Dairy is a packaged deal, and if I were you, I'd stop buying!
January 19, 2019
My family and I have been living a whole food plant based lifestyle since July 2017 and one of my biggest takeaways is what I've learned about dairy.
The first thing I had noticed after switching to a whole food plant based diet was this: dairy and I did not get along.
We didn't have the beautiful relationship I thought we had. Dairy did not love me like I loved it. I never knew that I was lactose intolerant (as was my oldest son) and that dairy was causing my horrible cystic acne.
I don't think I had gone an entire day without cow's milk my whole life. So I just grew up thinking it was normal to have a full face of acne and regular stomach cramps.
After doing more research on the link between the effects cutting out dairy has on stomach/bowel issues and acne - it all became clear (pun intended). Dairy was causing (or at least aggravating) these issues I tried so hard to remedy with medicines and prescription face washes. After only three days without any dairy, my digestive health was much better and I had no new cystic acne breakouts. I remember telling my husband three days after cutting out animal products from our diet that I will never go back to dairy. I loved milk, cheese, and ice cream as much as anyone else, but I did not love having painful cystic acne or the discomfort of being constipated all the time.
When we cut out dairy we realized how much it was shamelessly added into so many packaged foods unnecessarily. Packaged convenience food that doesn't require dairy "contains milk." Why? Well, the dairy industry knows that it's addictive and they want you addicted to their product. Not only is dairy addictive, it is also one of the top allergens among Americans. Not to mention that it is linked to causing and aggravating many health issues and diseases.
This made us angry, and sad. Just like any loving parent, we fed our kids milk and cheese because we were told that they needed it, it's nature's perfect food after all, or so we thought. Cow's milk, even in its most natural form - organic, from grass fed cows, added hormone free, raw, completely unadulterated - is still an unhealthy and possibly harmful addition to anyone's diet. Unless you are a baby cow. But I am assuming if you are reading this, you are in fact not a baby cow, therefore there is no reason you should consume cow's milk.
Nutrition and Health
Let's talk nutrition. Vitamin D, potassium, iodine, calcium etc. Our "not baby cow" bodies certainly do need these things, and yes, if you read a nutrition label on the gallon of cow's milk, it will show that these nutrients are in there. What you won't see is all of the bad stuff - naturally present bovine pregnancy hormones, toxins, protein quality not fit for human consumption, and no warning of the dangers of saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Vitamin D is actually a hormone, but it doesn't come from animals, it comes from the sun. So if your cow's milk has Vitamin D in it, it was added via supplementation either to the cow's diet or to the milk during the production stage. You're better off cutting out the middle cow and just taking the supplement straight up. Or even better, allowing the sun to hit your bare skin for only a few minutes a day is all your body needs to turn that sunlight into Vitamin D. If you live somewhere that sunlight is rare half of the year, buy Vitamin D fortified mushrooms and cereals or take a Vitamin D supplement. A safe supplementation amount is 1,000 - 2,000 IU of D3 per day.
- Potassium. With cow's milk, the lower the fat content, the higher the potassium level. In one cup of skim milk you can get almost 400mg of potassium. The recommended daily amount is between 3,500mg-5,000mg, so milk isn't actually that helpful considering one large banana has 500mg of potassium, and a cup of leafy greens can have over 1,000mg of potassium. You are much better off getting your potassium from plants than from milk.
- Iodine. Cow's milk does not naturally contain iodine. The cleaning agent used to disinfect the milk tanks and the cow's teats contains iodine, and that leaches into the milk. Unfortunately, for cows with staph mastitis, the iodine treatment increases the amount of pus content in the milk by up to 60%. Yum. The current recommended daily amount of Iodine is 150 micrograms per day, with the safe upper limit of 1,000 micrograms per day. Sea vegetables (sea weed) are an excellent source of iodine, but if you're like me and don't care for the taste of the ocean, use iodized salt or a sea vegetable salt alternative naturally high in iodine.
- Now for the big one - what about calcium? Just like Vitamin D and iodine, cows don't create calcium, either. Yet it is in the milk. Calcium comes from plants, cows eat plants, and the calcium they eat is recycled and excreted through their milk. When a human consumes the milk, they receive the leftover regurgitated calcium. Plant sources of calcium like broccoli, kale, bok choy and other dark leafy greens are absorbed twice as well as cow's milk calcium. Plus, plant calcium includes fiber, antioxidants, folate, iron, and vitamin K (which is good for bone health). None of these nutrients are found in dairy. The current recommended daily amount for calcium is 1,000mg - but that's assuming you're on a diet high in animal proteins, which has a high excretion rate, forcing you to consume more calcium to replace the lost calcium. So getting enough calcium is totally obtainable on a whole food plant based diet. Tahini, blackstrap molasses, almonds, and fortified plant milk are a few more examples of plant sourced calcium.
But "milk builds strong bones," right? Well, science can't back that statement up. There is no scientific or medical evidence that milk actually builds or protects bones. Actually, it's just the opposite. Hip fracture risks are highest where there is greatest milk consumption. Populations where dairy consumption is extremely low or non-existent have no instances of osteoporosis. But here in America, where dairy is our number one source of calcium, we have 54 million people with osteoporosis or low bone density - over half of people over age 50 in America are at risk of breaking a bone due to poor bone health. If milk was really protective, shouldn't Americans have stronger bones?
Bone health is so much more than just calcium intake. There are so many vital nutrients in beans, fruits, and vegetables that are associated with better bone mineral density and overall better bone health than milk. In fact, studies show that antioxidant rich fruit reduces bone loss and therefore lessens risk for osteoporosis.
Dairy products may be the number one source in America for calcium, but it isn't all its hyped up to be. Dairy comes as a packaged deal, and it is quite a gross and scary package. Sure, just three servings of dairy per day provides your daily calcium requirement but you're also getting too much saturated fat and cholesterol, not to mention pus, manure, antibiotics, pesticides, and all the naturally occurring bovine pregnancy hormones. In America you can expect over 300 million pus cells in each glass of milk - the highest allowable concentration in the world. The Dairy Industry argues that the infection and inflammation of the udders in factory farmed dairy cows is irrelevant because of pasteurization protocols - cooked pus poses no food safety risks. Still, ew. There are better ways to get your calcium.
What about some other components of dairy?
- Casein is a milk protein that when consumed and digested forms an opioid compound in our stomach called casomorphin. This compound binds to the opioid receptors in our brain and gives a sort of high. This is why cheese is known to be addictive, because casein in cheese is more concentrated than regular milk. Casomorphins formed from casein in human breast milk is actually beneficial to babies in the way it keeps the baby coming back for more of his mommies nutritious milk - nature's perfect food, created specifically for baby.
- Lactose is milk sugar. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body doesn't create enough lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose. Lactose is the main carbohydrate in human breast milk as well. When we were babies feeding on our mother's milk we had all the lactase we needed. But naturally as we grew, and our bodies no longer needed our mother's milk, we stop creating it. Being able to digest lactose as an adult is a strange genetic adaptation. 60% of the world's population is lactose intolerant.
- Trans fats are the most dangerous fats, currently on their way to becoming illegalized in the American food supply. Trans fats are naturally present in dairy products (and other animal foods) but they are in low enough amounts (less than .5g per serving) that they are legally allowed to be labeled as 0% trans fats, or a trans fat free food. Which is a blatant lie. The only safe amount is none. Half a gram per serving adds up quick.
- IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor 1) is produced by the liver when we consume animal proteins. This causes cancer cells to grow
- Hormones, including estrogen naturally occur in cow's milk and is a known health issue for humans. Acne, premature puberty, obesity, and increased cancer risk are associated with regular hormone consumption.