In my experience, the one aspect of the vegan diet that makes people FREAK OUT the most is the absence of dairy products. If I had a dollar for all the times I’ve been asked, “Where do you get your calcium if you don’t eat dairy foods,” I would be a very rich woman!
The subtext of this question, of course, is the terrible fear that has been drummed into just about everyone in western civilisation, that if you don’t get enough calcium, you’ll have weak bones and as you get older, those bones will snap like twigs. Hip fracture, vertebral crush fracture, wrist fracture, rib fracture – these are the bogeymen the dairy industry and its hangers-on threaten us with. You’ve all seen the TV ads that tell you that you must eat 3 serves of dairy products a day to get sufficient calcium.
So, is there any truth to this claim? Is there any evidence whatsoever that dairy products, or a high calcium intake, make for strong bones? I have one word for you – NO!
Here’s what a meta-analysis involving over 250 000 men and women found:
Pooled results from prospective cohort studies suggest that calcium intake is not significantly associated with hip fracture risk in women or men. Pooled results from randomized controlled trials show no reduction in hip fracture risk with calcium supplementation, and an increased risk is possible. For any nonvertebral fractures, there was a neutral effect in the randomized trials.
In other words, a high calcium intake did not protect bones from fracturing, and some trials suggested high calcium intake could even increase the risk of suffering a fracture.
Another study, involving over 72 000 postmenopausal women, specifically examined the link between dairy product consumption and fracture risk, and found that
An adequate vitamin D intake is associated with a lower risk of osteoporotic hip fractures in postmenopausal women. Neither milk nor a high-calcium diet appears to reduce risk.
Now, I could give you a long list of plant foods that are high in calcium, but to be honest, I am afraid that just reinforces people’s obsession with ‘getting enough’. My message is very simple: stop eating crap, stop salting your food, slash your animal protein consumption (both salt and animal protein cause you to urinate out yor calcium), eat a wide variety of unprocessed plant foods especially green vegetables, and stop worrying about calcium!
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