Do I need to drink milk for strong bones?

Do I need to drink milk for strong bones?

An adult body contains around 2% calcium, mostly found in the skeleton and teeth – the rest is stored in the tissues or blood. Calcium is vital for healthy teeth and bones. It also plays a crucial role in other systems of the body, such as the health and functioning of nerves and muscle tissue. 

If there is a shortfall of Calcium either from our diet or lifestyle factors that reduce calcium (see below) our bodies will automatically take calcium from our bones to keep our important body systems operating. If this happens regularly, our bones become depleted of calcium which can lead to osteoporosis, which, in turn leads to weak bones that break easily.

While dairy products like milk, yoghurt and cheese are the main foods we think of.  Many other foods are also good sources of calcium, this is particularly helpful when you might have a dairy allergy or intolerance or if you’re vegan. Many non-western cultures have evolved without dairy foods by eating other sources of calcium.

What about milk? When reviewing the data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a study involving 77,761 women, researchers found no evidence that higher intakes of milk improved bone health. In fact, women who drank 2 or more glasses of milk per day had an increased relative risk of 45% for hip fracture compared to women consuming 1 glass or less per week.

In other words, the more milk a woman consumed, the more likely she was to experience a hip fracture. Higher Vitamin D intake was deemed more important in protecting women from hip fractures. 

Whether you’re vegan, lactose-intolerant, or not a dairy fan, these foods will keep your bones strong:

  • Nuts and seeds – almonds, brazil nuts, sesame seeds (tahini), chia seeds, poppy seeds
  • Canned salmon and sardines (with bones)
  • Tofu
  • Beans/legumes
  • Green leafy vegetables- kale, cabbage, broccoli, okra, bok choy
  • Figs, Oranges

15 Almonds = 40mg calcium
3 Tablespoons of Chia seeds = 250 mg of calcium
½ cup of canned salmon = 402g calcium
1 cup Edamame  = 98mg calcium
100mg Cannellini beans = 55mg calcium
½ cup Tofu = 434mg calcium
2 dried Figs = 65 mg calcium  

Lifestyle factors that affect calcium absorption

  • High-protein and high salt diets are associated with increased excretion of calcium in the urine and increased risk for osteoporosis.
  • Low Vitamin D levels are risk factor for calcium absorption and utilisation.
  • Refined sugar intake  increases the loss of calcium from the bone.
  • Caffeine intake, in coffee, tea and energy drinks can modestly increase calcium excretion and reduce absorption.
  • Carbonated soft drinks with high levels of phosphate is associated with reduced bone mass and increased fracture risk.
  • Proton pump inhibitors prescribed for acid reflux (brand names Nexium or Losec) also decrease calcium absorption and have been linked to hip fractures when used long term.

Try this non dairy high calcium recipe.

Delicious Mixed Green Soup Recipe


  • 1 leek
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 3 cups of fresh kale greens
  • 3 cups of fresh swiss chard
  • 3 cups of fresh chinese cabbage greens
  • 1 cup canned cannellini rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup of black beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup of corn, drained
  • ½ tsp. of garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. of salt
  • ¼ tsp. of black pepper
  • ½ cup of toasted slivered almonds


  1. In a large pot over medium heat, add the chopped onion and leek and the chicken broth.
  2. Saute the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes until the onions/leek  are tender.
  3. Add the  tomato, greens, black beans, white beans, corn, garlic, salt, and pepper into the pot and cook for 30 minutes on low heat, add enough water to cover.
  4. Stir frequently so not to burn.
  5. Sprinkle the almonds on top of the soup, serve, and enjoy.

The preparation time is 15 minutes, and the cook time is 45 minutes


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