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The Truth About Bone Health

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Myth Three: The best way to get calcium is with dairy

FACT: There's little proof that dairy is an absolute must for strong bones, and some evidence indicates that too much dairy can even be harmful for certain people. "Some populations, like the Asians, eat little or no dairy and take in low levels of calcium through plant sources, yet they have strong bones and healthy teeth," says Dr. Willett. Up to two-thirds of the world's population is lactose intolerant—including around 50% to 90% of Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Native Americans, and Asian-Americans. Those individuals can't consume much milk-based foods, yet they generally do not have higher rates of osteoporosis. Plus, some studies suggest a significant increased risk of some cancers in men and women who eat three or more servings of dairy a day, according to Dr. Willett. "This may be due in part to the fact that higher levels of calcium suppress a form of vitamin D that plays a role in limiting a cell's ability to keep multiplying."

ACTION TO TAKE: If you're lactose intolerant or just not a big fan of dairy, be sure to eat more plant foods that contain easily absorbable calcium. Add kale, collard greens, broccoli, spinach, oranges, edamame, tofu, turnip greens, rhubarb, soybeans, wheat bread, and bok choy, to your meals.

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