If you’ve given up milk products for the long-term, here are some facts to consider:
Calcium is vital for bone density, muscle function and pH balance in the body. Removing milk products—which are the most significant sources of calcium in the diet– can have a detrimental effect on health if calcium is not substituted in some way.
- Not all dairy-substitute products are calcium-rich or calcium-fortified. Plant-based milk substitutes like soy, almond and oat are naturally low in calcium. Look for the ones that contain calcium in the ingredient list and give you 30% of your recommended daily intake in one cup.
- Be aware that most dairy substitutes are ultra-processed foods. They can be used as a treat but should not be relied upon daily. Besides, they not only lack calcium—they tend to be very low in all vitamins and minerals (besides sodium).
- A calcium supplement is the easiest way to obtain your daily calcium requirements. Adults need a total intake of 1000 mg daily until they turn 50, about 1200 mg after that, and 1500 mg daily if they have a diagnosis of osteoporosis. Look for calcium citrate (vegan) or calcium hydroxyapatite (not vegan) as these forms of calcium are easier on the digestive tract than calcium carbonate. Supplementation is particularly important if you can’t eat any dairy at all due to a milk allergy.
- Lactose-intolerance does not require that you give up milk products entirely. Most yogurts and aged cheeses are naturally lactose-free because the bacterial cultures they contain digest the lactose for us. You can also use supplementary lactase—an enzyme that digests lactose (a milk sugar) for you. It’s available in capsule form in most pharmacies and health food stores.
If you need help modifying your diet to meet your health goals without compromising your nutrition, a holistic nutritionist can help!