Q. I don’t feel well after eating dairy foods, but I’m worried about missing out on calcium. Should I be taking extra supplements instead?
A. Dairy foods like milk, ice cream and cheese can be tasty, but it doesn’t always feel good to eat them. Many people who eat milk or milk products experience digestive problems or allergic reactions. Different people show different levels of tolerance.
Some people have a tough time digesting the milk sugar, called lactose, and so they get tummy aches, gas or stomach pains. And some people experience allergic responses to proteins in the milk or milk products. The body rejects the milk proteins, which triggers an immune response as if it were warding off invaders. Symptoms can include excess mucous in the throat, shortness of breath, nausea, headaches and even hives.
Since a large percentage of adults suffer this negative response—especially those with Mexican, African, Native-American or Asian heritage, some believe it’s a signal that milk or milk products aren’t natural for the body to eat. Vegans, who do not eat dairy products, like to point out that humans are the only species who, as adults, not only consume milk meant for the young, but are the only species who that drinks the milk of an entirely different species.
Some people are also concerned about the way that animals used to produce milk and other foods are treated may produce foods that are less-easily tolerated by the human body. For example, it’s been well publicized that conventional animal-food manufacturers may pump animals full of drugs such as antibiotics or growth hormones.
While milk and milk products do offer nutrients, especially for bone health because they are rich in calcium, you can still obtain the nutrients you need through other sources. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults “choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products.”
Eating calcium-fortified foods, or taking calcium + Vitamin D supplements are another source of some of the bone nutrients needed. But most nutrition experts recommend that nutrient needs be met through real foods, not pills. There are also many nutrients, known as phytochemicals, in plant foods that are not in a pill form, and may have not even get yet been identified.
Calcium isn’t the only nutrient important for bone, though. Vitamin D which is generated in your body from exposure to the sun, Vitamin K, magnesium and other minerals all help bones get stronger. You can find bone-boosting nutrients in all plant foods including:
1. Leafy greens (kale, greens, broccoli)
4. Soybeans (including steamed edamame and tofu)
5. Nuts (like almonds)
More from MSN Healthy Living:
- 6 foods that weaken bones
- 10 sneaky ways to boost calcium
- Exercising with osteoporosis: Stay active the safe way
- Bing: Osteoporosis symptoms
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Just because it’s in the dairy aisle doesn’t mean it’s packed with nutrients