For years, drinking milk has been known as a healthy habit to be done daily, just like taking your vitamins and eating your veggies. However, the words “milk” and “calcium” are often used interchangeably. Milk is a calcium source, but no standard other than what the National Dairy Council says is the best calcium source. In fact, cow’s milk is not digested well by most humans around the world.
Milk from different mammals varies considerably in its composition. Milk from goats, elephants, cows, camels, wolves and walruses show differences in the content of fats, protein, sugars and minerals—each meant to give optimum nutrition to the young of their species. Most animals are breast-fed until they have tripled their birth weight. This occurs in humans by age 1. Humans are the only species to continue to consume milk after the weaning period AND the only species that drink another mammal’s milk. Simply put, cow’s is meant for calves.
If you are going to buy dairy products, it is so important to know where these products are coming from. Commercial dairy products come from commercial dairy cows that are kept in intense confinement, in individual stalls, on hard cement floors and hooked up to milking machines. They are forced to produce milk 10 months out of the year in an extremely crowded building. Sadly, commercially raised cows are only alive for an average of 42 months compared to the 12-15 years of a cow raised in an open pasture.
Along with terrible living conditions, commercially raised cows are fed a diet of mostly grain and other things they should not consume. Naturally, a cow should be grazing on grass. Most of their feed is made from corn and soy, which gets 80% of all herbicides in the US. Animal products contain up to 14 times more pesticides than plants. That’s a lot!
As if the living conditions and nutrition isn’t enough to make you turn away from commercially raised dairy and meat products, consuming them makes you consume antibiotics on a daily basis. This is because over 50% of all antibiotics produced in this country are mixed directly into the food given to these animals to prevent the sickly nature of factory farmed animals. Milk alone contains traces of up to 80 different antibiotics. Yikes!
Some alternatives to drinking cow’s milk include organic almond milk, organic coconut milk or organic cashew milk. All are very tasty options that exclude the additives of antibiotics and pesticides.
Additionally, eating high quality, locally-grown food will naturally increase bone density and decrease your risk of developing osteoporosis. Specific foods high in calcium include dark-green veggies like spinach, kale, turnips, and collard greens, sesame seeds and almonds, okra, rhubarb, dry beans, wild caught salmon and sardines, and onions.
Fun Fact: Collards and greens contain more calcium than one cup of milk along with the added benefit of vitamin K which is also necessary for strong bones. 100 calories of greens have over 3 times as much calcium of 100 calories of whole milk. Choose your nutrients wisely!