written by Alison Klektau
But, I thought Milk was Good For me?!
One of the challenges of holistic nutrition is when it goes against the grain of what we were taught as kids. This is such in the case of dairy products. I understand people’s hesitation - maybe when you were little you were given a warm glass of milk to help you sleep, or drank glasses to “help build strong bones,” or it shared that special relationship with freshly baked cookies. Whatever the reason, most of us grew up drinking milk – being told it was great - but if you will, I’d like to challenge this notion and I’ll leave the decision up to you.
The Milk of Today
If you were to look at the nutritional properties you’d see that cow’s milk has about 3x more protein and 4x more calcium than breast milk – but yet here in North America where they have some of the highest consumptions of milk we also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. It’s odd that there would be such a difference in nutrients from breast milk – something that was intended to nurture us as babies – yet we are recommended to drink cow’s milk. Cows are a different animal and what they need nutritionally speaking is different from what we need. But ok, I get it, your parents turned out well, they claim they didn’t have any problems – but the milk your parents got is not the same as what is being sold today.
Today’s milk is pasteurized and sterilized and in some cases homogenized. Though the reason to do this is more for safety, as its main objective is to destroy bacterial enzymes, unfortunately in the process it also denatures the fat and protein as well as destroying B Vitamins and the beneficial enzymes. Because of this process, synthetic vitamins and minerals are added back in; synthetic vitamins however can overload the liver, while synthetic calcium can end up putting pressure on the kidneys. Many cows are also fed or injected with hormones and antibiotics, and I don’t think those are things you really want to be consuming.
The Allergen Dilemma
Milk is also a common allergen, with the majority of people being lactose intolerant. Most of us actually stop producing the enzyme lactase when we wean off breast milk, yet it’s something that a lot of people still continue to consume in some form or other. If you experience common signs/symptoms such as acne, puffiness, bloating, mucous, phlegm, constipation, or diarrhea, nixing dairy from your diet is something that you might really want to consider.
If you can’t properly digest it – you are not getting the nutrients from it.
When we have reactions to food, we are also causing inflammation in our bodies – and overtime this can lead to leaky gut syndrome, which can introduce a whole new host of issues such as IBS.
The Dairy Industry
It’s also important to note that the dairy industry is just that – it’s an industry. Just like any other business they do their share of promotional marketing to make their product seem great, and they’ll do what they can to make sure people continue to drink it. Remember all those celebrity endorsed “got milk?” ads, or the image of a happy cow frolicking in a field – it’s just marketing. Chances are if you saw how commercial milk was massed produced, you may have second thoughts.
Wait, what about the calcium?
For some reason milk is associated as the only source of calcium, but milk is acidic and can actually have the opposite effect by leaching calcium from our bones. The calcium contained in milk uses up large amounts of vitamin D in order to be absorbed properly; even with the added vitamin D there is not enough left over to supply the body’s daily requirement. A deficiency in vitamin D can be one cause of cancer.
There are many plant based foods to look to for calcium though – leafy greens, almonds, sesame seeds, figs and kelp are just some of them. Calcium is not the only nutrient that’s needed for bone health though – Vitamin D, K2, Magnesium, Strontium, Phosphorus are some of the other vitamins and minerals that are just as important. If preventing osteoporosis is a concern, incorporating regular exercise – specifically weight bearing exercises - is also beneficial.
What do I do? The Alternatives
But I don’t want to leave you in the dark; there are great milk alternatives out there. Even though the best option would be to make your own nut, seed or grain milks – which is actually a lot easier than you may think and takes less than 10 minutes – I know that can be a big jump for a lot of people. Almond milk and coconut milk are by far my favorite and amongst the more popular choices. I’m not a fan of soy because of the whole GMO thing, but there is also hemp milk or rice milk as other alternatives.
Goat and Sheep dairy are also much more easy for the human body to digest and are more similar to human milk. While they still may cause congestion, inflammation and other concerns for many people, they are a huge improvement from drinking cow dairy.
In the end – the decisions is yours – but if you’re up for it, challenge yourself by eliminating all forms of dairy for 2 weeks and see if you notice a difference.
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Meet the writer!!
Alison Klektau is currently a student at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Vancouver where she is studying to earn her certification as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. It is her passion to educate others on the power of eating a plant-based whole foods diet while incorporating regular exercise, as she believes in a mind-body approach. Previous to that, Alison earned her BFA in Theatre and Film Studies from the University of Victoria.