Did you know that osteoporosis affects approximately 10 million Americans, and nearly 44 million others live with low bone density? Nearly 54 million Americans – half aged 50 or older – are currently at risk for breaking a bone and should be concerned about bone health, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Some of these individuals may be under the impression that the damage is done, but that's certainly not the case. With a healthy lifestyle, consisting of exercise and proper diet, one can manage the disease, or even prevent it from occurring in the first place.
This month, our special guest Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D., chair and professor of health and wellness at the University of North Carolina Asheville, led our webinar "What Do We Know About Nutritional Support of Bone Health" to help us better understand how we can best build and maintain healthy bones and how diet plays a key role in making this happen.
Do Milk and Other Dairy Products Promote Bone Health and Prevent Osteoporosis?
Bones are a complex system. They're living tissues that are made up of a matrix of collagen, water, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and other minerals that is constantly being built, broken down and restructured. The information many of us have learned all of our lives, from media, the U.S. government and textbooks from grade school, has taught us that cow's milk and dairy products can promote bone health and prevent osteoporosis. But is this true?
In the past, the focus has been largely on adding calcium and dairy supplementation to our diets because the bones are comprised of calcium. This has caused us to believe that if you drink more cow's milk, the stronger your bones will be and the less likely it is that you'll experience osteoporosis. It's assumed that pouring milk into our bodies mean it's going straight to the bones and making them stronger, but that's certainly not the case. That would mean the nutrients of the milk are absorbed quickly across the stomach and into the bloodstream, but this isn't always what happens – drinking milk doesn't necessarily mean calcium is making it to the bones.
The problem is, is that too much attention has been given to milk and dairy products for promoting bone health. We've discussed time and time again how humans were made to drink human milk, cows were meant to drink cow milk, and so on and so forth.
"Just look at nature – how many animals in the wild drink the milk of another species of animal?" Rev. George Malkmus wrote in his book 'The Hallelujah Diet' "We never seem to make the association that putting another animal's custom fuel-blend into our bodies or our children's bodies may be the cause of the physical problems we experience."
Bones need calcium, of course. However – there are many other dietary strategies we can follow that prioritize calcium. Perhaps we're looking in the wrong place for calcium. Sometimes it's not even individual foods that are the most beneficial – it's the synergistic dietary pattern that saves the body's cells properly.
Are the Currently Recommended Levels of Cow's Milk Dairy Products Causing Harm?
As stated earlier, there's a reason we assume it's OK to drink cow's milk. It has been heavily promoted by corporate interests for decades. Unfortunately, however, there are dozens of reasons to believe that dairy products are actually causing harm. For instance, milk sugar has been linked to causing stomach and lower gut upset, allergy and intolerance symptoms, increased risk of type 1 diabetes and cancer promoters, according to Lanou. Milk also contains hormones, antibiotics and pesticides that can cause unnecessary issues on their own.
What are the Most Useful Strategies for Building and Maintaining Bone Health?
So what exactly can we do to take care of our bones? Lanou provided the following tips for avoiding bone loss and building and maintaining bone health:
Reduce Bone Loss:
- Eliminate Protein from Animal Sources – Animal protein-dense foods make the blood more acidic, and the body responds by pulling the calcium out of the bones to neutralize this acid.
- Limit Salty Foods – Sodium leaches calcium from the bones when over consumed, so lowering your salt intake can reduce calcium loss and the breakdown of the bones.
- Avoid Smoking – Smoking tobacco separates calcium from the bones.
- Limit Caffeine – Consuming too much caffeine increases loss of calcium from the body.
Promote Bone Building:
- Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables – They're rich in vitamin C, K, potassium, magnesium and calcium which all promote bone health. Fruits and vegetables also don't reduce calcium absorption in the body.
- Incorporate Daily Exercise – Weight-bearing activities stimulate new bone growth.
- Prioritize Vitamin D – It controls the body's use of calcium and regulates bone-building.
Recommendations for those living with osteoporosis:
- Consume 500 to 700 mg of calcium per day from plant sources, like beans and greens.
- Test for vitamin D to see if you need to take a supplement.
- Increase your vegetable and fruit intake to six to nine servings per day.
Lanou's key takeaways to bone vitality: Build you diet around fruits and vegetables, consume adequate protein from plant sources and exercise daily to keep bones strong.
At Hallelujah Acres, we've spent decades learning about how harmful consuming animal products can be, and how thankful we are to receive our protein, calcium and other essential nutrients from plant-based sources. By eliminating cow's milk and other dairy products from your diet, you can still build and maintain strong bones, ultimately promoting longevity and overall wellness. Let us lead you down the path to better health with the power of the fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods God blessed us with from the beginning.