Let’s play a round of health centric, word association, shall we? When I say the word “calcium,” what’s the first thing you think of? My guess is that you envision a nice tall glass of milk, right? Well, you’re not alone in that. I think many folks would do exactly the same. We all have the image of June Cleaver, apron-adorned, with a stern but doting smile, pointing a finger at you and saying something worrisome about the state of your bones and teeth. My bones and teeth will be stronger if I throw back a tall glass of the white stuff you say, Mrs. Cleaver?

The fact is, calcium is readily absorbed and utilized efficiently and effectively by our bodies from plant-based foods like greens, seeds, some nuts, and veggies. It’s almost as if nature had it right all along and the dairy farmer with the contagion-level cough had an ulterior motive. It seems that maybe he’s not really concerned about our health. I’m going to walk Mrs. Cleaver through the wonderful world of plant-based calcium.

1. Dairy is acidic

What we have here is a “More-Harm-Than-Good” situation. Just so you know, in the all-important quest for calcium, you’re needlessly toxifying your body if you get it from dairy sources. Milk and dairy products are acidic, so they actually break bones down instead of building them up. So, Mrs. Cleaver, if you would be so kind, get out your nut milk bag and soak those almonds so we can start getting our nutrient needs from a more alkaline source.

2. Bones absolutely need calcium, but that’s not all they need.
Bones need a complex set of ingredients to be healthy, not just calcium. Vitamin K as well as magnesium work hard to aid in calcium absorption and stabilization in the bone. Dairy is not only lacking in these nutrients, but it’s also been known to leach nutrients from the bone (basically the opposite of helping).

Be careful squeezing out that nut milk bag, Mrs. Cleaver. Who knows how brittle your little bones are at this point? Go with some leafy greens for a heaping helping of calcium, vitamin K and magnesium.

3. You can also get too much of a not-so-good thing.
At least, if you’re like the 75 percent of the global population that can’t properly digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, stomach cramping and gas.

4. There are so many better options

Good news though, hopeful bone growers, there is calcium that we can ingest from plant sources. White beans, figs, kale, almonds, oranges, okra (Don’t be scared of okra folks. We know it’s long been the Montague to your Capulet, but that’s just fear. Get into it). This list goes on and on.

Also, just as a quick little side note Mrs. Cleaver, did you know that a cup of chopped collards has about as much calcium as a cup of two percent milk?