When we think about the benefits of milk we immediately think of bones and teeth. Children are encouraged to drink more to promote healthy bone and teeth growth while women are told to drink more to ward off osteoporosis. But is drinking milk actually as healthy for our bones as we’ve always thought?
A study found that countries with the highest dairy consumption, which includes most of the Western world, have the highest rates of osteoporosis. So if milk is so good for our bones, then why are more people who consume dairy products suffering from bone fracture incidence? This offers a contradiction that seems to show drinking calcium-rich milk may not be as great for our bone health than we originally thought.
The Problem With Milk #1: Animal Protein
Yes, milk is packed full of calcium but the problem lies with the fact that it’s animal protein. When our bodies digest animal protein, it acidifies the sensitive pH level and since our body is continuously keeping an optimal balance, it triggers a biological correction and works to get it back on track.
The problem is that calcium is a great acid neutraliser so our body takes the calcium from the bones in order to keep the pH level balanced. So ironically, we drink milk to get calcium which then causes the calcium contained in our bones being taken out to lessen the acidity: drinking milk is actually depleting our calcium reserves rather than adding to it.
The Problem With Milk #2: Pasteurisation Process
Cow’s milk is obviously designed for calves and for us humans to be able to digest it efficiently, it needs to go through a pasteurisation process which involves applying heat to destroy pathogens in food, in order to kill disease-carrying germs and preventing milk from going sour too early.
The problem with pasteurisation is the process also destroys the goodness in milk including the probiotics, vitamin C, iodine and enzymes needed to allow the body to absorb calcium. As a result, the milk we drink whether it’s whole, 1%, 2% or skimmed, all go through this process and ends up in our stores.
Many scientific studies back up the claims that drinking milk is actually detrimental to our bone health. They are, in fact, starting to outweigh the number of studies that say milk helps to reduce bone fractures and conditions like osteoporosis.
The 12 year-long Harvard Nurses’ Health Study based on nearly 78,000 women showed those between the ages of 34 and 59 who consumed calcium through milk and other dairy products broke more bones than those who rarely drank milk.
The authors of the study comment that ““These data do not support the hypothesis that higher consumption of milk or other food sources of calcium by adult women protects against hip or forearm fractures.”
Another long-term study from Sweden involved following 61,433 women and 45,339 men between 11 and 20 years for bone health and dietary habits. They also found there was no link between increased milk consumption and lower risk of bone fracture – instead it was the opposite. They did hint that low-lactose fermented milk products such as yoghurt and cheese didn’t have such a detrimental effect on bone health as drinking milk.
Calcium-Rich Alternative Foods
The best route to take for your bone health is to not only eat calcium-rich foods but also alkaline-rich foods to make sure the acidity levels in your body don’t interfere with the calcium already present in the bones.
Calcium-rich foods include:
- Broccoli (86 milligrams in 2 cups raw)
- Dark green, leafy vegetables such as kale (101 milligrams in 1 cup raw, chopped)
- Almonds (75 milligrams per ounce (about 23 whole almonds)
- Bok Choy (74 milligrams per 1 cup shredded)
- Figs (121 milligrams per 1/2 cup dried)
- Sardines (351 milligrams in one 3.75-ounce can)
- Tofu (434 milligrams per half cup)
Many cereals and other food products are fortified with calcium which can be a great addition to your diet.
Alkaline-rich foods include: garlic, spinach, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, green beans, beetroot, courgette (zucchini), grapes, apples, kiwi fruit, berries, blackcurrants, figs and dates.
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