefits that it can't uphold. The same study above also concluded that cheese and other fermented milk products are far more beneficial as far as calcium goes, compared to milk..."In a sensitivity analysis, the risk estimates of the outcomes associated with consumption of cheese or fermented milk products were in the opposite direction of estimates associated with milk consumption. Thus women with a high intake of cheese or fermented milk products compared with women with low intakes had lower mortality and fracture rates".
The dairy and meat industries are amongst the heaviest carbon footprints out there when it comes to food sustainability (or lack thereof), but if you've read anything about The Climatarian Diet and all of the terrifying things that the meat industry don't want you to know about... this is of course no surprise. I highly recommend checking out some of Mark Pershin's work - especially his little app that allows you to track your own personal dietary choices and the environmental impact that is having.
So, tangent aside, without milk... where do we get calcium? Without cheese, where do we get calcium?
Calcium is a super important nutrient, which we often forget about until we're 60 and a little fall shows us the true brittleness of bones that don't have the calcium they need!
- activate insulin
- activate thyroid hormone release
- blood clotting
- bone and tooth formation
- maintain electrolyte balance
- maintain blood acid and alkali balance
- muscle contraction
- nerve transmission
- regulation of hormone secretion
- regulate heartbeat
- .... just to name a few
As is becoming more and more of a popular culture, plant-based diets miss out on nothing (except B12, but that's easy to supplement), including calcium.
Natural plant-based calcium sources include:
- almonds (check out our almond milk recipe here)
- buckwheat (which is, yes, gluten-free)
- green leafy vegetables
Other non-plant sources of calcium include:
- egg yolk
- bone meal
- fermented milk (kefir)
It's important to also note that water softeners remove calcium from water. Rhubarb, spinach, chard, grains and cereals are also rich in oxalates, which can decrease the absorption of calcium and actually contribute to the formation of calcium/oxalate stones. Eat oxalate-rich foods away from calcium sources and you're good to go!
Once we appreciate the impact that we all have, and the vote that we cast each time that we buy certain foods and brands and products, we may feel more empowered to be the change we wish to see in the world.
Think about your food, think about your future, and think about the planet.