While it’s true that several dairy products have a high amount of calcium when you read the nutrition facts, a lot of this calcium is not bioavailable – meaning our bodies cannot use majority of the calcium that is in the product.

The bioavailability of calcium from dairy is about 30% – meaning that if you consumed a glass of milk with 125mg of calcium, only 37.5mg is available to be used by bone tissue [1]. This is not to say that dairy cannot be beneficial to bone health, but dairy’s significance on bone health is likely to be overestimated. Additionally, cohort studies suggest that increasing dairy consumption does not reduce the risk of osteoporosis and hip fracture [2].

Another interesting finding that suggests bone health isn’t significantly impacted by dairy is that Asian countries have some of the lowest reported dairy intakes and highest rates of lactose-intolerance, yet they also have a lower risk of osteoporosis and fracture. This is likely due to the very high consumption of other calcium- rich foods, such as soy and fish. If you are avoiding dairy, you may be concerned about how to achieve optimal calcium levels through your diet. The good news is that a lot of non-dairy containing foods are also rich in calcium! Some non-dairy, high calcium foods include: almond, tahini, collard greens, kale, tofu, soy beverages, and bone-in salmon [3].

However, if bone health is a concern of yours, considering other nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin K2, and magnesium in addition to calcium are important. Additionally, weight-bearing movement is an imperative part of any bone health plan and should not be neglected!

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References 1. Fairweather-Tait SJ, Teucher B. Iron and calcium bioavailability of fortified foods and dietary supplements. Nutr Rev. 2002 Nov;60(11):360-7. doi:10.1301/00296640260385801. PMID: 12462518. 2. Malmir H, Larijani B, Esmaillzadeh A. Consumption of milk and dairy products and risk of osteoporosis and hip fracture: a systematic review and Meta-analysis. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(10):1722-1737. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2019.1590800. Epub 2019 Mar 26. PMID: 3090972. 3. https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=aa160464