Most people consider dairy foods, primarily based on cow’s milk, to be their best choice for meeting their need for dietary calcium. And it’s true that milk from cows, and products made with milk from cows, are good sources of calcium.
But they come with a few downsides as well. First of all, a lot of dairy products have plenty of saturated fat and cholesterol. In addition, many people are allergic to dairy and may get hives or begin vomiting. People with lactose intolerance may experience unpleasant side effects such as bloating, gas or diarrhea after eating dairy.
Does that mean that without dairy products, one’s diet will be deficient in calcium or you’ll need to take a supplement?
No, it does not.
It’s a great secret in the nutritional world that dark green, leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli, collard greens and bok choy, all plant-based foods, are rich in calcium. The calcium in these vegetables is easily absorbed by the body and also contains fiber plus vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K and iron.
Other non-dairy food sources of calcium include figs, oranges, white beans, fortified tofu, edamame, okra, green beans and almonds.
Besides the cholesterol and saturated fat in dairy products based on cow’s milk and the uncomfortable side effects some people experience, there is another, even less pleasant problem with cow’s milk.
It’s pus (somatic cells) that comes from the inflamed or infected udders (known as mastitis) of dairy cows on factory farms. And it’s almost certainly in your milk supply to some extent, because industry standards, which vary from country to country, allow for a certain amount of somatic cells.
On his website NutritionFacts.org, Dr. Michael Greger wrote that “According to the USDA, 1 in 6 dairy cows in the United States suffers from clinical mastitis, which is responsible for 1 in 6 dairy cow deaths on U.S. dairy farms.” Dairy farmers dispute this and say that dairy cows with inflamed or infected udders are treated and cleared before their milk enters the food supply.
Although there is no way for the average consumer to know for sure which side is closer to the truth, it’s certainly true that there is no issue of somatic cells or cholesterol or saturated fat or lactose intolerance in any of the non-dairy sources of calcium.