There are so many reasons to prefer non-dairy sources of calcium. Firstly, animals won’t live a miserable life. Secondly, milk and dairy have linked to many health problems. Milk is even bad for bones…Last but not least, there are so many non-dairy options rich in calcium. Dairy isn’t the only one.
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 need about 1300 mg per day.
So, for most people 1000 mg of calcium per day is enough.
More about calcium health benefits, importance to our bodies, and calcium absorption here.
How much calcium in a glass of milk?
According to the USDA, 100 gr of cow’s milk contains 113 mg of calcium.
Practically, a glass of milk (250 gr) contains about 280 mg of calcium.
So, a glass of milk provides about 28% DV (Daily Value) of calcium.
As we known, milk and dairy have been marketed for their high protein and calcium content.
But milk and dairy may not be, as good for your health, as the dairy industry wants you to believe…
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).
What 2% or 1% actually mean?
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 2 grams of fat per 100 grams of product. We know that 1 gram of fat has 9 calories. So, the 2% milk provides us with 18 calories from fat. According to the USDA, the 2% milk has about 50 calories per 100 gr. 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. That’s huge.
Don’t fool yourself. Milk is very rich in fats.
It’s all marketing…
- 2% milk -> 36% calories from fat
- whole milk -> 48% calories from fat
- cheese -> 74% or more
Cheese is even worse
Most types of cheese contain about 20 – 30 gr of fat per 100 gr of product.
Most noteworthy, cheese is very rich in saturated fat.
For instance, cheddar cheese contains 33 gr of fat per 100 gr. 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.
To a 2,000 calorie diet that’s 120 calories or 13 grams of saturated fat.
Consuming milk and cheese, we can easily exceed these suggestions.
Meat and butter are even worse. Meat eaters can eat much more than 100 gr of meat daily. Moreover, butter is mainly fat.
So, it’s extremely easy to exceed the 120 calories of saturated fat per day, if you consume these foods.
Hence, replacing dairy fat, with vegetable fat may not be a bad idea. Research confirms it.
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).
Don’t forget that milk contains trans-fat. The worst type of fat, as trans fat has linked to increased risk of health problems.
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. However, even more important is the food that replaces them.
That’s also known as “The Mediterranean Diet Paradox”. People used to follow a high-fat diet, but had 30 times less heart diseases than other high fat-diets. How is this possible? Due to the different fat-type. More here.
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.
That’s another great health benefit of a whole-food plant-based diet. It can help people with cholesterol problems.
Furthermore, there is no need to worry about very low cholesterol levels.
The human body makes more cholesterol than it needs.
There isn’t absolutely no reason to get cholesterol from food.
Contrary, dietary cholesterol may be a problem for people following the standard American diet. A vegan diet or a whole food plant-based diet, such as the Mediterranean diet may help you.
Milk and weight gain. Long-term effects
Many studies have been conducted for the effect of milk and dairy in weight loss (1,2,3).
From time to time we hear that milk and dairy can help with weight loss. But is this true?
Scientists tried to find out.
Their answer is no… Milk and dairy can’t help with long-term weight loss.
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…
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.
How much should we consume daily?
The worst you can do to yourself is not eating fruits. After this, the worst dietary risk is consuming excess sodium (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. What about dairy?
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 great amounts of salt. Some types of cheese contain more than 900 mg of sodium per 100 grams. That’s huge.
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. Of course, non-dairy sources of calcium should be the number one option. Keep reading…
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. How?
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).
Remember…More sodium, more calcium lost.
Is milk bad or good for our bones?
Milk has marketed heavily as the bone protector.
Is this true though? Maybe not.
Milk isn’t good for bones…That’s either a myth or good marketing.
Contrary, milk has a dark side. High milk intake has linked to both higher mortality and to higher fracture risk.
Scientists came to these conclusion analyzing data from over 100,000 women (7).
How is this possible? There are many reasons.
Milk increases oxidative stress
Firstly, high milk consumption may increase oxidative stress. We don’t want that, as oxidative stress increases the risk of mortality and fracture.
Furthermore, fermented dairy products cause less oxidative stress. More for this letter…
Excess protein in milk can damage the bones
Moreover, even animal protein may have a negative role in bones. Data from 34 studies showed exactly this. Animal protein was linked to a higher risk of hip fracture (6).
How is this possible?
Excess protein can cause an increased calcium loss in the urine (9).
The reason is that animal protein can cause moderate acidosis in the body. The excess acid is a great problem for the body. For this reason, the body excretes calcium in order to buffer the acid. So, the aftermath is increased excretion of calcium in the urine.
Where does the body find calcium? In the food and in the 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).
Remember…A high-protein diet may have a negative effect on bones.
Strong bones need more than calcium
People forget that calcium is only a mineral. Bones need more than calcium though. Healthy bone mass depends on many things.
Vegans may have lower risks for hip fractures because a healthy vegan diet provides adequate amounts of these compounds.
Among others, scientists believe that these compounds have such a beneficial effect possibly because they prevent acidosis in the body.
Remember…Non-dairy sources of calcium fight acidosis, instead of promoting it.
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.
What’s galactose? 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.
Why? Because fermented foods contain little or no lactose and galactose content (7).
Tip…If you continue to consume dairy, at least prefer soured milk or yogurt. Avoid cheese, as it’s high in calories, fat, and sodium.
Cow milk contains IGF-1 growth hormone
Milk contains high amounts of IGF-1 growth 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 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 linked to increased IGF-1 in humans.
High levels of IGF-1 have linked to some types of cancer, such as breast, prostate, and colon cancer (13, 14).
Remember…Milk may increase the IGF-1 growth hormone.
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 get bigger faster.
Unfortunately, the use of rBGH can cause severe health problems in 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 contains 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.
Since all meat and dairy products contain trans fat, a whole food plant-based diet may be the best option.
Natural non-dairy sources of calcium don’t contain any trans fat. They can be found only in animal products. Not plants.
Yes, milk contains trans fat.
Dairy products may cause acne problems
Better avoid milk if you have acne problems. Milk consumption is linked to increased acne risk (18).
Scientists came to this conclusion after analyzing data from over 70,000 participants.
Other foods to avoid if you have acne problems are fatty and sugary foods. Such foods can increase inflammation in sebaceous glands.
Milk has 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.
Remember… Just 3 glasses of cow milk daily, almost doubles the risk of dying early.
Milk may cause certain cancers
Higher milk consumption has also been suggested to affect the risk of certain cancers (7).
Many studies have linked milk and dairy with an increased risk of prostate cancer (19).
Furthermore, dairy can also cause other health problems. For instance, high milk consumption has found to increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease (19).
Remember…Milk consumption has linked to prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
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 in order to kill these pathogens.
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)||Fortified with Calcium (mg)|
As you can see, non-dairy milk, that isn’t enriched, doesn’t contain great amounts of calcium.
On the other hand, you can buy vegan milk that is fortified with calcium. Fortified non-dairy milk may contain even more calcium than cow’s milk.
Always check on the label data to see the amount of calcium per 100 grams of milk. Each brand contains a slightly different amount of calcium.
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.
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.
Probably, the easiest way to boost your daily calcium intake is with green smoothies. For instance, if you use a frozen banana, kale, one or two sweat seasonal fruits, and some chia seeds, you ‘ll skyrocket your calcium intake.
If you want even more calcium, add some fortified non-dairy milk, instead of water.
You can see an analytical list of common vegan food rich in calcium here.
Humans are the only species that continue to drink milk beyond infancy.
The craziest part is that we steal the milk from other animals.
Don’t forget that cow’s milk contains all the nutrients that a calve needs. But calves gain hundreds of pounds in months. Adults just don’t have these nutritional needs.
It’s no wonder why milk causes so many health problems to humans.
The dairy industry is just cruel for the animals
No words 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.
- Pubmed: Calcium and dairy intakes in relation to long-term weight gain in US men.
- Milk, dairy fat, dietary calcium, and weight gain: a longitudinal study of adolescents.
- Effects of dairy intake on body weight and fat: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
- 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.
- Journal of the American Journal of Cardiology: Dietary Sodium and Health: More Than Just Blood Pressure
- Cross-cultural association between dietary animal protein and hip fracture: a hypothesis.
- Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies.
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: The Bioavailability of Dietary Calcium
- Effect of low-carbohydrate high-protein diets on acid-base balance, stone-forming propensity, and calcium metabolism
- Nutritional influences on bone mineral density: a cross-sectional study in premenopausal women.
- NCBI: Foods for Special Dietary Needs: Non-dairy Plant-based Milk Substitutes and Fermented Dairy-type Products.
- Skeletal health in adult patients with classic galactosemia.
- Journal of the National Cancer Institute: Role of the Insulin-Like Growth Factors in Cancer Development and Progression
- American Association for Cancer Research: Nutritional Predictors of Insulin-like Growth Factor I and Their Relationships to Cancer in Men
- Hormones in Dairy Foods and Their Impact on Public Health – A Narrative Review Article
- PMC: Trans fatty acids – A risk factor for cardiovascular disease
- Trans fats—sources, health risks and alternative approach – A review
- The effect of milk consumption on acne: a meta-analysis of observational studies.
- 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
- British Nutrition Foundation: Saturated fats, dairy foods, and health: A curious paradox?