5 Ways I Build Strong Bones Without Dairy
Believe it or not, you can get all of the calcium your body needs without ever touching a glass of cow’s milk. I'm not a huge fan of milk because, among its many problems, studies show that dairy can stall fat loss and exacerbate skin conditions like acne.
“Despite what those milk-mustachioed celebrities in those ‘Got Milk?’ ads have been telling us for years, humans have no nutritional requirement for milk, and it may be doing us more harm than good because of all the sugar even plain nonfat milk contains,” wrote Dr. David Ludwig in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics.
Let’s focus on strong bones. Studies show countries with the highest milk consumption have the highest levels of osteoporosis. And the Nurses' Health Study, which monitored 77,761 nurses over 12 years, found that those who consumed the most milk had the highest risk of bone fractures.
Fortunately, you never need to touch another glass of cow’s milk to get calcium and other nutrients when you focus on these five bone-boosting strategies:
1. Get some sunshine.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb and maintain calcium. One study found sun exposure for about 10 minutes, two to three times a week, coupled with a vitamin D supplement creates healthy bones and optimizes immunity. Ask your doc for a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test; your levels should ideally fall in the 50 to 80 ng/ml range. If you don't hit that range, work with your doctor on taking a 5,000-IU vitamin D supplement until you do.
2. Eat more greens.
Leafy green veggies provide an often overlooked calcium source. One cup of cooked broccoli rabe, for instance, offers more than half of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium. Collard greens, kale, and spinach also provide excellent sources of this bone-supporting mineral. Combine these green leafy veggies with some good fat like extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil to optimally absorb fat-soluble vitamins D and K.
3. Lift heavy to build strong.
Studies show strength and muscle mass correlate with bone density. I combine burst training with weight resistance for the most effective, efficient exercise on the planet. Think plank-ups with weights or lunges with bicep curls.
4. Incorporate omegas.
Among their benefits, studies show anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in wild-caught salmon and other fish improve bone health. If you’re not eating wild fish at least three times a week, consider a high-quality omega-3 supplement that contains about 1 gram total of EPA and DHA fatty acids.
5. Nosh on nuts.
Along with protein and fiber, slow-roasted or dehydrated almonds and other nuts or nut butters pack bone-supporting minerals like calcium, zinc, manganese, and hard-to-get magnesium. One study associated inadequate magnesium with lower bone mineral density.
If you’ve traded the cow in and no longer do dairy, what recommendation would you add here to support optimal bone health? Share yours with other readers!
JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN, is a celebrity nutrition and fitness expert who helps clients lose weight fast by breaking free from food intolerance. A certified nutrition specialist, board certified Holistic Nutritionist, and Certified Exercise Physiologist, she is the author of the New York Times best-sellers The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days and The Virgin Diet Cookbook: 150 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Lose Weight and Feel Better Fast.