Updated: Mar 21
Remember those popular magazine ads with Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes posing with a thick white mustache while holding a glass of milk? As a 90's kid, I still think of the health benefits that I get from drinking a glass of milk a day. Allow me to dig a little deeper for you.
Day 5: Have you looked at your bones lately?
Dairy products are today still the best course of calcium. there are other foods like spinach, tofu, and almonds that have calcium; however, there is something called bioavailability that allows the body to absorb calcium. This is partly dependent on whether there is adequate Vitamin D available. Hopefully, you're starting to see how nutrition can't be looked at in isolation.
Dairy has 30 - 35% absorbability rate, which despite the low number, is actually pretty good. Plant sources, on the other hand (yes, this includes plant-based milks or "milk alternatives") have a measly 6% absorption rate. This low absorption rate is mostly due to the lack of casein (a protein in cow's milk) and lactose (a natural sugar in cow's milk) that help the absorbability along with phosphorous and Vitamin D mentioned earlier. Tannins, which are present in plant foods, inhibit the absorption, which also contributes to the low absorption rate.
Calcium is important not only to building strong bones and teeth, but it is also important for the brain to receive and send signals to your body, helps regulate blood pressure, and assists in the release of hormones that affect body functions. Statistically speaking, White/Caucasian adult women are most at risk of developing osteoporosis and will need at least 3 - 4 sources of dairy a day.
So, what's the take-away? Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body. Dairy is not bad for you. In fact, it's the best source of calcium despite the improvements of food products. If you are a vegan, please stop in for a session to make sure you are getting your needs met. Unlike Vitamin D, it is not easy to decipher your calcium intake status. You may see a blood serum level for calcium on your latest bloodwork, but that is a really poor and incomplete marker. This is because your body tightly regulates calcium, meaning if there isn't enough for the heart and blood vessels, for instance, the body will draw it from your bones and teeth to make sure there's enough for more important functions. The best indicator of calcium intake is to look at your bone density. This is called a DEXA scan. This is a scan of your bones that gives you a score compared to healthy peers your age. And, it serves as a baseline over the years.
There is so much that is tied into calcium intake, bone density, and its lasting effect on the body that I'll have to leave it for tomorrow. Meanwhile, remember that healthy aging (this series) starts with self-care. Consider investing in a consult to go over your diet and nutrition needs for your current lifestyle. Book below and let us help you sort through the special puzzle that is you.
For now, I'll leave you with the beginning question - Got Milk?
Jen Pfeilfer, MS, APD
Dr. Thomas R. Schneider, Medical Director