“Drink your milk so you grow up big and strong!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that phrase uttered in my life. I’m pretty sure all kids are told relentlessly by their parents to gulp down glass after glass of the creamy white stuff. I know I sure drank my fair share of milk growing up. My mom and I easily made a gallon of milk disappear in less than a week between the two of us. I eventually stopped chugging milk like there was no tomorrow when I figured out how much it was upsetting my stomach. It wasn’t until later down the road that I started learning about some of the health problems dairy can cause, like joint pain, autoimmune disease, disrupted hormone regulation, and even some cancers. As a dietitian, my recommendation to clients to cut down their milk consumption when they’re having stomach issues or other health concerns is often met with protests of “but how will I get the calcium I need?!”
It’s a good question. Calcium is an important mineral that many people don’t get enough of. It helps with bone strength, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction. Most adults typically need 1,000 mg of calcium per day. When talking about calcium intake, it’s also important to mention it’s partner in crime: vitamin D. Vitamin D helps aid the absorption of calcium so it can be better utilized in the body and gives you a better bang for your buck. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish like salmon, egg yolks, and fortified foods like orange juice, among other things. Exposure to the sun also helps your body convert vitamin D into a usable form.
So back to the milk and calcium thing. What if you don’t want to drink milk? Will your bones crumble to pieces before you cross The Hill to the big bad 50? Put your worries aside and focus on these non-dairy sources of calcium.
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