Cow’s milk isn’t the best dietary source of calcium!

18 reasons to prefer non-dairy sources of calcium over cow's milk.

Adults don’t need milk. On the contrary, milk and dairy have been associated with many diseases, such as cancer! Additionally, there are so many plant-based foods rich in calcium. Dairy isn’t the only good source.

Daily recommended calcium intake

According to the National Institutes of Health, most people need about 1000-1300 mg of calcium daily.

Teenagers, pregnant or lactating women, and women over 50s need more than 1000 mg of calcium per day. They require about 1300 mg per day.

On the other hand, we shouldn’t consume more calcium than the upper safe dose.

How much calcium in a glass of milk?

According to the USDA, 100g of cow’s milk contains 113 mg of calcium. Practically, a glass of milk (250g) contains about 280 mg of calcium. So, a glass of milk provides about 28% DV (Daily Value) of calcium.

Milk has more fat than you think

Milk is high in saturated fat. The kind of fat that is dangerous for your heart.

The most common types of cow milk are whole milk (more than 3.25% fat), 2% milk, 1% milk, and skim milk (less than 0.1% fat).

Most people think that 2% or 1% is the percentage of fat in milk. That’s only partially true… By 2% or 1%, the dairy industry counts the fat content of milk. It is the percentage of fat in milk. By weight…

This isn’t by chance. Milk is mainly water, so the percentage of fat seems pretty low this way. But what if we measured the percentage of fat in milk, by calorie?

The 2% milk means that it has 2g of fat per 100g of product. We know that 1g of fat has 9g. So, the 2% milk provides us with 18 calories from fat. According to the USDA, the 2% milk has about 50 calories per 100g. This means that 38% of calories in milk comes from fat.

That’s for milk with reduced fats…

Whole milk (more than 3.25% of fat) contains even more fat. It has 60 calories. About 48% of them come from fat. Certainly, milk is rich in fats, and calories. Milk can make us gain weight!

It’s all marketing…

  • 2% milk -> 36% calories from fat
  • whole milk -> 48% calories from fat
  • cheese -> 74% or more

Cheese is pretty rich in fat & calories

Most types of cheese contain about 20 – 30g of fat per 100g of product. Most noteworthy, cheese is rich in saturated fat.

For instance, cheddar cheese contains 33g of fat per 100g. As it has 402 calories, the percentage of fat, measured by calorie, is 74%.

When saturated fat becomes dangerous?

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), we shouldn’t consume more than 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat, or about 13g.

Consuming milk and cheese, we can easily exceed these suggestions. Actually, it’s easy to exceed 120 calories of saturated fat a day, if you consume dairy.

So, you better replace fat from animal sources to fat from plant-based foods. According to a study, published to “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”, the replacement of animal fats, including dairy fat, with vegetable sources of fats and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Additionally, milk contains trans-fat. The most dangerous type of fat.

Saturated fat and trans-fat have such a negative health effect, that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) suggests that saturated fatty acid and trans fatty acid intake should be as low as possible.

Dairy foods are major contributors to dietary saturated fat (20). As a result, reducing the consumption of these foods may be beneficial.

Milk contains cholesterol

A glass of milk contains about 30 mg of cholesterol. That’s more than 10% DV. According to the FDA, we should consume less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day.

Moreover, plants don’t contain any dietary cholesterol. Only animal products contain it.

The human body makes more cholesterol than it needs. There isn’t absolutely no reason to get cholesterol from food.

Milk may make you fat

Many studies have been conducted for the effect of milk and dairy in weight loss (1,2,3). It seems that milk and dairy can’t help with long-term weight loss.

On the contrary, milk can cause weight gain.

In a study, children who consumed more milk gained more weight. Researchers suggested that the calories of milk caused the weight gain. Don’t forget… Milk and dairy are high in fat and calories.

It seems that the restriction of calories is a better approach to weight loss. Non-dairy sources of calcium tend to be low in calories. Some of them are rich in fiber, as well. Both factors are important for weight loss.

Dairy may contain excess salt

Salt (or sodium chloride) is a leading diet risk for our health. Excess salt intake is the second worst dietary habit (4).

The American Heart Association (AHA) limits the sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day. This may change soon though. Scientists say that we better shorten the limit to no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

But most adults ignore these suggestions, consuming more than 3,400 mg of sodium daily. Packaged and processed foods are the main source of sodium.

Is dairy rich in sodium?

A glass of milk contains only about 100 mg of sodium. That’s not too much.

The real problem comes with cheese. It’s common for many types of cheese to contain high amounts of salt. Some types of cheese contain more than 900 mg of sodium per 100g! If you eat cheese, you can easily exceed the upper limit of sodium.

Better prefer fermented dairy products, such as yogurt. Yogurt has less sodium.

Sodium in dairy prevents calcium absorption

Don’t underestimate the health risks of excess sodium intake. Excess dietary sodium can affect your heart, kidneys, and brain among others (5).

Moreover, sodium can inhibit calcium absorption. Sodium increases the loss of calcium in the urine, making it unavailable for the bones. Just every extra two grams of sodium, the urinary calcium excretion increases by 30-40 mg (8).

Is actually milk good for our bones?

Milk may be bad for the bones. High milk intake has been linked to both higher mortality and higher fracture risk. Scientists came to these conclusion analyzing data from over 100,000 women (7).

Milk increases oxidative stress

Firstly, high milk consumption may increase oxidative stress. Oxidative stress increases the risk of mortality and fracture. So, better prefer fermented dairy products, as they cause less oxidative stress.

Excess protein in milk can damage the bones

Animal protein may be bad for bones. Data from 34 studies showed exactly this. Animal protein was linked to a higher risk of hip fracture (6).

Excess protein can cause an increased calcium loss in the urine (9). Animal protein can cause moderate acidosis to the body. So, the body excretes calcium, in order, to buffer the acid. It causes increased excretion of calcium in the urine. The body finds calcium from food and bones.

The acidosis comes from the breakdown of sulfur-containing amino acids (cysteine, methionine). These acids release sulfur oxidized as sulfate. Sulfate ions bind calcium, preventing its incorporation into bones (8).

Strong bones need more than calcium

Bones need much more than calcium. Healthy bone mass depends on many things. To name a few, vitamin C, fiber, zinc, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K2, vitamin D, and beta-carotene are all super important for healthy bones (10).

Among others, scientists believe that these compounds have such a beneficial effect possibly because they prevent acidosis in the body.

Many people are lactose intolerant

People with lactose intolerance lack an enzyme. This enzyme, named lactase, should be present in the small intestines. It breaks lactose down into glucose and galactose.

More people than you think are lactose intolerant. Worldwide, it is estimated that 65% – 75% of the population has a type of lactose intolerance or some type of cow’s milk allergy (11).

Bloating, diarrhea, or gas are the most common symptoms. So, you better prefer non-dairy sources of calcium, just to be sure.

What if you’re galactose intolerant

Although it’s a rather rare disorder, people with galactosemia can’t metabolize the sugar galactose properly. Galactose comes from the metabolizing of lactose in milk. Lactose is broken down into glucose and galactose. People with galactosemia can’t detoxify galactose, as they lack certain enzymes. The elevated levels of galactose in the blood can cause bone loss and increased fracture risk (12).

Why prefer yogurt or cheese over milk?

Maybe it’s better to prefer fermented dairy products. It seems they cause less oxidative stress and inflammation than milk. That’s because fermented foods contain little or no lactose and galactose content (7).

Cow milk contains the IGF-1 hormone

Milk contains high amounts of IGF-1 hormone. This is a growth hormone naturally found in the body. The liver mainly produces it. We need IGF-1 growth hormone in the right quantities.

But milk consumption has been linked to high levels of IGF-1.

High-calorie diets and high consumption of protein can also increase it. Additionally, fish and poultry consumption has been linked to increased IGF-1 in humans.

High levels of IGF-1 have been linked to some types of cancer, such as breast, prostate, and colon cancer (13, 14).

Milk hormones and antibiotics

The dairy industry treats cows with hormones to maximize milk production. The most known hormone is rBGH. Comes from recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone. It makes cows bigger.

Unfortunately, the use of rBGH can cause severe health problems to cows. Cows develop serious infections, such as mastitis. Farmers give cows powerful antibiotics to treat these health problems.

But, how can you be sure that cow’s milk doesn’t contain all these antibiotics and hormones? Is a glass of cow milk so innocent?

By law, farmers have to discard all milk from cows treated with antibiotics. No matter what, the presence of steroid hormones in dairy products is a serious risk factor for some cancers in humans (15).

Dairy products contain trans-fatty acids

Yes, milk contains trans-fatty acids. According to the USDA, 100 grams of whole milk contains about 112 mg of trans-fatty acids. Drink a glass of milk, and you get 280 mg of trans fat.

What’s the recommended daily intake of trans-fat? Zero. They don’t have any health benefits. Trans fat is the worst type of fat you can eat

Trans fats (16, 17):

  • raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels,
  • lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels,
  • increases your risk of heart disease,
  • increases your risk of stroke.
  • increases your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Dairy products may cause acne problems

Better avoid milk if you have acne problems. Milk consumption is linked to increased acne risk (18). Other foods to avoid if you have acne problems are fatty and sugary foods. Such foods can increase inflammation in sebaceous glands.

Milk has been linked to mortality

Oxidative stress along with chronic inflammation can shorten life span (7). Scientists observed a positive association between milk intake and total mortality. What’s more shocking is that scientists found a higher rate of death with higher milk consumption (7). More glasses of milk means a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Milk may cause certain cancers

Higher milk consumption has been associated with higher risk of certain cancers (7). Many studies have linked milk and dairy with increased risk of prostate cancer (19).

Furthermore, dairy can also cause other health problems. For instance, high milk consumption may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease (19).

Milk can carry harmful pathogens

Raw milk may contain harmful pathogens. Before pasteurization, milk diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, and typhoid fever were pretty dangerous for public health.

Milk must be pasteurized. Poorly handled milk can cause health problems. Fortunately, these incidents are rare nowadays.

There are many other vegan milk options

Nowadays, there are many vegan milk options. You can choose between almond, oat, soy, rice, cashews, or even coconut milk.

Calories (kcal)Calcium (mg)Calcium (mg) –
Cow milk61113261
Almond milk153197
Oat milk508146
Soy milk3042123
Rice milk479118
Coconut milk3116188

Actually, fortified non-dairy milk may contain even more calcium than cow’s milk.

There are so many non-dairy sources of calcium

But there is no need to buy non-dairy products fortified with calcium. There are so many non-dairy foods rich in calcium.

For instance, kale (254 mg), spinach (100 mg), arugula (160 mg), beet greens (117 mg), or broccoli (47 mg) are good non-dairy sources of calcium.

Moreover, many seeds are good non-dairy sources of calcium. To name a few, chia seeds (631 mg), sesame seeds (131 mg), flaxseeds (255 mg), sunflower seeds (78), and pumpkin seeds (52 mg) all are rich in calcium.

Even fruits can help you meet the recommended daily calcium intake. For instance, pineapples (13), papayas (20), kiwis (34), oranges (40), mandarin (37 mg), blackberries (29), or strawberries (16) are all good non-dairy sources of calcium.

You can see an analytical list of common vegan food rich in calcium here.

Cow’s milk is bad for the environment

Cow’s milk and dairy are bad for the environment. Among others, they have a huge water footprint (1020-5553 lt/kg) compared to vegan milks. Moreover, dairy has more gas emissions and demand for land than other vegan alternatives. Better prefer vegan foods, as they have fewer environmental impacts.


  1. Pubmed: Calcium and dairy intakes in relation to long-term weight gain in US men.
  2. Milk, dairy fat, dietary calcium, and weight gain: a longitudinal study of adolescents.
  3. Effects of dairy intake on body weight and fat: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
  4. A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990-2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.
  5. Journal of the American Journal of Cardiology: Dietary Sodium and Health: More Than Just Blood Pressure
  6. Cross-cultural association between dietary animal protein and hip fracture: a hypothesis.
  7. Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies.
  8. Journal of the American College of Nutrition: The Bioavailability of Dietary Calcium
  9. Effect of low-carbohydrate high-protein diets on acid-base balance, stone-forming propensity, and calcium metabolism
  10. Nutritional influences on bone mineral density: a cross-sectional study in premenopausal women.
  11. NCBI: Foods for Special Dietary Needs: Non-dairy Plant-based Milk Substitutes and Fermented Dairy-type Products.
  12. Skeletal health in adult patients with classic galactosemia.
  13. Journal of the National Cancer Institute: Role of the Insulin-Like Growth Factors in Cancer Development and Progression
  14. American Association for Cancer Research: Nutritional Predictors of Insulin-like Growth Factor I and Their Relationships to Cancer in Men
  15. Hormones in Dairy Foods and Their Impact on Public Health – A Narrative Review Article
  16. PMC: Trans fatty acids – A risk factor for cardiovascular disease
  17. Trans fats—sources, health risks and alternative approach – A review
  18. The effect of milk consumption on acne: a meta-analysis of observational studies.
  19. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Milk and dairy consumption and incidence of cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies
  20. British Nutrition Foundation: Saturated fats, dairy foods, and health: A curious paradox?