Most people start their day with 20 different painkillers, antibiotics, anti-fungals, and sex hormones.1
They do it unintentionally, in the name of good health.
In one sense they’re spot on, because the food that contains the drug cocktail has valuable nutrients, too. Yet this habit can have deadly results. Read on for how to get the nutrients without devastating your health in the process.
In today’s world, the path to disease is often paved with good intentions.
This milk study is a case in point. Researchers found all the drugs and sex hormones I mentioned above in just one glass of conventional milk. Scary, when you consider that most people think milk is a healthy food, a good source of protein and calcium.
Most Americans already get more protein than we need. Which leaves us with the question of whether we need milk to get calcium.
Should you be concerned about calcium?
When you think of calcium, you probably think of strong bones. But a growing number of studies suggest that too much calcium boosts your risk of cardiovascular events, while doing little to protect your bones.
On top of that – and this is going to surprise most readers — multiple studies link higher bone density to a nearly tripled rate of breast cancer.2
There’s an underrated difference between bone density and bone strength. They’re not the same.
However, calcium (in moderation) can offer benefits – it helps regulate your nervous system, hormone levels, blood pressure, and heartbeat.3 It may also help prevent diabetes.4
But you probably don’t want to rely on milk for your calcium, and you don’t want to take in too much calcium from all sources combined.
What’s so bad about milk?
Most milk comes from CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) and dairies that mimic assembly lines… But instead of manufactured goods, think live animals.
In the drive to maximize milk production, the cow’s health is a minor matter.
In many of these operations, cows live in tight, dirty spaces. No exercise. No grass. Usually dark. No sunlight.
Stress and their unnatural diet cause ruminal acidosis – an ulcer in the cow’s first stomach chamber. When this ulcer penetrates the stomach wall, it leaks bacteria that form liver abscesses.
Forced milk output also causes mastitis – a painful udder infection.5
And what’s the farmers’ go-to cure? Pump the cows full of steroids, antibiotics, and hormones to keep them working and producing.
Guess where all that medication eventually ends up? That’s right. Inside you, if you’re a milk drinker.
Between 2007 and 2016, annual US milk production swelled from 185 billion pounds to 213 billion pounds,6 while the number of cows actually went way down. We now have about 13 million fewer cows than we did in 1950.7
Today a dairy cow produces 7.2 gallons of milk per day.8 By nature, she should produce about three gallons a day.9
The net-net is that your health declines along with the cows’.
How to get calcium without milk
Conventional wisdom dictates that you need 700 to 1,000 mg of calcium every day.10
Some authorities dispute this amount, noting that your body only excretes about 100 mg per day. The excess could be accumulating in disturbing places like arteries and joints.
Add to this the fact that the Chinese eat a calcium-poor diet compared to Americans, consuming only about 250 mg per day. Yet unlike us, they haven’t even coined a word for that new disease, osteoporosis.
Calcium has been linked to atherosclerosis and heart attacks, especially when taken as a supplement.11 Scientists don’t know yet what causes the link.
Truth be told, healthy, unsprayed organic food is always the best way to get your nutrients, because food contains the synergistic nutrients and co-factors your body needs.
So how about making these calcium-rich foods into dietary staples?12,13
- Almonds: 100 mg calcium per ¼ cup
- Oranges: 50 mg calcium per medium orange and 74 mg per large orange
- Sweet potatoes: 50 mg calcium per medium baked sweet potato
- Salmon: about 40 mg calcium per fillet
- Blackstrap molasses: 400 mg calcium per 2 tablespoons
- Broccoli: 62 mg per 1 cup cooked
- Green beans: 37 mg per 1 cup cooked
- Kelp: 134 mg per cup
- Sesame seeds: 140 mg per tablespoon
- Lightly sautéed greens, like kale, turnip and mustard greens: varies, 94-197 mg per cup
- Broccoli rabe, steamed: 301 mg per cup
- Sardines: 325 mg per 3-ounce can
Do you really need – or want – all that calcium?
Since calcium can be deadly if it ends up in your arteries instead of your bones, it pays to approach it wisely.
Here are the secrets that hardly anyone knows…
Taking calcium in isolation (i.e. in a supplement) or in excess can be fatal – by allowing it to build up in coronary arteries and cause heart attacks. Even calcium taken alongside vitamin D seems to pose this risk. (Just for the record, I don’t take a calcium supplement.)
The book The Calcium Lie, written by Robert Thompson, M.D., claims that calcium overconsumption creates mineral deficiencies and imbalances that lead to many conditions, including heart disease, kidney stones, gallstones, hypothyroidism, osteoarthritis, and more.
For calcium to do your body good and not bad, it must be balanced with vitamins D3, K2, and magnesium. In fact, your bones and body may actually be screaming for these balancers, not calcium itself.
Vitamin D3 is important on its own, as well as to balance your calcium intake.14 It’s likely you need far more than the recommended 400 to 800 IU every day.
The best way to get it is sunlight, being careful not to burn. Take a supplement if you can’t get out in the sun, for instance, during the winter.
Vitamin K2 transports calcium where it needs to go and removes it from where it doesn’t belong. In other words, into your bones… not your arteries, organs, or joints.
K2 also activates osteocalcin, which helps bind calcium into your bone matrix.
Last, but certainly not least, it also activates the proteins that control cell growth. That means it helps protect you from cancer, says Dr. Kate Rhéaume-Bleue.15
Take 180 to 200 mg of K2 daily.16
Good K2 sources include fermented foods like raw sauerkraut and natto, goose liver pâté and some cheeses (like brie and Gouda).
Magnesium is linked to lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. It helps your muscles relax and aids sleep.17 You have more than 3,750 internal magnesium-binding sites and 300 enzymes that rely on magnesium for proper function.
The best natural, vegetarian source of magnesium is sea vegetables (kelp, dulse, and nori). You also get magnesium from spinach, Swiss chard, beet and turnip greens, almonds, kale, bananas, broccoli, avocados, and Brussel sprouts.
The bottom line
Ideally, you should consume equal amounts of magnesium and calcium.18 But here’s the twist: most people are far more deficient in magnesium than in calcium.
Food is your best source of both, as it naturally includes the balancing factors your body needs. And contrary to popular belief, many people may get sufficient calcium from their food. If you take a calcium supplement, choose a food-based one. But you’re far more likely to be deficient in magnesium. (Just for the record, I do take a magnesium supplement – a chelated one, to aid in bioavailability.)
- Azzouz, A, et al. “Simultaneous determination of 20 pharmacologically active substances in cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and human breast milk by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2011 May 11;59(9):5125-32.
- “Calcium in diet.” MedlinePlus. 2017 Aug.
- Beto, Judith A. “The Role of Calcium in Human Aging.”
- “Milk: Production by Year, US.” United States Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Statistics Service. 2017 Feb.
- Blayney, Don P. “The Changing Landscape of US Milk Production.” United States Department of Agriculture. Statistical Bulletin Number 978. 2002 June.
- “Milk: Production per Cow by Year, US.” United States Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Statistics Service. 2017 Feb.
- “How much milk does a cow produce in a day?” White Lies. 2016.
- National Institutes of Health (US) Dietary supplement fact sheet: calcium. Bethesda (MD): National Institutes of Health. 2013.
- “Calcium in diet.” MedlinePlus.
- Rheaume-Bleue, Kate, BS, ND. “Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life.” 2013.
- Seelig M, Rosanoff A. The Magnesium Factor. New York: Avery Books; 2003.