I remember when I was 12 years old I was with my dad spending the afternoon at one of his friend’s house. It was a boring work thing and I got to tag along.

Good thing was his friend had a daughter roughly the same age as me and so we spent the afternoon playing together.

She was tall and I was short.

I remember my dad asking her how she got so tall and she responded with saying “I drink lots of milk.”

So, in an effort to grow taller, I went home and drank milk.

It lasted about a week.

I would drink a large glass in the morning and again at night in the hopes that my height would increase overnight.

Well, it didn’t. And I didn’t really enjoy drinking milk to begin with.

I did however have it in my morning cereal, but I typically wasn’t so inclined to drink a glass of it.

Bottom line, I grew up thinking (along with many people) that milk makes your bones strong and makes you tall.

It was a part of a healthy diet, right?

In my early twenties, I remember being at a health event, and though I can’t remember who the speaker was, I remember hearing them say, “Milk is meant for a baby calf, to help them grow to be 600 pounds in a year. We are the only species that drinks another species milk!”

Gross. I got turned off immediately and forever gave up milk.

So here’s the deal with milk:

  • It does not prevent osteoporosis. In fact, countries with the highest incidence of osteoporosis are also among the highest consumers of cow’s milk.
  • The Harvard Nurses study, which followed more than 75,000 women for 12 years, showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk. In fact, intake of calcium from dairy products was associated with an increase in fracture risk. Crazy right?

Now I’m not telling you to completely give up dairy and forever forgo the ice cream or piece of cheese, but I would suggest you enjoy these things as treats and most definitely, not rely on them to protect your bones.

If you can get your hands on some raw dairy, that’s a different story. Dairy from organic grass-fed cows is highly nutritious and studies have shown the positive benefits of raw milk consumption on our immune system and fighting infection. If you choose to have dairy, have it sparingly, choose organic and source out raw aged cheeses, if you can.

If you’ve followed along my 21-day Qualitarian plan in my eBook, The Qualitarian Life, you know that on day 7, I ask you to give up the dairy and switch it up for plant based sources of calcium. If you don’t have a copy, you can head on over here to grab yours today and get started on my 21-day healthy diet overhaul.

What about calcium supplements?

Honestly, throw them out. A German study found that the risk of having a heart attack almost doubled among calcium supplement users compared with non-users. Supplemental calcium can actually contribute to blood vessel calcification.

That means hardening of the arteries!

Calcium supplements tend to contain really cheap sources of calcium, which are not very bioavailable (useful) to the body. Chances are they are causing more harm than good. It is best to get your calcium from whole FOOD!

Here are some amazing calcium sources (servings below are based on ¼ cup):

  • Almonds – 95mg
  • Almond butter – 169mg
  • Blackstrap molasses – 708mg
  • Sesame seeds – 560mg
  • Kale – 23mg
  • Navy beans – 31mg
  • Figs – 26mg

Some other VERY important things to keep in mind with bone health:

  • Lack of calcium intake isn’t the problem (North America has the highest intake of calcium in the world and yet we also have the highest incidence of osteoporosis).
  • Too much or too little protein intake can affect bone health
  • A diet high in sugar and processed foods can leech minerals and lead to bone loss
  • Lack of exercise and weight bearing exercise can lead to bone loss
  • Hormonal imbalances lead to bone loss (low estrogen can weaken bones, which is why pre-menopausal women are at the highest risk for osteoporosis or women who are struggling with PCOS and amenorrhea (no period)
  • Suffering with bone loss also means you’ll have suppressed immune function, low energy, inflammation and potential weight gain.
  • Calcium is one piece of the bone-building puzzle. More importantly, you need magnesium, vitamin K2, vitamin D and Silica to help “escort” calcium into the bone.

So if you’re chugging back glasses of milk or eating copious amounts of cheese in an effort to protect your bones, stop. Opt for more plant based sources of calcium and be sure to get other important minerals and vitamins in your diet or through supplementation to assist in bone health and overall longevity.

Got questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below or email me at samanthagladish@gmail.com if you’re interested in a bone building, hormonal balancing meal plan and program. 

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