Do you need to drink milk for strong bones?

AdobeStock_118465590.jpeg

In the United States, we’ve come to associate cow’s milk with Calcium and Vitamin D, and we’ve also been told that getting lots of calcium is essential for strong bones. Because of this, many people fear that if they avoid dairy, they will have weak, brittle bones.

It is true that dairy products do contain a large amount of calcium. It is also true that calcium is essential for building bones (we also need it for nerve and muscle function). However, calcium can easily be acquired through a plant-based diet. The main sources of calcium in a plant-based diet are beans and greens such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, collards, kale and chickpeas or baked beans.

In addition, there are many products that are fortified with calcium such as soy milk, other plant milks, tofu, and orange juice. Blackstrap molasses is also a good source of calcium.

A few servings of these foods per day will provide you with a good amount of calcium.

What is also very important is to AVOID some foods or habits that may actually weaken your bones.

Excess salt, soda, caffeine and a diet high in animal protein tend to promote calcium loss through the urine. In addition, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, and certain medications such as steroids also weaken the bones.

Another nutrient that is essential in forming strong bones is Vitamin D. Vitamin D works with calcium to form strong bones. Vitamin D is produced in the skin during exposure to sunlight. If you are not getting enough daily sunshine, then consider a supplement of at least 600 IU per day.

But what’s even more important is to understand what truly leads to strong bones. We need strong bones to avoid fractures, but also to prevent osteoporosis, or brittle bones when we are older.

The most important thing you can do to develop strong bones is weight-bearing exercise. Weight-bearing exercise is exercise that puts stress on your bones such as walking, running and jumping jacks. Staying active causes your bones to remodel and stay strong.

If you are eating a plant-based diet and want to keep your bones strong, make sure that you are getting plenty of beans, leafy greens or fortified plant-based products, do your daily weight-bearing exercise and avoid smoking, excess alcohol, sodium, caffeine, and sodas. And get sufficient vitamin D from the sun or from a supplement.