It’s eight in the morning and you’re standing in line at your favorite local coffee shop. You’re deciding what to order as you listen to the person in front of you ramble off their laundry list of demands for an overly complicated order. You roll your eyes as they ask the barista yet again for oat milk. “Oat milk?” you think to yourself. “That can’t be healthy, everyone knows that real milk does a body good.”
You’re next in line and you go for a 16 oz latte with full fat milk. After all, you need all the calcium, vitamin D and protein that comes from drinking milk for strong bones and teeth. Your order’s up, you take your first sip. Yum, pure heaven.
An hour later you’re sitting at your desk responding to emails when all of the sudden you feel a twinge of pain in your stomach. And then another twinge with an audible grumble to match. You don’t panic, this happens a lot. Maybe the coffee is just too strong. You pop a Tums. Another audible grumble echoes into the next cubicle.
Your co-worker Susan glances over and notices that you’re trying your best to pretend that you’re not in pain. Ugh. Here comes her speech again about healthy eating and a plant based diet, yada yada yada. Another grumble bellows from below warning you for the last time to seek cover.
As you flee for the restroom in the most casual way possible and as you make your way towards relief, you can’t help but think that maybe Susan is right. That maybe, just maybe milk doesn’t do a body good.
Is Dairy Really Good For You?
The dairy industry seems to be a hot topic these days causing many heated debates. As milk consumption declines and dairy farms all over the world are beginning to shut down, Big Dairy seems to be in a lot of trouble. And with the spotlight turned on, more and more consumers are beginning to do their research and discover the truth about the dairy industry leaving many people, even those who follow a paleo diet, to question their consumption of cow’s milk.
Growing up you were probably told to drink milk to stay healthy and you may even remember those little cartons of milk you got with your school lunch that you had to open just the right way. Drinking milk seemed to be part of everyday life, as American as apple pie, but what nutritional value does dairy truly provide?
Saturated Fat And Heart Disease
According to The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “Milk and other dairy products are the top source of saturated fat in the American diet, contributing to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have also linked dairy to an increased risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers.” Though it is true that there is a need for a small amount of healthy fats in your diet, saturated fats such as those found in animal products raise your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels lead to an increased risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in America according to the CDC.
A study published by the Iranian Journal Of Public Health concluded that naturally occurring hormones found in dairy products have biological effects in humans and animals, which can range anywhere from growth promoting effects to an increase in the IGF-1 hormone, a precursor hormone which has been shown to promote cancer.
Well that’s no good.
But Aren’t Vegans Deficient In Vitamin D And Calcium?
While you may have been taught growing up that animal products such as milk and cheese were a source for these essential nutrients, nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that all the vitamin D that is claimed to be found in cow’s milk is not naturally occurring and the milk has been fortified with synthetic vitamin D.
If you’re not into drinking a cup of saturated fat to get your daily dose of vitamin D, well that’s good news! Getting your vitamin D on a plant-based diet is as easy as stepping out into the sun for about 30 minutes, enjoying a nice warm bowl of savory mushroom stew or simply eating a serving of tofu.
And if you’re thinking that a tall glass of cold milk with your cookies is a sure bet for strong bones, think again. According to Dr. Greger from www.nutritionfacts.org, “A meta-analysis of cow’s milk intake and hip fracture studies showed no significant protection, and a recent set of studies involving one hundred thousand men and women followed for up to two decades even suggested milk may sometimes increase bone and hip fracture rates.”
And if you’re worried about getting enough calcium on a plant based diet, don’t be! Some of the best sources of calcium come from green vegetables like kale, broccoli, and bok choy, and are absorbed twice as fast as the calcium in milk. Green leafy veggies also contain fiber, folate, iron, along with beneficial antioxidants – all nutritious benefits that cow’s milk is lacking.
So, What Do Vegans Drink Instead Of Milk?
Assuming you’re not into the whole hormones and saturated fat thing, vegan dairy alternatives are delicious, nutritious, and incredibly easy to use in everyday recipes. Plant-based milks such as almond, hemp, oat, soy and rice are full of vitamins and contain more calcium than dairy milk alone. On top of that, plant-based milks are low in sugar, calories and fat and don’t contain the carcinogenic hormone IGF-1.
Plant milks are also pretty easy to make at home and all you need is a high-speed blender and a nut-milk bag. Try out this easy almond milk recipe from Oh She Glows and see just how delicious a cold glass of almond milk can be. And if it’s cream you crave with your cup of Joe in the morning then try adding a splash of vegan vanilla coconut creamer for some added vegan creamy goodness.
But I Could Never Give Up Cheese!
We hear you. Cheese is quite the siren! It’s ewy, gooey, and delicious, but did you ever stop to think about why you crave cheese so much? Did you ever think you just might be addicted to cheese?
“That’s crazy, cheese isn’t a drug!” you may laugh. However, compelling studies in Dr. Neal Barnard’s book entitled The Cheese Trap: How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Get Healthy dives deep into the health hazards of dairy and the connection to casein, a protein found in dairy that contains small amounts of opiates.
Dr. Barnard explains further in an article published by NPR that cow’s milk protein (casein) contains mild amounts of opiates to reward the baby cow for nursing. However, the amount of opiates increased seven fold during the cheese making process which is why Dr. Barnard jokingly refers to cheese as ‘dairy crack’.
On top of its addictive attributes Dr. Barnard cautions that cheese is “Loaded with calories, high in sodium, packing more cholesterol than steak, and sprinkled with hormones — if cheese were any worse, it would be Vaseline …”
While these new and disappointing cheese facts may have rained on your cheddar parade, don’t despair! Vegan cheese is just as tasty and even better than dairy cheese, all without the opiates and saturated fat.
If you don’t believe me, try out this awesome vegan mac and cheese recipe from Love And Lemons. For added cheesy goodness melt a few slices of Tofutti Brand American Cheese Slices and top with some vegan bacon crumbles. And if you’re a true cheese connoisseur who can work their way around a five star cheese platter then a few smears of this vegan truffle brie will have you forget all about your long time love affair with casein.
The Benefits Of Going Dairy-Free
By eliminating dairy products from your life you will find that weight loss comes easier due to not ingesting high amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, and your skin will clear up from avoiding the high amounts of hormones and antibiotics found in milk that lead to acne. On top of that your digestion will improve because your intestines will no longer be failing at digesting lactose (cow’s milk sugar). And now that you are consuming healthy plant-based foods that provide more than double the amount of calcium found in dairy foods your overall bone health will begin to increase helping to prevent osteoporosis.
While dairy may have been a staple during your youth bringing back fond memories of milk mustaches and hot cocoa, the truth is dairy doesn’t do a body good. If you’re just beginning your journey towards a healthier lifestyle or are in the process of transitioning to a plant-based diet, consider ditching dairy this December as your first step towards a better and healthier you.