Kelli the nurse is back again to give you some calcium clarification. Check out what she has to say (though, of course, we’re just giving you this info to be nice—we don’t want to replace your doctor or nutritionist! If you need medical, dietary or other professional advice, of course go see a qualified specialist who can advise on your individual needs), then let us know your favorite way to keep your bones strong! I like cozying up with a nice mug of soy hot chocolate—yum!
“Is dairy really the best way to get calcium?”
That’s a great question considering that the dairy industry spends several hundred million dollars each year to keep you from asking it. Putting the dairy industry aside for a moment, let’s take a moment to relish in the awesomeness that is calcium.
Calcium formed the permanent teeth that burst through our gums when we were tikes to fill our holey mouths. It also formed the “baby” teeth we had that made us our first buck a la the tooth fairy. Calcium formed our skeleton when we were wee little aliens in our mommies and it continues to strengthen our bones through adolescence. It helps our blood clot when we fall off our bikes and skin our knees. It helped the muscles’ contractions that let us ride that bike in the first place. Calcium helps messages from our brains travel through our bodies along nerves. You would think that I was having a love affair with calcium, but it’s all true.
The only bad thing about calcium is all of the rumors that got started about it because of its association with cow’s milk. Some people even think that calcium and cow’s milk are one and the same. Noooo! It’s so tragic when the dairy industry gives itself a bad rap (and really shouldn’t take my boy calcium down with it) and when there are so many delicious plant-based foods packed with calcium.
So, just like the gossip mags do, let’s throw out some rumors!
Rumor #1: Cow’s milk does wonders for your bones. FALSE!
There’s no doubt that calcium and physical exercise are important for bones. The recommended daily value for calcium is 1,300mg for adolescents and 1,000mg for adults 19 and older, but the truth is that no one is really sure how much we need. The figures were contrived because it’s hard to tell someone to get enough calcium without telling them how much is enough. Consistently, though, studies find bone strength to be the same in teenagers whether they get 500mg per day or 1500mg per day. Further studies have shown that those getting more calcium get that calcium from animal sources like milk and animal flesh. These studies also found that animal proteins, such as those in milk and animal flesh, deplete the body of calcium. So those that eat dairy and flesh for calcium are kind of like hamsters on wheels—they think they are getting somewhere but they aren’t.
Rumor #2: Cow’s milk is good for you because it’s natural. FALSE!
Lightning strikes are natural, too. Doesn’t mean they’re good. There’s really nothing natural though about drinking the milk of another mammal, especially when it is designed to turn a 100 pound calf into a 500 pound cow in under one year!
Rumor #3: Cow’s milk is the best dietary source of calcium. FALSE!
Sure, it’s got some calcium. I’ll give it that. But what about the zillions of things it has in one glass that are horrible for your health? Bad cholesterol (the artery-clogging one known as LDLs—low density lipoproteins), antibiotics that were given to the cows to keep them from dying under horrible living conditions, hormones given to the cows to keep their bodies growing and thinking that they’re pregnant, saturated fats, lactose (a sugar that is hard for most bodies to break down after infancy), and lots of other gross things for which it has to be pasteurized—a process that slows the growth of microorganisms.
What ARE some great dietary sources of calcium?
Calcium-fortified orange juice: 200-300mg per cup
Soy milk: 80-500mg per cup
Almonds, roasted: 200mg from 1 ounce (about 20 nuts)
Broccoli, cooked: 300mg in 2 cups
Regular tofu: 860mg per cup!!!!
(Keep in mind that a glass of cow’s milk has about 300mg per cup, most of which is not able to be used by your body.)
While I was answering this, I kept a score card for Plants vs Cow’s milk. Plants got a point for every gross thing about cow’s milk:
Kelli Ellis is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing who is currently working on her Masters at Penn State University while working at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.