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Is Milk Really Ideal for Bone Health?

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Is Milk Really Ideal for Bone Health?

The dairy industry pours millions of dollars every year into campaigns like “Got Milk?” to convince consumers that we need several servings of their product every single day to keep our bones healthy. What they’d rather not talk about is that milk isn’t necessarily the best source of calcium, especially if your goal is maintaining bone health.

Calcium is critical to bone health, but it’s not the only player when it comes to preventing osteoporosis. Along with sufficient calcium, you also need magnesium and vitamin D for healthy bones.

Along with getting the right balance of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, exercise is critical to bone health, especially weight-bearing exercise like running, lifting weights, or walking. Exercises like cycling and swimming are great for your overall health, but they don’t improve or maintain bone density.

Too much calcium in your diet can actually inhibit magnesium absorption. That’s one of the reasons that Americans have such high rates of osteoporosis, despite also having such high rates of dairy consumption. That means that when you eat dairy, the effects on magnesium absorption are likely cancelling out much of the bone health benefit that you’re going for.

Related Reading: 25 Vegan Sources for Calcium

There are some other reasons that dairy might not be the ideal source for your daily calcium. Dairy products tend to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol, so you might be trading bone health for heart disease. Increased intake of dairy has also been linked to a higher risk for ovarian cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

That doesn’t mean you have to give up dairy entirely if you don’t want to, but it does mean that if you’re drinking 3 glasses of milk a day to protect your bones, you might want to think about replacing some of that dairy with plant-based sources of calcium that contain more magnesium.

On the next page, check out the wide variety of plant-based calcium and magnesium sources!

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Read more: Conditions, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, General Health, Health, Healthy Aging, Osteoporosis, Vegan, Vegetarian, , , , , , , , ,

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!

81 comments

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6:35AM PDT on Sep 19, 2013

Calcium isn't the only reason to drink milk; it's also a fairly inexpensive source of protein.

2:38AM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

Thank you very much Becky. I liked the article. :)

2:28AM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

Love clod milk...

8:25AM PST on Feb 15, 2013

I just drink soy milk, but had lots when I was a kid.

1:05AM PST on Jan 11, 2013

I like dairy and believe there are a lot of health benefits. All things in moderation of course. Thanks!

1:02AM PST on Jan 11, 2013

Thanks for the article. I don't overdo it with milk or other dairy products as I believe that moderation is the key to everything we do. It's good to know that there are so many alternative sources of calcium and magnesium.

7:59PM PDT on Oct 9, 2012

"The dairy industry pours millions of dollars every year into campaigns like “Got Milk?” to convince consumers that we need several servings of their product every single day to keep our bones healthy."

Honestly, you sound tremendously angry and sour in all of your pro-vegan articles, other than delusional.

12:50PM PDT on Sep 29, 2012

Moderation in all things!
I love cheese, and occasionally some real butter. I rarely take milk, but sometimes Greek-style yogurt.
I read the articles, and some of the comments.
Then I try to get my head around all the info and do what works for me and for my family.
But thanks for the list with numbers for non-dairy calcium and magnesium that should definitely help to inform my choices.

10:36AM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

Cow's milk is for baby cows. Milk is for babies. I'm a grown-up so I drink almond milk. I actually gave up all dairy together recently. The nondairy alternatives are much better. Also I have read a lot of stuff of dairy causing osteoporosis in people.

8:31AM PDT on Sep 18, 2012

I don't drink milk, makes me feel sluggish. Drink soya instead.Thanks for the info.

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