Want strong bones? Drink your milk. At least, that’s what we were taught to believe. But these non dairy milk alternatives tell a different story and help us settle the debate of “does milk make your bones stronger?”
Milk has long been promoted as the key to building strong bones. Recent research, however, shows that milk may not be the magical bone elixir we thought it was. Still, other research confirms that milk is a good source of the essential nutrients we need to build strong bones. So, does milk actually make your bones stronger? Or are there similar (or even better) bone-building alternatives out there?
Milk Benefits: Truth or Myth?
Milk and bone health have been synonymous for decades. While some believe the benefits of milk are marketing hype fueled by the dairy industry, others still promote milk as one of the best foods to build bones.
Milk does contain calcium – about 305 mg per cup, or up to 21% of your recommended daily value. Fortified milk will also provide a substantial amount of vitamin D, which is another essential nutrient for bone health. Milk is also a rich source of other nutrients like phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12, potassium, zinc, choline, magnesium, and selenium.
We can’t deny the fact that milk contains the nutrients we need to thrive. But does milk prevent or improve bone issues such as fractures and osteoporosis as it is often advertised to do? A Harvard study followed over 72,000 women over the course of two years to find out. The results showed that drinking milk did not have an effect on whether the women developed osteoporosis or not.
You can also have too much of a good thing. High levels of calcium may have detrimental effects on the bones, and may even lead to osteoporosis. One study showed that drinking more milk as a male teenager is linked to an increased risk of bone fractures as an adult, while another showed that girls who consume more dairy have a higher likelihood of stress fractures.
So, does milk protect your bones or not?
Drinking cow’s milk can help provide some of the calcium your body needs to build and maintain strong bones. Whether you choose to drink milk for bone health depends on your own food preferences and health.
It’s important to note that not everyone can or should consume cow’s milk. Those who are lactose intolerant, have a milk allergy, or experience poor gut health should avoid dairy. Dairy is also good to avoid if you’re experiencing a lot of pain and inflammation in your body.
The good news is that cow’s milk is not the only way to eat for bone health! In fact, there are many foods and milk alternatives that rival milk’s calcium levels and offer additional health benefits.
Non-Dairy Milk and Milk Alternatives for Bone Health
Whether you want to avoid dairy or simply want to try milk alternatives, you’ve got options. There are at least 17 different types of plant-based milk, ranging from popular soy and oat to innovative potato and pea milk.
Beyond integrating seamlessly into your food and beverage recipes, you may also want to choose a milk alternative that builds bones as well as – or better than – cow’s milk. No problem. As you’ll see in the Milk Comparison Chart, most plant-based milk sources offer similar calcium content to cow’s milk, but far fewer grams of sugar and calories. Pea protein milk is a particularly good choice for bone health, due to its high levels of calcium, vitamin D, and protein.
Why Strong, Healthy Bones Matter
We’ve learned that cow’s milk and most plant-based milk can provide the nutrients we need to maintain strong and healthy bones. But why is that so important?
1) Healthy bones prevent injuries.
Having healthy bones is one of the best ways to ensure a long and healthy life and avoid issues like fractures, breaks, and osteoporosis. The stronger your bones, the less likely you are to get injured doing the activities you love.
2) Healthy bones keep you active.
Strong bones and joints also maintain healthy mobility and independence as you age. This helps to prevent falls and maintain your ability to perform daily activities like walking, climbing stairs, and lifting objects.
3) Healthy bones protect your organs.
Good bone health also impacts the rest of your body. The bones are the framework and support system for all your organs – including vital organs like the heart and lungs. Strong bones that these organs are well-protected and function properly.
4) Healthy bones store minerals.
Bones store important minerals like calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for many of your body’s daily functions and survival. You need healthy, strong bones to properly store these minerals until they are needed.
5) Healthy bones reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
When the bones become weak and brittle, a condition called osteoporosis can occur. Osteoporosis increases your risk of fractures and potentially dangerous complications. By building and maintaining strong bones throughout life, you can help reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis.
If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia, there is still time to build, strengthen, and maintain healthier bones with healthy habits.
How to Build Strong Bones Without Milk
Whether you choose to drink milk or not, there are many ways to build resilient bones that don’t involve cow or other animal milk.
Foods that Strengthen Bones
Some of the best bone-building food sources also make delicious and balanced meals. Take leafy greens for example – foods like kale, spinach, and collard greens are rich in bone-strengthening calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K.
Beans, legumes, chickpeas, nuts, and seeds are also great sources of calcium and other minerals that improve bone density. Along with enjoying nut milk or pea milk, consider adding these ingredients to your daily meals.
Along with calcium, make sure you get enough vitamin D. Foods like fatty fish, mushrooms, and eggs are good sources of vitamin D, as well as certain fortified foods.
Exercises that Strengthen Bones
Improving your bone health takes more than eating the right food; exercise is also an essential part of healthy bone maintenance. Keep active with regular exercise to stay mobile and strong. And don’t skimp on the weight-bearing exercises – these are essential for building and maintaining bone density, especially if you are at risk of osteopenia or osteoporosis. Walking, running, weightlifting, yoga, hiking, and even taking the stairs more often are great ways to build your bones. Learn more about the best exercises for bone health here!
Supplements that Strengthen Bones
When you think of bone health supplements, you probably think of calcium. And while calcium is essential for bones, other key vitamins and minerals are also needed to absorb calcium and protect the bones. For instance, vitamin D makes it possible for the body to absorb calcium into the bones. Vitamin K is needed to produce a protein called osteocalcin, which forms the matrix, or structure, of bones.
These vitamins and bone health supplement blends are easy to come by these days. But not all are created equal. At AlignLife, we recommend taking Bone Matrix from Aceva.
Bone Matrix is a powerful bone-building supplement that gives your body the proper mineral balance it needs to maximize bone formation. It contains 16 bone-building nutrients, as well as the perfect balance of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K2 for optimal absorption and bone formation.
A Healthy Lifestyle Builds Better Bones
If you want to enjoy an active, healthy life, you need strong bones. If you enjoy milk, it can be part of your bone-building lifestyle. But, milk is not the only way (or even the best way) to strengthen bones and prevent bone density loss. Habits such as eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods, taking key supplements, and exercising regularly all “build up” to build your bones.
If you’re concerned about your bone density levels or want to take a proactive approach to bone health as you age, AlignLife can help. Schedule a visit with your local AlignLife chiropractor to learn how you can start improving your bone health today.