Many people choose to avoid milk and other dairy products because they contain fat, cholesterol, allergenic proteins, lactose, and frequently traces of contamination. Milk is also linked to juvenile-onset diabetes and other serious conditions. Happily, there are plenty of other safer and more reliable sources of calcium. Keeping your bones strong depends more on preventing the loss of calcium from your body than on boosting your calcium intake. Some cultures consume no dairy products and typically ingest only 175 to 475 milligrams of calcium per day.
However, these people generally have low rates of osteoporosis. Many scientists believe that exercise and other factors have more to do with osteoporosis than calcium intake does. Almost all the calcium in the body is in the bones, with a tiny amount in the bloodstream responsible for essential functions such as muscle contractions, maintenance of the heartbeat, and transmission of nerve impulses. We constantly lose calcium from our bloodstream through sweat and other excretions, which is then renewed with calcium from the bones. In this process, bones continually lose calcium that must be replaced from food.
Calcium needs change throughout life. Up to the age of 30 or so, we consume more calcium than we lose, and adequate calcium intake during childhood and adolescence is especially important. Later, the body begins to slip into negative calcium balance, and the bones start to lose more calcium than they take up. The loss of too much calcium can lead to soft bones or osteoporosis, and how rapidly calcium is lost depends, in part, on the kind and amount of protein you eat as well as other diet and lifestyle choices.
Reducing calcium loss depends on several factors such as high-protein diets causing more calcium to be lost through urine, protein from animal products being much more likely to cause calcium loss than protein from plant foods, caffeine increasing the rate at which calcium is lost through urine, alcohol inhibiting calcium absorption, and the mineral boron possibly slowing the loss of calcium from bones. Exercise slows bone loss and is one of the most important factors in maintaining bone health.
Sources of calcium include legumes such as chickpeas (78 mg per cup, canned), great northern beans (121 mg per cup, boiled), green beans (58 mg per cup, boiled), green peas (44 mg per cup, boiled), kidney beans (50 mg per cup, boiled), lentils (37 mg per cup, boiled), lima beans (52 mg per cup, boiled), navy beans (128 mg per cup, boiled), pinto beans (82 mg per cup, boiled), soybeans (175 mg per cup, boiled), tofu, raw, firm – 1/2 cup (258 mg), vegetarian baked beans (128 mg per cup), wax beans (174 mg per cup, canned), and white beans (161 mg per cup, boiled). If using calcium-fortified products, check the source of the calcium.
In summary, there are many reasons why people choose to avoid milk and other dairy products, and there are plenty of other sources of calcium to maintain bone health. Keeping a balanced diet and active lifestyle can also help to reduce calcium loss from the body.