By now, most of my friends and family members know my position on drinking milk.
I tell them that we are the only species on the planet that drinks another species’ milk even after we are weaned.
(And if you know anything about the history of milk production in this country, you’d be horrified.)
You know, I spent an early teen year on a dairy farm and it was idyllic. This family had maybe 100 cows, that they lovingly attended. From Spring to Fall, these cows spent all day eating grass. We’d ride out bareback on ole Cinnamon and Butter (slow, easy horses) to call the cows in every evening.
But that was then. Now cows are on huge factory farms, fed soy, corn, and strange parts of animals. And they are given growth hormones to come into early production. Pushing a cow’s milk production makes them susceptible to infections of the udders, so they add antibiotics to their feed. And most of the cows that are brought into early maturity end up with liver disease.
100 years ago, milk was drunk in its organic, raw form—rich with enzymes and good for you. But more importantly, our ancestors extended the life of the dairy by producing butter. Butter from grass-fed cows is rich in Vitamins A, D, and K, nutrients we need for healthy digestion and strong bones. They also extended the dairy by fermenting, creating yogurts, cheeses, and kefir.
Today’s milk is pasteurized; the heat process destroys any of the beneficial enzymes. And Big Food adds inexpensive, synthetic vitamins to say that the product is “fortified.”
A 2016 study published in Circulation is a strong reminder that nutritional policymakers need to reconsider their stance against full-fat dairy. Looking at more than 3,300 people, researchers found that people with the highest byproducts of full-fat dairy products enjoyed a 46 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to people who ate less full-fat dairy.
While it’s not entirely clear how whole fat milk is helping to lower risk of diabetes, it’s possible that it’s working on several different levels to regulate insulin and glucose. At the simplest level, people eating more high-fat dairy products feel satiated by the extra calories so they won’t crave additional calories from sugary foods.
It’s also possible that the fats in dairy may be acting directly on cells, working on the liver and muscle to improve their ability to break down sugar from food. And then there’s the possibility that for certain high-fat dairy foods, like cheese, which is fermented, microbes may be working to improve insulin response and lower diabetes risk too.
Did you know that skim milk was actually a waste product from cream and butter production?
The first skim milk was gray and watery. So the producers actually add back dried milk solids and coloring to make it marketable, not to mention SUGAR to make it taste good. That’s because when you remove the fat from a food, you always end up removing flavor.
The Harvard School of Medicine has announced that school children who drink skim milk every day are more inclined to becoming obese. And schools are pushing strawberry and chocolate skim milk, laden with sugar.
The Bottom Line
If you’re consuming milk, yogurt, butter, and cheese produced from conventionally raised cows that are fed a steady stream of antibiotics, your dairy intake may be playing a role in antibiotic resistance. Not just for you, either—also for your family and everyone else in the community. Conventional dairy may also increase your risk of being overweight and even of getting cancer.
The pasteurization process that most conventional dairy products undergo destroys essential enzymes and probiotics, as well as alters vital amino acids. Nearly all commercial milk is also homogenized, a process that oxidizes fats and creates free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that are known to weaken the immune system and result in intestinal inflammation, leading to leaky gut.
Do you know anyone who is lactose intolerant?
Actually, we all are. Just to different degrees. You see, upon birth, we all have the enzyme lactase to assist with breast milk digestion. But as we age, our bodies stop producing lactase. And in some folks, the consumption of dairy really sends them running: severe cramping, nausea, and diarrhea are the end result. The rest of us have kept consuming milk not experiencing those particular symptoms, and yet not connecting the dots on our other symptoms back to our dairy consumption. Symptoms like migraines, acne, sinus problems, and joint issues.
So how do proceed from here? Well, baby steps:
1. Transition from skim or low fat milk to whole fat milk.
2. Purchase only organic whole milk, cream, half and half, and yogurt.
3. Look for grass-fed pastured dairy products: butter, yogurt, and cheeses.
4. Try whole-fat goat* yogurt for your granola cereal and smoothies.
5. Locate a local dairy farmer who is selling raw, organic milk.
6. Try a quality almond, cashew, or coconut milk. (Not soy.)
* A note on goat yogurt. Goats are typically raised on small, family farms, given access to grass to eat. They are not pushed into mass milk production and therefore, not laden with antibiotics. They are happy, grass eaters who provide us with healthy vitamin rich dairy products.
But where will I get my calcium?
Surprise! There are many foods available that provide more calcium than milk.
· Collard Greens
· Bok Choy
· White beans
Are you ready to make milk a thing of your past, for the sake of your health? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!