For most of our Canadian lives, we are told that lasting bone strength is a glass or two of milk

away. This is reflected heavily in the Canada’s Food Guide, which acts as a foundation piece for nutrition and wellness in doctors’ offices, classrooms and even many kitchen tables.

Commercials and other ads push hard to make sure people have “got milk” by making it synonymous with calcium and bone health. But is it?

Dairy is not the only source of calcium. And often it is not even the best source. Two large Swedish cohort studies that followed collectively over 100,000 people over the course of 20 and 11 years found that a high intake of dairy could actually increase the risk of fractures. The researchers point to the D-galactose and lactose in milk as possible culprits behind oxidative stress and accelerated aging that may paradoxically weaken bones.

There are a number of excellent non-dairy sources of calcium and simple lifestyle habits you can build into your daily routine to ensure your bones stay strong throughout your life.

4 Quick Tips to Keep Bones Strong

1. Get vitamin D and magnesium

Calcium is a difficult mineral to absorb. This means that even if you consume a lot of it, it might not be making its way to the right places in your body and it might not be doing what you need it to do. Vitamin D and magnesium are both essential for the absorption and proper use of calcium in our bodies. With our northern exposure and diets, both of these nutrients tend to be lacking in our lives. Consider supplements to help you top up.

2. Go beyond the dairy aisle

There are many delicious foods that offer good amounts of calcium while providing variety to your diet. Sea vegetables, such as spirulina, dulse, and kelp, are all high in calcium. Leafy green vegetables, chickpeas, and tahini or sesame seeds are also great sources.

3. Stay active

Weight-bearing exercises, such as yoga, walking and jogging all help to build up bones and keep them strong. Help the children in your life build good bone habits by encouraging an active lifestyle from a young age.

4. Don’t forget other nutrients

The issue with supplementing single nutrients is that they often don’t take into account the synergistic effect of many micronutrients working together. Our bodies are complex and require a wide range of different nutrients – not just large amounts of a few. Vitamin K, silicon, strontium, boron, and zinc all work together to build bones. Omega 3 fatty acids help to increase calcium absorption and delivery to the bones. Lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, red berries, and beets, also do their part to keep bones strong. The best way to get all the nutrients your bones need is to eat a balanced diet with a rich variety of foods and colours.

Like all areas of health and wellness, keeping your bones healthy takes a holistic approach combining a varied, healthy diet with an active lifestyle.