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!