Calcium and the dairy debate

Whether you are interested in health, animal welfare or both the topic of milk and dairy is well worth exploring. With lots of information about zero grazing dairies, the use of drugs in diary and the health implications of consuming dairy it is good to know your options.

Do we need to consume dairy for calcium? The simply answer is no, despite having been raised on the idea that we do. Ask people where calcium comes from and the majority will say milk or dairy. This is correct but our perception that it is an essential source or the only source of calcium is incorrect. There are lots of other quality non-dairy sources of calcium available to us.

It is also incorrect that calcium intake is a way to ensure strong bones. It is also important to build and maintain bones through exercise https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/healthy-bones/Pages/exercises-for-strong-bones.aspx . We also need vitamin D to regulate calcium and milk is a poor source of vitamin D. (it is fortified in other countries but not in the UK) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d

There are also a lot of studies that show calcium via milk isn’t good for bones or general health for example https://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-milk-good-for-our-bones

Getting a clear answer is challenging, there is lots of conflicting information with people defending or criticising dairy. https://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics loaded with facts about bone health without not biased towards either dairy or a vegan diet. The global dairy industry is worth around £7.5 / $443 Billion, so their power, influence and budget for marketing it quite large!

What is clear is that calcium is essential for our overall health. Almost every cell in our body uses calcium in some way, our nervous system, muscles, heart and bone. Our bones store calcium in addition to providing support for our bodies. Surprisingly few people question calcium intake relating to a diet that contains dairy, however mention cutting out or reducing dairy and the sirens go off. The reality is whatever your diet choice you should consider your calcium intake. Having the knowledge gives you the choice, did you know spring greens contain the same amount of calcium as milk.

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