Question #2: Does My Child Need Milk for Calcium?
The short answer? No.
Let’s look at what we know through observation. Humans are the only species that will drink milk from another animal after being weaned in childhood. Think about cows or horses and how large and strong their bones are and they do not drink milk.
So where do these animals get their calcium to obtain such large and strong bones? From the grasses they eat. Yes, milk does have a larger concentration of calcium than most green vegetables, but most calcium rich veggies (i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, spinach, and collard greens) have a bio-availability (the amount absorbed into the blood stream) twice as high as milk and other dairy products. Therefore, I strongly recommend a wide variety of vegetables and nuts to achieve your daily calcium. It isn’t about how much you eat, it is about how much you absorb!
It’s also interesting to look at our body’s ability to break down milk, or more specifically milk sugar known as lactose, as we age. Lactose is broken down by an enzyme called lactase, which is produced by cells that line the small intestine. Now, isn’t it interesting that we automatically start to decrease our production of lactase (and therefore our ability to break down lactose) around the age of two, which is an average age for children to wean. How is that for intelligent design! When someone stops producing lactase altogether, they become lactose-intolerant and will suffer from severe gas, bloating, and diarrhea with any milk consumption.
The truth is, even if we don’t completely stop making lactase, everyone slows down production and therefore cannot handle milk by the gallon, especially into adulthood. We all fall somewhere on the lactose-intolerant spectrum. You may have bloating or gas after meals and not associate it with milk of dairy. (A great test is to go dairy-free for a few days and note the difference in digestion).
So do your family a favor and cut down the milk and increase the vegetable intake. THAT will do your body good!
How do we as parents provide the best opportunity for health in our children? Ask questions. Understand the answers. Make the decisions that are right for you and your family. In the end, the best advice that can be given is to lead by example. Strive for health in your life; in turn, they will learn by example. Give them the opportunity to grow in health! This is question 2 of 5 – Check back later this week for the next installment.