Q: Should people give up dairy and use just soy or is a combination of both a better choice?
– Amy in Massachusetts
A: The choice depends on your food preferences and health risks. Milk is the best natural source of the most absorbable calcium in the diet, a mineral most Americans don’t get enough of, placing them at risk for osteoporosis, colon cancer, and possibly hypertension. Milk sugar – lactose – aids in calcium absorption, as does the vitamin D in milk. Of course, if you are lactose intolerant, you’ll need to drink lactose-treated milk or drink milk in small amounts with food. The only other problem with milk is the fat, so if osteoporosis is your concern and you love milk, then choose nonfat milk and milk products and drink at least three glasses a day. Soy is a poor source of these nutrients, unless the product has been fortified. On the other hand, fortified soy milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, and contains phytoestrogens, which also aid in bone maintenance as well as the prevention of heart disease and possibly breast and prostate cancer. If you love soymilk, then include 1 to 3 glasses a day. There is some suspicion that excessive intake of soy could increase cancer risk in people with a history of breast cancer. Although not yet substantiated, if this pertains to you, your best bet is to limit fortified soymilk to 1 serving a day and fill in the gap with nonfat milk. -Elizabeth Somer