Is dairy good for you?
It’s a fact that from birth, mammals rely on milk for their nutrients. Everyone from humans down to our kitties and pups, nurse from their mothers and rely on that milk for the first portion of their life. The difference between humans and animals however, is that once animals are weaned, they don’t continue to drink milk, either from their own species or another.
Breast milk is the perfect mixture of nutrients for a developing baby. While it isn’t high in protein, it is full of healthy fats to nurture human growth. The same thing is true of cow milk… for cows. Dairy milk is developed to be the perfect formula to ensure that calves grow up big and strong. They need to, as they need to gain a ton of weight over their life, literally. Get this: cow milk contains over three times as much protein as human breast milk. While protein is an essential nutrient we need, dairy is not the best source for us. I would venture a guess that none of us want to weigh 2000 lbs., so NOW would be a good time to ditch the dairy!
What’s in Cow Milk?
There are many concerning chemicals in dairy milk. Just as a nursing mother passes on the essence of everything she eats to her baby, a lot of things fed to cows end up in their milk. This can include steroids, fertilizers and hormones, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, veterinary medications, synthetic preservatives, additives, and (possibly most disturbing) white blood cells (aka pus). Gross, right? Those things end up in the milk, and end up in our bodies when we drink it.
A couple of specifically concerning things are estrogen and growth hormones. A baby calf needs to grow quickly and a lot. This means cow milk contains the right hormones in order to facilitate this. However, we don’t need growth hormones in that kind of dose. Drinking dairy milk raises the level of growth hormones in our body. As for estrogen, cows are milked throughout their pregnancies. As estrogen levels rise over the course of a cow’s pregnancy, the estrogen level in their milk rises too. Excess estrogen has been linked to certain types of cancer such as uterine and breast cancers.
In case you aren’t convinced, let me also explain that dairy is extremely high in saturated fat, which is the kind we’re supposed to be avoiding. This can lead to all sorts of problems such as heart disease and issues with cholesterol. Dairy has also been found to be a major cause of inflammation (which is the root cause of many chronic diseases). Evidence suggests that dairy consumption has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease, just to name a few. It’s no surprise that societies who consume a lot of dairy are also suffering from an increase in these types of diseases. Dairy has a growth hormone called IGF-1 —which can stimulate malignant cell growth and proliferation. As a breast cancer survivor, I say “no thanks”…! Even lessening the amount of dairy you consume can make a difference in how you feel.
Another issue with milk that you might not think of? Its sugar content. Sugar has become a huge problem in the Western diet and if you read labels, you realize it sneaks up way more often than you’d think. Dairy is made up primarily of fat and sugar, and the less fat you have, (whole versus skim for example), the more sugar the milk contains.
Milk sugar, or lactose, creates its own set of problems. A very high number of adults are mildly to severely lactose intolerant. Around the world, this number is about 75 percent, but if you look at just certain populations such as Asians, this number can be higher than 90 percent. Because people lose the need to drink milk as they age, the body loses its ability to digest it properly.
How Is It Produced?
We need to face the reality that the milk we consume is far from natural. Most of the milk produced in the United States comes from large factory farms, where cows are kept in unhealthy conditions, fed hormones and antibiotics, and are usually made so sick that we can’t consume the milk without pasteurizing and homogenizing it, which destroys many of the nutrients and damages the cell structure of the milk. But here’s the thing: various strains of bacteria can and do make it through to what we finally drink, leading to disease.
What are factory farms?
Factory farming, a phrase coined by opponents of the practice, is intensive farming where the farmers keep livestock such as cattle, poultry, pigs and fish at higher stocking densities than is usually the case with other forms of animal agriculture. The animals are confined in very tight spaces, where they cannot move or turn around, often left to suffer terribly. There are issues regarding the sustainability of factory farming and if it is even ethical. The main products of this industry are meat, milk and eggs for human consumption. However, the efficiency of food production remains questionable, because of the environmental impact and agricultural pollution, and of course, health risks.
Does Milk Have Health Benefits?
It is an often touted fact that dairy is the best source of calcium, and that we need this calcium in order to have strong bones. While it is true that we need calcium in general, it is a myth that it is as necessary as they say it is. Cutting dairy out of your diet is not going to leave you deficient in calcium. You’d be surprised at how many other foods can supply the calcium you need.
Like what? Check this out for some ideas:
- Tofu: 77%
- Sesame Seeds: 35%
- Sardines: 35%
- Collard Greens: 27%
- Spinach: 24%
- Turnip Greens: 20%
Other good sources of calcium include kale, pak choi, okra, spring greens, dried figs, chia seeds and almonds.
As a matter of fact, tofu is one of the best sources of calcium, with 77 percent of your daily recommended value in just 4 ounces. Leafy greens are also great, with things such as turnip greens, collard greens and spinach all supplying a minimum of 20 percent. Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine has a great article that will help dispel some calcium myths. Check it out!
Calcium is not the only factor when it comes to bone health. Vitamin D plays a huge role as well, and you’re much more likely to be deficient in that. Vitamin D helps the body absorb and use calcium to strengthen bones.
What to Drink Instead?
There are a huge number of plant-based milks to choose from. From nut milks such as almond or cashew, to soy milk, to coconut and rice milk, there are many different types of milk with a large variety of tastes and textures to choose from. A cup of non-dairy milk can contain just as much if not more calcium than a cup of cow’s milk, plus less sugar and more of other nutrients. They are often fortified with calcium and vitamin D to meet your needs.
The choice of milk determines the nutrients you supply your diet. Almond milk supplies vitamins like D and E, but has less protein. Coconut and rice milks are both great-tasting alternatives to cow milk, but are high in carbohydrates and calories, without many nutrients. Rice and coconut milk are also some of the best choices in terms of not containing allergens. Like cow’s milk, coconut milk can be high in saturated fat, but it is composed of a different type of fatty acid that studies are finding isn’t harmful.
While soy milk is a viable alternative to dairy milk, it does not come without controversy. Soy can be a common allergen and has been known to cause health problems: it can be bad for the thyroid as well as estrogen levels. Besides health issues, soy is also a common GMO crop. Weigh your choices and choose the milk that works best for your diet and lifestyle.
There is no need to drink milk once weaned, and many good reasons not to, so why torture your body and contribute to the factory farming industry if you don’t have to? So ditch the dairy and inflammation, and let me know in the comments below how you feel without it…! Moo…!