“About 90% of Americans do not get enough dairy.” Wait, what?
This shocking statistic comes straight from myplate.gov, the government-endorsed resource for healthy eating. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), we should eat more dairy, not less. The government sees dairy as an essential part of a healthy diet that Americans are “deficient” in.
The site says, “Eating or drinking dairy products offers health benefits, like building and maintaining strong bones. Dairy Group foods provide nutrients that are vital for the health and maintenance of the body.”
If this sounds a little fishy, you’ve got the right idea. Conventional dairy isn’t a health food. In fact, it is the opposite. Processed dairy products contain antibiotics, hormones, and digestive enzymes, that contribute to serious health problems.
Though the government is still clinging to their precious dairy (low-fat, of course — which is a whole separate discussion), dairy consumption in the U.S has dropped significantly since the 80s.
Nowadays, milk substitutes are all the rage, with health-food bloggers and influencers chugging $8 oat milk lattes and eating vegan cheese. But are these substitutes any better?
Let’s dig into the heart of the matter and some of the reasons you should avoid conventional dairy. We’ll also look at some of the most common dairy substitutes you should drink instead.
What’s wrong with conventional dairy?
Despite the best efforts of milk-pushing campaigns such as “got milk?”, dairy hasn’t been able to shake its negative reputation. And for a good reason. Simply put, it isn’t good for you. Remember: never take your food advice from the government! Here are just a few of the many reasons you should avoid conventional dairy.
Lactose, sometimes called “milk sugar,” is found in human breast milk and cow’s milk. Infants and calves have digestive enzymes to break down this sugar, but as we age, they become ineffective. This is a clear sign from mother nature that we shouldn’t continue drinking milk into adulthood.
According to research, approximately 65 percent of the population is lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance causes digestive problems like bloating, diarrhea, gas, and an upset stomach and is just another reason to avoid conventional dairy.
Cows milk, like human breast milk, contains naturally-occurring hormones that contribute to the growth and development of calves and infants, respectively. These hormones include estrogen and progesterone, which, while helpful for baby cows, can seriously damage the delicate hormonal balance in humans.
Not only that, but cows are often pumped full of synthetic growth hormones to increase milk production. Though some farms are moving away from it, rBGH (Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) is injected into many cows. This genetically engineered hormone could potentially contribute to several health issues, including cancer.
Cows in poor conditions are in a heightened state of stress and release stress hormones such as cortisol which make their way into their milk and your body.
Antibiotic overuse is a huge problem in the western world. And it doesn’t stop at your doctor prescribing a round of antibiotics every time you have the sniffles.
What we eat and drink could also contribute to the growing antibiotic crisis.
Conventionally-raised animals, including dairy cows, are crammed into tight facilities with little-to-no fresh air or room to graze. They are overmilked and poorly treated, leading to udder infections and other illnesses that are treated with antibiotics. Residue from these antibiotics makes its way into the milk and into your body, damaging your gut health and creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
We live in a polluted world, and megadairies aren’t helping. These massive factory farms produce high levels of methane, a greenhouse gas that pollutes the atmosphere and contributes to the global climate crisis.
What about calcium?
Contrary to popular belief, milk isn’t necessary for strong bones. Though the government asserts that you must eat and drink dairy products to prevent fractures, very little evidence supports these claims. According to a 12-year prospective study, it could increase your risk of fractured bones!
There are far better alternatives if you’re worried about getting enough calcium in your diet. These include salmon, almonds, dark green leafy vegetables, canned sardines (which also contain vitamin D), and chia seeds. When you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, you don’t need milk to keep your calcium levels high.
In fact, the real issue isn’t a calcium deficiency but a vitamin D deficiency. When you don’t have enough vitamin D in your body, it can’t absorb calcium properly. This is why vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone issues such as rickets. Get enough sunlight, eat a 100 Year Heart Diet, and your bones will stay strong and healthy.
What about organic milk?
Many people who avoid conventional dairy purchase organic milk instead. While this is undoubtedly a better option, as cows have access to pasture and aren’t pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, it is still pasteurized and poorly digested by humans.
Remember, just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it’s good for you! Everything you eat should be organic, but you shouldn’t eat something just because it’s organic.
Drink raw milk instead (only occasionally)
If you miss the occasional splash of milk in your morning coffee or your yogurt parfait for dessert, stick to raw dairy and dairy products.
Raw milk is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized. Pasteurization is when milk is heated to kill potentially harmful pathogens and bacteria. Unfortunately, this process also kills off the good bacteria and digestive enzymes. Pasteurization also destroys vitamin C, manganese, copper, and iron.
Raw milk contains beneficial digestive enzymes and is often better tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant. A study of over 700 families conducted by the Weston A. Price Foundation found that 80 percent of people diagnosed with lactose intolerance experienced no symptoms after drinking raw milk.
Raw milk from healthy, grass-fed cows contains higher levels of fat-soluble vitamins and other nutrients like CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which can help support immune function and reduce body fat.
Remember, even raw milk contains hormones that aren’t beneficial for the human body. If you drink raw milk, enjoy it in moderation. Focus on raw, fermented products such as kefir and yogurt. These support a vibrant gut microbiome and can improve gut health.
Isn’t raw milk dangerous?
Keep in mind raw milk is illegal for human consumption in many U.S. states and can be contaminated with bacteria if not handled properly. Shop safely and get your milk from a trusted source. Or avoid milk altogether (the better option) and try these dairy-free milk alternatives!
Dairy-free milk alternatives
Dairy-free milk alternatives come from plants instead of animals. Most dairy-free milk options are healthier for you than traditional cow’s milk, especially if that cow was fed unnatural food, toxic water, and subjected to unhealthy living conditions.
Before examining the common dairy-free milk alternatives, a few things to remember:
- We recommend you make dairy-free milk. Store-bought dairy-free milk usually contains preservatives, sweeteners, thickeners, and emulsifiers, all of which can harm your health.
- If you buy dairy-free milk, ensure it is in a quality container. Most store-bought products are housed in cheap wax, plastic, or paper that can add chemicals to the milk. Stick with glass containers only, even for the dairy-free milk you make at home.
- If you make nut milk, always use raw and organic ingredients. This prevents harmful chemicals and genetically-modified foods from entering your body. You may want to soak your nuts overnight to break down lectins and other anti-nutrients.
Common dairy-free milk alternatives:
- Best uses – Nut cereal, blended drinks
- Benefits – Low in calories, doesn’t raise blood sugar levels
- Caution – Beware added sugars and additives in store-bought products
- Best uses – NEVER
- Benefits – Outweighed by risk
- Caution – Many commercial soy products are genetically modified and not organic. Soy contains many antinutrients which interfere with thyroid and other hormonal functions.
- Best uses – Coffee, cooking
- Benefits – Good saturated fat content, contains many vitamins and minerals
- Caution – Many canned varieties contain chemicals that leach into the coconut milk. Choose coconut milk in a BPA-free can.
- Best uses – Coffee, cooking
- Benefits – High in antioxidants and minerals
- Caution – Slightly less creamy than other nut milks
- Best uses – Smoothies
- Benefits – Full of calcium, nice choice for people who can’t digest nut milk
- Caution – Contains very little protein
- Best uses – Coffee, baking, grain-free pancakes
- Benefits – High in protein, low in fat
- Caution – Beware products containing gluten
- Best uses – Coffee, drinking
- Benefits – Rich in Omega 3 fatty acid, low in calories
- Caution – Store-bought versions often contain unhealthy additives
- Best uses – Coffee, cooking, smoothies
- Benefits – High in B and D vitamins, high in fatty acids
- Caution – Low in protein, store-bought products often contain lots of added sugars, salt, and thickeners
Dairy isn’t a healthy food and Americans certainly aren’t deficient in it. We are deficient in quality, minimally processed, organic food that supports heart health and overall well-being. Avoid conventional dairy at all costs and if you enjoy milk occasionally, always choose raw, grass-fed milk.
There are so many great dairy-free options available that there’s no excuse to keep drinking conventional dairy. Find the one you like the best and make it yourself or buy it from a reputable company.
Another option is to add our Daily Defense protein shake mix to water. The protein in Daily Defense is grass-fed whey protein from New Zealand cows. Whey protein has well-researched health and cardiovascular benefits. Most people tolerate whey quite well, especially with our blend’s added digestive enzymes and probiotics.
Daily Defense comes in two delicious flavors and contains vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to keep you healthy and support your 100 Year Heart.
Eat well, Live well, Think well
Medical Review: Dr. Lauren Lattanza 2022