The essential mineral calcium must be obtained through diet. Unfortunately, many people don't get nearly as much calcium as they should, putting them at risk for decreased bone density as they age. Cow's milk and other dairy products are well known sources of calcium, but there are other alternatives. Goat's milk makes a good alternative to cow's milk as a source of dietary calcium.
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Importance of Calcium
Calcium supports the growth and maintenance of bones and teeth at all ages, but it is particularly crucial during childhood and adolescence. Up to 90 percent of peak bone mass is already established by age 17 for most people, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The NICHD recommends that everyone over the age of 19 get 1,000 milligrams or more of calcium every day to help prevent osteoporosis and periodontal disease later in life.
Goat's Milk, Calcium and Other Nutrients
Goat's milk supplies 327 milligrams of calcium per cup. This is more than the calcium in a cup of whole-fat cow's milk, which has about 276 milligrams per cup. Goat's milk also supplies other nutrients that work in synergy with calcium to promote bone health. Phosphorus, for example, makes up over 50 percent of bone mineral mass, and goat's milk is rich in phosphorus, with about 271 milligrams per cup. Goat's milk supplies 483 international units of vitamin A and 124 international units of vitamin D, which helps boost bone strength by aiding in calcium absorption. Goat's milk also contains 498 milligrams of potassium per cup, over 100 percent more than cow's milk.
At high levels, calcium can unfortunately lower the bioavailability of other nutrients. Iron is a particular concern, especially in young children who do not eat many iron-rich foods. The calcium in goat's milk doesn't seem to inhibit the absorption of iron or other minerals, such as phosphorus and magnesium, at least in animal models, according to a report in "Science News." In addition, the calcium in goat's milk also appears to be more bioavailable than calcium from other sources, such as cow's milk. This research has not yet been replicated in humans, so it is unknown whether this increased bioavailability holds true in people.
Goat's milk contains less lactose and alpha-S1, a casein protein that causes some allergies, than cow's milk. Goat's milk is usually higher in protein and fat than cow's milk, but the fats may be in a form that is easier to digest, explains pediatrician Dr. Willliam Sears. It also contains high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid important for infant development, making it a good base for alternative infant formulas.