Still drinking cow’s milk? It’s not easy to change your habits if you’ve been brought up on the stuff. As a qualified nutritionist who has long been concerned about milk’s negative associations, I admit it was years before I stopped automatically throwing a litre or two, albeit organic, into the shopping cart. The kids protested loudly the day I finally did.
The brainwashing starts early
The dairy industry has done a great job of convincing us that milk and dairy products are necessary for good health and it uses its formidable power to relentlessly reinforce this message. Starting in kindergarten, young children are told that milk builds strong bones and teeth. Biology students learn that milk and dairy are the default sources of calcium and vitamin D – usually with no mention of healthier and more environmentally friendly ways to get these vital nutrients. Later, you might hear how low-fat milk can help you lose weight or even prevent osteoporosis – despite all evidence pointing to the exact opposite.
Not to mention those highly questionable, but successful marketing campaigns that try to convince us that certain yogurts can help flatten our stomachs by encouraging a healthy intestinal environment and that strong, healthy kids need sugar-laden drinkable yogurts.
The perfect food – for baby cows
If this sounds strange to you, it’s because few people are willing to tell the truth about dairy. Think about it, there’s nothing natural about consuming cow’s milk. All mammals produce their own milk to nourish their young, but nature never intended human babies to consume milk that is supposed to be for young cows. Yet modern factory farming methods have turned dairy cows into nothing more than ‘milk machines’ that live out their short lives in pitiful conditions.
We are the only species on earth that consume the milk of other species in adulthood. In fact, we’re so used to having milk in the fridge that it’s easy to forget that humans survived 7 million years with no dairy products at all (and there is no evidence of bone disease in prehistoric man). Milk products have only been around 10,000 years – a very short time in evolutionary terms – so we humans lack the necessary enzymes to properly digest it. No wonder up to 75% of us are lactose intolerant! Classic symptoms like bloating, gas, weight gain and general discomfort often vanish once dairy products are eliminated.
More fun facts about milk and dairy
Most dairy cattle are injected with a cocktail of hormones to artificially increase milk production. One of these, IGF 1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), stimulates the rapid growth of calves (and humans) by boosting the division and multiplication of all cells – including abnormal ones. Perhaps not surprising that many studies have found a link between IGF 1 and various cancers. This hormone (present in organic milk too) may also promote insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and increase the risk of heart disease. Aside from lactose, dairy products also contain another ingredient that is very difficult for us humans to process: casein. In the China Study, Dr. T. Colin Campbell concluded that casein promotes cancer in all stages of development. And there’s more:
• Antibiotics: Many cows are pumped full of antibiotics – a practice that is leading to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which may decrease the effectiveness of antibiotics used in humans.
• Prostate cancer: Some evidence suggests that the consumption of milk and other dairy products leads to an increased risk of prostate cancer. Conversely, dairy-free diets may slow the progress of prostate cancer.
• Acne: Multiple studies have linked all types of cow’s milk to an increased prevalence of acne in both boys and girls.
• Milk allergies: Unlike lactose intolerance, milk allergies, usually in young children, are characterized by potentially strong and dangerous reactions, such as vomiting or anaphylaxis.
• Bone loss: Instead of promoting bone health, animal protein in dairy products can have a calcium-leaching effect. Dairy products almost certainly help cause, not prevent, osteoporosis.
Official policy on milk versus the medical evidence
So why do nutrition guidelines like the famous “Food Pyramid” recommend consuming dairy products every day? Maybe it’s because these dietary recommendations have very little to do with actual nutrition science and everything to do with promoting foods that serve the food industry’s bottom line, not public health. In other words – there are enormous commercial interests at stake.
I’m not saying everyone should eliminate all dairy products overnight, but these health factors, combined with the environmentally damaging nature of large-scale milk production, make it clear that cow’s milk isn’t the healthy food we were brought up to believe. If you think it’s time to ditch milk, try experimenting with alternative options such almond, rice, oat or organic soy options and check out the healthier, more absorbable and sustainable sources of calcium below. It might take time to adjust, but even my kids have come around.
For more tips on Healthy Eating why not join The Clever Kitchen at their next lunch workshop at Starsnbars on Tuesday December 6th. Please confirm via facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1273347069406262/
8 GREAT SOURCES OF NON-DAIRY CALCIUM
Despite the hype from the dairy industry, you can avoid eating dairy products and still get all the calcium your body needs simply by eating these healthy foods:
• Bok choy: This Chinese leafy green vegetable looks like lettuce: it’s tender, light, watery, crisp and would seem to be low in nutrition density. But just 1 cup of cooked boy choy equals the same amount of calcium as an 8-ounce glass of milk.
• Kale: The beloved “superfood” green vegetable boasts calcium as just one of many minerals found inside its chewy, dense leaves. In 1 ½ cups of cooked kale, you’ll get the same amount of calcium as an 8-ounce glass of milk.
• Turnip greens: Turnips can be used with squash, potatoes and root veggies in winter dishes; don’t throw out their greens! Turnip greens are rich in bioavailable calcium; just 1 cup of cooked greens gives you the calcium of an 8-ounce glass of milk.
• Sea vegetables: Sea vegetables have many health benefits. They bind to toxins and heavy metals and supply ample amounts of trace minerals. Pile your lunch bowl with a large heaping of wakame or kelp for a calcium boost; 4 cups of the seaweed equals the calcium of an 8-ounce glass of milk.
• Tofu: Tofu isn’t as hot as it used to be with health nuts in the ‘90s, but it does still deserve credit when due. With most tofu varieties, just a ½-cup serving has the same amount of calcium as an 8-ounce glass of milk. Make sure it’s organic!
• Dried figs: Believe it or not, these dried fruits are an excellent source of dietary calcium. Ten figs supply the same amount as an 8-ounce glass of milk.
• Sustainable bony fish: You don’t have to be strictly vegan to do dairy-free. If you ever eat fish, check out Alaskan salmon, sardines and mackerel (all sustainable choices) for a serious calcium boost. A 3-ounce serving contains the same amount of calcium as an 8-ounce glass of milk.
• Dark green leafy vegetables. Many dark green leafy vegetables have relatively high calcium concentrations. The calcium in spinach is however, somewhat poorly absorbed, probably because of the high concentration of oxalate. Kale, a low-oxalate vegetable, is a good source of bio-available calcium. Kale is a member of the same family that includes broccoli, turnip greens, collard greens and mustard greens. These low-oxalate, calcium-rich vegetables are also sources of available calcium.
Here’s a great breakfast recipe using almond (or any other kind of alternative milk)
Chai Spiced Overnight Oats with Gojis and Coconut
• 1/2 cup oats (gluten free preferably)
• 1 tsp chia seeds
• 1 Tbsp. shredded coconut (and extra for topping)
• ½ tsp cinnamon
• ¼ tsp ginger
• ¼ tsp cardamom
• ½ tsp vanilla bean powder or essence
• 1 tsp milled flax or flax seeds
• 1 Tbsp. goji berries (optional) (and extra for topping)
• 1 cup coconut milk or almond milk
• 1 chopped date (optional)
• Optional add-ins: fresh fruit, mulberries. Etc.
• Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix very well.
• Put the mix into a jar or bowl and place in the fridge overnight (or for a minimum of an hour).
• Eat cold or warmed up the next morning, adding some more shredded coconut and goji berries for decoration just before you eat it. If you want to add fresh fruit, add it in before you eat.
• This can be stored for up to 3 days in the fridge.