How does the calcium we get from plants stack up against the calcium in dairy products? The answer may surprise you.

The number one source of calcium in the standard American diet is dairy products. The number one source of saturated fat, however, is also dairy products. Dairy products also constitute the number one allergen in the American food supply. So yes, cow’s milk represents a substantial source of calcium, but it all depends on what baggage you want with your calcium.

The calcium in dark green leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli, and bok choy, is absorbed by the body about twice as well as the calcium in milk, and you also get as a bonus: fiber and folate, iron and antioxidants, and bone health superstar vitamin K. You won’t find any of this stuff in milk. What you will get as a bonus to the calcium in milk is saturated butterfat, cholesterol, lactose, antibiotics, pesticides, pus, and manure.

Speaking of pus, there was a pus study this year in the Journal of Dairy Science.  They asked the age-old question, “Can you taste the pus?” The United States has the highest allowable pus concentration in the world with over 300 million pus cells per glass. The industry, however, has always argued that it doesn’t matter how inflamed and infected the udders of our factory-farmed dairy cows are because as a result of pasteurization, it’s cooked pus. So there’s no food safety risk.

What these researchers did, though, was to see if people could taste the difference. They made a trial with two vats of cheese, one from high pus milk and the other conforming to the more stringent European standards. The result was that not only could people taste the difference, but the “less pus” cheese evidently tasted significantly better.