Many people may think that it would be better to eat cardboard covered in cheese than it would be to give up cheese. Sometimes the thought of not having milk for your cereal or with your cookies can be a real crisis, but there are so many creative alternatives to dairy, that it can be an easier switch than you think.
People give up dairy for various reasons, including having an allergy to it, developing an intolerance that causes stomach upset, or having concerns about the way it is produced (animal welfare and/or added hormones). One concern many people have about giving up milk is loss of calcium.
People have been led to believe for years that milk and milk products are the best source of calcium. Calcium is important because it builds strong bones and healthy teeth, and contributes to other functions within the body. But some dairy products can actually have a negative effect on calcium absorption in the body.
Because of the way some milk is processed minerals and nutrients are removed before the milk is bottled and sent to the store. Our bodies have to find the minerals and nutrients that were removed in order to properly digest it. Dairy is also considered a more acidic food, and if you have a high level of acidity in your body, minerals are extracted from your bones in order to neutralize your pH.
Even though there definitely is calcium in dairy products, there are better sources out there like beans, sesame seeds, sardines, kale, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, tofu, and almonds.
How can you get calcium in your bones and keep it there?
1. Eat your greens and beans.
2. Exercise, so calcium has somewhere to go. Active people tend to keep calcium in their bones, while sedentary people lose calcium. Physical activity that puts some strain on bones causes them to retain and possibly even gain density throughout life.
3. Get vitamin D (from sun or supplements) as it controls your body's use of calcium.
4. Avoid excess salt. Sodium can greatly increase the loss of calcium through your kidneys.
5. Get most of your protein from plants, not animal products (which are generally more acidic) 6. Don't smoke. Smoking increases the loss of calcium from the body.
Jami Scott is the healthy eating co-ordinator at Whole Foods.
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