Many of us believe we need to drink milk for healthy bones. As it turns out, milk consumption can increase the risk of fractures and overall mortality, suggests a 2014 study published in the British Medical Journal. Lactose and D-galactose, two natural sugars in dairy, promote inflammation and oxidative stress, which may lead to heart disease and cancer. What’s more, some foods are higher in calcium than milk and contain no lactose, phytates, or oxalates. A can of sardines, for instance, boasts 27% of the recommended daily calcium intake, reports MyFoodData. A cup of milk, by comparison, offers 21% of the daily recommended amount of calcium.
Canned sardines are also rich in vitamin D, a nutrient that increases calcium and phosphorus absorption, according to a 2008 review presented in Current Rheumatology Reports. Without this fat-soluble vitamin, your body would only absorb 10-15% of the calcium consumed. A can of sardines provides 22% of the recommended vitamin D intake, whereas milk contains just 16% per cup. Moreover, this fish is lower in saturated fat and higher in protein, potassium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and omega-3s than milk, notes MyFoodData.
If you’re pregnant, sardines can help you meet your calcium requirements. This fatty fish is significantly lower in mercury than bigeye tuna, king mackerel, halibut, carp, and tilefish, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In fact, you can have up to three servings of sardines per week without risking your health.