deep thoughts

The Q: Should We Be Consuming Dairy?

What is the deal here? We dig in.

Many well-known, sweet lookin’ faces in Hollywood tell us “Milk… It does a body good”, yet dairy is one of the top food allergens in our society. And the myth that we NEED milk for calcium is still going strong, which may have been true when we were drinking raw milk from the family cow, but today milk is a highly processed food. So, the question is: Should we be consuming dairy?

I want to briefly delve into the concepts and myths behind the use of dairy in our diets so you can blaze forward consciously, equipped with all the necessary information to make informed decisions about your health.

Traditional and industrial milk are different. Modern industrial milk and the milk we drank ten thousand years ago – even the milk most Americans drank fifty years ago – are different. Traditional milk comes from cows fed mostly on fresh grass and hay; it is raw and unhomogenized. Industrial milk comes from cows raised indoors and fed mostly on corn, grain, and soybean ration, typically with a dose of synthetic hormones to boost milk production. Industrial milk is then pasteurized and homogenized. Real milk is healthier then the industrial kind, and its superior flavor is unmistakable.

The best choice is traditional milk, but it’s not easy to find (plus it is illegal in most states). Farmers who supply two organic brands, Organic Valley and Natural by Nature, raise cows on pasture (meaning they are free-roaming, grass-eating animals – as nature intended).

Natural Diet

Many consider cow’s milk to be one of the most ideal foods nature provides, particularly when prepared in traditional ways, such as culturing. Others question the idea of drinking the milk of another species. Humans, like other mammals, produce milk for a specific purpose—to feed their own babies until the babies are ready to move on to solid foods. Milk from a cow is designed to make a newborn calf grow rapidly in only a few weeks, causing some to believe that it may not be the ideal food for human children or adults.

Animal Treatment

Some small farmers treat their cows humanely and allow a more natural relationship between mother cow and calf while still being able to collect milk for human consumption. However, large industrial milk factories often subject their cows to filthy living conditions. Animal mistreatment at factory farms is well-documented. Some also question the ethics of impregnating a cow for milk production and taking away her calf shortly after birth (often for slaughter to sell veal) in order to maximize economic profits.

Certain dairy products can offer a decent source of nutrition for those who don’t suffer from lactose intolerance or casein (the protein in dairy) sensitivities. Scott Kustes, author of Healthfully Ever After: How Misguided Gurus Use Pseudoscience & The Wellness Philosophy To Keep You From Reaching Your Best Health, recommends avoiding normally processed or pasteurized dairy procuts entirely and ranks the best options in this order:

1. No dairy at all

2. Raw, fermented dairy (yogurt, kefir)

3. Raw, high-fat dairy (butter, cream)

4. Raw milk & cheese

5. Organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free dairy

Nowadays, milking cows are given antibiotics and most are also injected with a genetically engineered form of bovine growth hormone (rBGH). A man-made or synthetic hormone used to artificially increase milk production, rBGH also increases blood levels of the insulin-growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in those who drink it. And higher levels of IGF-1 are linked to several cancers.

Using Better Products

In my journey of health, I have been on a rollercoaster ride of emotions surrounding my like and use of milk and cheese. As a vegan, dairy was the enemy and 100% avoided at all costs. As I brought meat and traditional foods back into my diet, I started to experiment with raw cheese from the local farmer’s market here in Austin. I felt great, it didn’t cause any breakouts or digestive issues, and it kept me satiated.

By simply adding some raw cheese to my morning eggs, I felt full and satiated for longer. A few months after becoming comfortable with raw cheese, I added in raw milk. I still don’t like the taste of milk straight up but I do blend it in with my coffee (along with some cinnamon and coconut oil) and it’s so creamy and delicious!

When I eat the cheese and milk I feel like I’m “being bad” (weening off my vegan tendencies) so I use that instead of candy or sugar – it’s a WAY better alternative and raw dairy products are actually very health supportive.

If you do have an allergy to lactose, you can often still have raw dairy products because when the milk and cheese are not pasteurized, the enzyme lactase remains present which assists in lactose digestion.

Natural health expert Dr. Joseph Marcela explains the following in his article,”The Milk Myth“: “The words “milk” and “calcium” are often used interchangeably in the popular press. But while milk is a calcium source, no standard other than that of the National Dairy Council considers it the best calcium source.

The suggestion that you need to drink three glasses of the secretion of a cow’s mammary glands in order to be healthy is a bit outrageous and doesn’t fit the human evolutionary profile. In fact, most humans around the world cannot easily digest cow milk.

Yogurt has more calcium than milk and is easier to digest. Collards and other greens also have about as much or more calcium than milk by the cup. Greens, unlike milk, have the added benefit of vitamin K, also necessary for strong bones. Sesame is also very high in calcium.

When you measure calcium by cup of food product, milk is high on the list. When you view it by calorie, though, milk is at the bottom. A hundred calories of turnip greens have over three times as much calcium as 100 calories of whole milk.”

Armed with all of this, tell us: What are your thoughts on dairy?

(Resources: Mark’s Daily Apple, Primal Blueprint, Integrative Nutrition, Dr. Mercola)

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