The association between milk consumption and bone health has been planted in our brain since we’re little. We received this information from school teachers, advertisements, parents, brochures, and many more. But, does milk really help you prevent osteoporosis? Or does reality actually speak in contrast to what we believe so far?
We need calcium, not milk!
A 2020 review article written by Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., and David S. Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D. published by the New England Journal of Medicine shows very interesting data. Though the are many factors that can influence bone density, the more cow’s milk a country consumes, the more hip fractures they see (1). This is totally contrary to what most people believe!
When people talk about bone health, the emphasis is usually on cow’s milk. It’s true that cow’s milk contains calcium. However, in preventing osteoporosis, sometimes we forget other minerals that are just as important as calcium, like potassium and magnesium. And an increased intake of fruits and vegetables associated with greater bone mineral density. (2)(3)
It is important to note that the calcium absorption rate from vegetables, such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, broccoli is about 50% or more. In cow’s milk, only about 30% of the calcium is absorbed, with the same absorption rate as soy foods. (Understanding Nutrition, Thirteenth Edition by Ellie Whitney and Sharon Rady Rolfes page 389)
How much is enough calcium?
One reason why cow’s milk has been suggested as a good source of calcium is that we need quite a bit of calcium per day. (4) How much do we really need? There are different standards. In the United States, they recommend 1000mg calcium per day for 19 to 50 years of age. The United Kingdom suggests 700mg per day while the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 500mg per day.
Getting enough calcium as vegans
Though there are different daily calcium intake recommendations, we definitely can get enough calcium as a vegan! There is more calcium in 100 grams tempeh, tofu, red beans than in cow’s milk (source:panganku.org). We can incorporate more cauliflower, kale, broccoli, bok choy in our daily vegetable intake. Plus, you can add almonds, sesame seeds on your morning oatmeal as calcium-rich toppings too! By applying this, we can get enough calcium without drinking cow’s milk!