Vegan Bone Health: Simple Solutions Involving Nutrition

Recently, a study by Oxford University proved that vegans are more susceptible to brittle bone disease, fractures, sprains, hip injuries, and similar ailments. Vegans can help combat this by simply keeping track of their macros, eating certain foods, and drinking soy milk.

 

Whether you’re vegan or omnivore, any article that tries to tell you how to eat should come with this disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist. I can speak intelligently about the subject at length, but everyone is different. To be 100% sure you’re eating right and healthy, whether meat eater, vegetarian, or vegan, you need to see a certified nutritionist.

 

That said, there’s research that shows bone health is possible for vegans. As far as the actual food and nutritional needs go, by consuming soy milk, vegan foods fortified with vitamins, different types of mushrooms, dark leafy greens, and regularly getting sunlight for about ten minutes a day (or an hour a week), you can effectively make sure your bones don’t hollow out. There’s a host of free apps and websites that do just that, I personally use cronometer.com.

 

These tweets corroborate that I’ve been purposefully making sure I eat for good bone health for some time:

 

December 2017 

 

 

February 2019 

 

 

Upon going vegan five years ago, I anticipated that I could have nutritional deficiencies if I wasn’t careful. As previously stated, I’m not a nutritionist. Nor am I a certified physical trainer. Through years of research and trial and error, I learned how to eat healthy and exercise as a vegan.

 

What I learned was that aging is associated with loss of bone and muscle strength. Every person, vegan and omnivore alike, has to eat healthy and be active to combat this fact. Learning this was further motivation for me to be more active and take a greater interest in the foods I eat. 

 

With my research as proof, I knew that a person over the age of 30 needs nutrients to provide bone strength and muscle growth. Putting these two together led me to easily achieving a balanced vegan diet that provides, amongst a host of nutritional benefits, good bone health.

 

the image is of a carton of soy milkSoy milk is a vital source for healthy bone nutrition. That’s not just because it’s fortified with the nutrients that one needs to have healthy bones, similar to some cereals and other vegan foods. According to studies cited by Time magazine, soy and pea milk are the only two alternative milks out of all popular alternative milk options that have a similar macro-nutritional profile to dairy milk. In other words, soy milk is the only option that’s going to be able to efficiently replace dairy.

 

Add to that, years ago the USDA had tried suggesting, briefly, that between almond milk and dairy milk, dairy used less resources, so it would be a better choice. Not only is that markedly untrue, but it’s also what’s called a ‘false balance.’ Both options are wasteful. 

 

When comparing dairy and almond milk the clear winner is almond milk. Calculating the resources needed to produce dairy milk, the USDA mistakenly didn’t quantify the amount of gasoline and energy needed to transport food and filter water. Their findings also failed to calculate the amount of land used and the amount of water needed to grow the plants the cows eat. When all is said and done, taking these added resources into account easily doubles the amount of resources consumed to produce one gallon of dairy milk as compared to one gallon of almond milk.

 

Even though far fewer resources are used and it’s technically healthier, almond trees still use far too many resources to be a viable alternative. There’s a massive amount of water needed to produce just one almond. This massive water consumption by almond trees, along with almond milk’s poor macro-nutritional profile when compared to soy (even though almond milk is fortified with vitamin and nutrients), makes it a terrible choice all around.

 

So why would the dairy lobby go through all the trouble to convince people that soy shouldn’t even be a part of this conversation?

 

If people quantified this choice according to resource consumption and nutritional needs, soy would be the clear choice. This superior efficacy translates into soy requiring far less land to grow and using much less water. The resulting product is the raw material for not only soy milk but also tofu, both of which provide complete protein along with many other nutritional benefits.

 

A big part of this phenomenon has to do with the myth of soy milk having a feminizing effect on men, a baseless claim. Korea and Japan have had soy as part of their diet for a long time, and there’s no evidence of feminizing traits as a result. This leads people to believe that in a battle of soy versus dairy, dairy is a better choice (it’s not, it’s far worse in every way).

 

If estrogen and hormones are such a big concern for milk, then dairy is much more problematic than soy milk. Dairy has far more hormones and estrogen than soy milk. In addition, the estrogen in dairy is carcinogenic and harmful to human health. The estrogen in soy is inactive. This type of estrogen is called isoflavones, plant estrogen that’s so weak it has no effect on the human body. 

 

That’s a lot to unpack, but it’s all sourceable information based on proven data. Neither the producers of almond milk (revealed here to be just almond juice) and dairy milk want this information proliferated. It’s bad for their respective businesses.

 

The end result is not just that the majority of Americans drink dairy even though 60% are lactose intolerant, but also that a massive amount of resources have been wasted that we can’t get back. The collateral damage is that vegans experience a higher potential for brittle bone disease and increased chances of fractures and sprains, when we all now know that’s easily avoidable with minimal effort.

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