Americans consume the most cows’ milk and yet still have one of the highest osteoporosis rates out of all countries! Why? Because eating animal products makes our body acidic and our bodies thrive in an alkaline environment. Our bodies cannot operate in an acidic environment so our bodies then grab calcium out of our bones in order to absorb it. I eat meat and dairy products myself, but it’s all about moderation. Unfortunately, we are taught that the best (or even the only!) source for calcium is cow’s milk. When I found out I was pregnant and went for my initial visit, they gave me a handout on nutrition. It listed American cheese as the top source of calcium! Really, they pick the cheese that is so processed it doesn’t even taste like cheese anymore?! We are not taught about how much calcium is in green leafy vegetables such as kale and other things that are great for you, and I think advertising has a lot to do with that.
The Dairy Council is a MARKETING council; that is their job, not health or regulation or safety, but marketing – which is why there are so many milk ad campaigns. Now, I don’t think advertising is a bad thing. I think it’s great for kids to know where milk comes from and visit healthy cows on humane farms, but there is a misconception that dairy products are the only source for calcium and that is just not true.
Milk does not have many nutrients after it is pasteurized. Raw milk is much more nutritious but that is a controversial subject. Raw milk products are hard to find since state laws are tricky and you usually have to buy directly from the farmer.
Vitamin D is needed in order for calcium to be absorbed. There is only a little over 100 units of vitamin D in a glass of milk – most of us are deficient in vitamin D and need at least 1000 units daily – at the VERY least – newer recommendations are about 7000 units daily (but levels need to be monitored if you are taking doses that high).
Now here is where milk can get dangerous: unless you buy organic grass fed milk, your milk will contain recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) in order to boost milk production in the cow. But this causes health problems in cows such as increased udder infections (so now you are needing antibiotics for the cows which ends up in your system as well, making your body resistant to certain antibiotics – so if you ever get a really bad infection, chances are higher that conventional antibiotics will not work for you). rBGH also leads to higher levels of insulin-like growth factor in milk which can contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers in humans. Also, since hormone use is inducing milk production during an unnatural phase of time, milk produced during this stage is of lower quality – it has increased fat content and decreased protein.
There is information to support that calcium supplements can increase heart attack risk. This is newer information and there probably needs to be more studies done in order to really come up with a solid conclusion. However, I think that is a sign that it may be better to get your calcium from natural whole food sources instead of in pill form.
It is your own personal choice to eat/drink animal products or not, but please be informed about the health of the animal you are eating and what unnatural things have been injected into it. Some other ideas for good calcium sources are: kale, Chinese cabbage, spinach, rhubarb, wild salmon, beans (white, pinto, and red), bok choy, sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, quinoa, dried figs, almonds and broccoli.