If you ask 10 people the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word “calcium”, at least 9 will tell you “milk”. Our western culture insists that dairy is the ultimate source of calcium – yet no matter how much we consume, we never seem to get enough. What if dairy actually promotes low calcium levels? And, perhaps more controversially, what if plants could offer a superior source of calcium to dairy…?

Mad for Milk

We are taught that milk is one of nature’s perfect foods, (or at least, that’s what the billion dollar dairy industry wants us to believe), so it seems inconceivable that milk is bad. However, human beings are the only species on the planet that continue to drink milk after being weaned and, even weirder when you stop to think about it, that prefer to consume the milk of other animal species.

The everyday presence of milk is deeply ingrained into our culture. The “land of milk and honey” was a fertile paradise promised to the Israelites by God in the bible. We see cultural icons like Shaq, Superman and Steven Tyler posing for posters with milky moustaches, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that if you drink milk, you’ll become good at sports, strong as steel, or maybe even a chart topping rockstar. If it’s good enough for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his monumental biceps, it must be good for me too, right?! (Spoiler alert: the answer is no.)

How Milk Contributes to Low Calcium Levels

Do we need more milk to avoid osteoporosis? According to the dairy industry, YES! “Drinking cow’s milk will keep your teeth and bones healthy.” However, according to science, we’ve got it all backwards! Many studies on the effects of milk consumption have been conducted and study after study shows us that milk ain’t so milky after all. In fact, drinking milk is actually linked to low calcium levels in the body, an increased number of cases of osteoporosis and some cancers[1],[2]. Oh, the irony.

Diets that are high in protein create acidic conditions in the body, and milk is one such animal based source of protein that is acidic for the body. The body must remain at a very specific pH in order to survive, and one of the ways it does so is by taking calcium from the bones. Calcium neutralizes acidic imbalances because it has an alkalizing effect in the body.

So when you drink milk, even though it does contain some calcium, your body actually has to extract the calcium stored in your bones to keep your pH level in its delicate balance. This extracted calcium then leaves your body via your urine, never to be seen again. This is how, contrary to what we’ve been told all our lives, consuming milk promotes low calcium levels.

Milking Us For All We’re Worth

As it transpires, consuming dairy products has been linked to a potential increased risk of ovarian and prostate cancers.4 The Harvard Nurses Health Study found that women who consume 3 cups of milk a day had a higher risk of ovarian cancer than women who drank less milk. Another Harvard study found that men who drank 2 cups of milk a day had double the risk of developing prostate cancer. We have to ask ourselves the very serious question: is drinking milk really worth jeopardizing the health of our special lady and man parts?

Don’t Have A Cow, Man

Countries like China, where people consume very little dairy, have less than a fifth of the cases of osteoporosis compared to western countries[3]. Government-recommended calcium intake is controversial and vulnerable to bias. Nutrition specialists like Dr. Thomas Campbell, MD suggest that 500mg of calcium should supply our daily needs of calcium, against the 1000-1200 mg recommended by U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services[4].

As mentioned before, if lots of animal based protein is consumed, more calcium will be extracted from the bones, so the solution to calcium deficiency becomes clearer and clearer: a whole foods, plant based diet is the safest, most reliable option.

Meeting Your Calcium Needs with Plants!

If you already are on a plant based diet, you don’t need to think twice about calcium as long as you’re consuming your daily portion of fruits, beans and vegetables in fresh or green powder form. The biggest problem for people transitioning to a healthier lifestyle is cutting off the dairy and not bothering to replace it with other sources. So it is really important to keep a balanced diet and eat a lot of greens, beans, and fruits to get enough calcium and all the other vitamins and minerals.

World’s Healthiest Plant-based Sources of Calcium

Food Serving Calcium (mg) Food Serving Calcium (mg)
Collard Greens 1 cup 267.9 Oranges 1 medium 52.4
Spinach 1 cup 244.8 Summer Squash 1 cup 48.6
Turnip Greens 1 cup 197.28 Fennel 1 cup 42.63
Mustard Greens 1 cup 165.2 Parsley 0.50 cup 41.95
Beet Greens 1 cup 164.16 Asparagus 1 cup 41.4
Bok Choy 1 cup 158.1 Celery 1 cup 40.4
Swiss Chard 1 cup 101.5 Cumin 2 tsp 39.1
Kale 1 cup 93.6 Basil 0.50 cup 37.52
Cinnamon 2 tsp 52.1 Garlic 6 cloves 32.58
Sesame Seeds 0.25 cup 351 Oregano 2 tsp 31.94
Cabbage 1 cup 63 Leeks 1 cup 31.2
Broccoli 1 cup 62.4 Romaine Lettuce 2 cups 31.02
Brussels Sprouts 1 cup 56.16 Cloves 2 tsp 26.54
Green Beans 1 cup 55 Black Pepper 2 tsp 25.69

[5]

No Use Crying Over Spilt Milk

As you can see, it’s easy to meet your daily need of calcium with planty goodness, you do not need to suffer with low calcium levels. You don’t even have to worry about counting milligrams (yawn!) or relying on supplements. It’s very important to emphasise as well, that bone density is as linked as much to exercise as it is to calcium consumption. Adult bone density and bone mineral content can be strongly influenced by exercise, particularly in adolescents. In fact, exercise in adolescence may be much more important to adult bone mineral content than calcium intake is.

Plenty of greens, beans, fruits and exercise means not having to worry about calcium deficiency ever again. Eating a whole food plant-based diet isn’t just good for your bones, it’s also awesome for your brain, kidneys, liver, muscles, nerves, and just about every single molecule of your body. Leave the baby cow secretions for those beings that really need it: baby cows. You, my human friend, can get everything you need from nature’s TRUE perfect sustenance: plant-based foods!

Thank You for Your Support

By reading this article you have already contributed to the increasing manifestation of the healthiest diet known to man, thank you. By eating plants you are saving yourself and the planet. Could we ask for one more thing? Please share this article on your favourite social media channels to help others be part of the change too. Your actions count towards our conscious co-creation, please share now.

References