Those of you who follow me on Twitter (or read my tidbits on Facebook regularly) know my stance on milk — yes, it is a good source of calcium and vitamin D (though, remember, milk in the US contains vitamin D because it is mandated by law; in many other countries, milk is devoid of the sunshine vitamin), but not the best source; it also lacks many nutrients that are crucial for healthy bones.
Too often, conversations and debates on the nutritional “worth” of milk turn into a “cows” versus “soybeans” face-off or, if it’s slightly more advanced, “cows” versus all the available milk alternatives (soy, almond, coconut, hemp, oat, and hazelnut).
As far as calcium is concerned, fortified foods and beverages contain calcium that is just as absorbable as — and in some cases, more absorbable than — the calcium in milk. In other words — the added calcium in soy or almond milk is just as good for your bones as the one in cow’s milk (or any other animal’s milk, for that matter).
Unlike the vast majority of nutrients, which only work effectively within their respective food matrices (i.e.: vitamin E, which needs to work with other antioxidants that are present in the foods it is in to do its job properly), calcium’s health benefits are equally derived from food or supplementation.
Vitamin D is fortified in dairy and non-dairy milks. Besides, in order to consume the high amounts we now know are needed for overall health (not just bone health), supplementation is a must.
In order to truly tackle the topic of bone health, though, we need to go beyond the calcium and vitamin D content of milk and its vegan analogues and instead identify all the nutrients that play important roles in bone health. In doing so, we find that milk is far from the king of the bone health hill.