Good Sources of Calcium and Vitamin D Articles
So cow’s milk is a good source of Calcium and Vitamin D, but what about non-dairy milks?
Despite fortification with calcium and some other nutrients, plant-based dairy alternatives lack many of the important nutrients naturally and uniquely provided by milk. That’s because they usually come from beans, nuts or cereal foods like oats and rice, which are not naturally rich in calcium, although they are very healthy eaten as wholefoods.
Therefore, cow’s milk and plant-based dairy alternatives are not nutritionally equivalent.
- Whole milk is generally higher in calories and fat compared to plant-based beverages, but semi-skimmed and skimmed milk have comparable levels to most of the alternatives.
- Cow’s milk is higher in protein compared to plant-based alternatives. However, soya beverages have comparable levels but the protein in cow’s milk is of higher nutritional quality.
- The carbohydrate component of cow’s milk is composed of the naturally occurring milk-sugar, lactose. Many plant-based dairy alternatives contain added sugar or sweeteners. So read labels and try to buy unsweetened varieties.
- Cow’s milk is a rich source of bioavailable calcium and iodine, but the calcium bioavailability of plant-based beverages depends on the type of fortificant used and many do not contain iodine.
- Many plant-based alternatives contain additives such as stabilisers, emulsifiers, flavourings, sweeteners and salt. Fresh cow’s milk does not contain these additives.
At Ireland’s latitude (51–55˚ north), from March to September, people can make vitamin D from strong sunlight – but this is not safe due to the risk of skin cancer. Studies in Ireland have revealed that low vitamin D status and vitamin D deficiency are widespread in the population of Ireland.
People need to eat foods that are rich in vitamin D or take a supplement that contains vitamin D. Cow’s milk and non-dairy milks are not a natural source of Vitamin D. However, there are some milks that are fortified with Vitamin D on the supermarket shelves.
Only a few foods are naturally rich in Vitamin D. Oily fish is the best natural source of vitamin D. Oily fish also provides other nutrients which are hard to get. Oily fish provides essential fatty acids (DHA and EPA) which protect against heart disease and stroke. Other foods (such as eggs) contain small amounts of vitamin D.
People who do not eat foods which are rich in Calcium and Vitamin D should take a supplement.
Date of Preparation: December 2021