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Dairy for calcium?

Posted on April 23 2022

Do I need milk for calcium?

The number one source of calcium in a western diet is dairy products, but the number once source of saturated fats also happens to be dairy products.

So the real questions here is, “Just because Coke has some amount of potassium, would you drink cans of Coke per day to get your daily potassium intake”?

Time to mooo away from Dairy? Let’s have a look.

Do you need Dairy for Calcium?

The need for calcium for a healthy body is undeniable. From birth to adolescence, consuming adequate calcium helps develop bones and minimises bone loss as you age.

However, when it comes to Calcium, quality matters over quantity. Plant sources of Calcium such as that from leafy greens like Kale, Amarath and Bok Choy is absorbed by the body twice as much as animal sources of Calcium from dairy milk.

But not only calcium alone, green’s are a great source of folic acid, minerals, essential vitamins, and most importantly, fibre. Dairy lacks all of these when compared to plants.

So it is not about ‘how much’ calcium you take in per day, but how much is actually absorbed by the body.

Dairy products, especially milk, might not be the only or the best source for calcium. Dairy might not even be necessary at all.

Dairy is a billion dollar industry, which has run some excellent campaigns over the years claiming that people, particularly children, require milk to develop. Their claims that sportspersons need milk to succeed and that women need to drink milk to grow slimmer and more attractive are nothing more than myths and marketing gimmicks.

These claims lack very little (if any) scientific evidence. High dairy consumption has been indeed linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer and potentially ovarian cancer. In addition, dairy products can also be heavy in saturated fat and retinol (vitamin A), weakening bones when consumed in large amounts. Countries with the highest consumption of dairy products also carry the most risk when it comes to osteoporosis and hip fractures:

Moreover, the environmental impacts of dairy products are another reason to be considered while opting for other sources of calcium and protein. The environmental costs of dairy products are likely to be 5 to 10 times higher than plant-based sources due to the high water usage in animal agriculture.

What does science say?

Milk is not necessary for good health, even if consumed in modest amounts. It's exactly like any other food, whose effects are influenced by what individuals eat and do.

For example, in one research, 240 children aged 8 to 15 who could not obtain enough calcium in their diets were randomly allocated to either a meal plan with three additional daily servings of dairy or to stay on their regular diets. The study revealed no change in bone density between the children who ate more dairy and those who didn't at 18 months.

Therefore, rather than relying on dairy products for calcium and protein, diversify your diet. Fruits, leafy greens, beans, nuts, and several starchy vegetables are among such food sources.

Trust this helps,

Roshni Sanghvi.

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