We've all grown up with the idea that cow's milk is a wonderful source of calcium. Cow's milk is in so many things we ingest, not just in a glass of milk itself. Ice cream of course, our morning coffee creamer, sauces, soups, breads, salad dressings, and more. Even though drinking milk has been an American cultural norm, there are many reasons why we should think about switching to nut milks, and even going completely dairy-free.
No species drinks milk beyond their natural age of weaning or drinks milk of another species. Only humans do this.
What we have failed to connect is our consumption of milk with the array of health issues that potentially arise with it's consumption. Here are a few things to think about when it comes to dairy...
If she's not your mom, it's not your milk.
Let's first talk about the calcium we've been raised to drink a glass of milk for. Animal proteins actually produce acid when they're broken down (which is one reason to cut back on meat too - it creates a non-alkaline/acidic environment in our bodies, causing inflammation and a much greater potential for cancers and diseases to form). Calcium is an acid neutralizer, and in order to neutralize and flush the acid, our bodies have to use the calcium that the milk contains, along with the calcium it's received from other sources and stored. So when we drink milk, we're actually depleting the calcium from our bodies, causing it to use more than it would if we'd just drink water and consume calcium from other sources like spinach, kale, soybeans, fish, oranges, and oats. And if you're eating a lot of cheese, you're not only depleting your body of it's calcium, but adding a vast amount of sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol too.
I know, we all hate this word and feel like everything in life gives us cancer. The truth is, we can lower our chances of developing it simply by making lifestyle and dietary changes. The American Cancer Society says that only about 10% of all cancer cases are due to genetics, so that leaves 90% up to our own control. Prostate Cancer, for example, as well as breast cancer chances increase with diets that incorporate dairy, whereas dairy-free diets have been proven to slow down the progress of cancer development. Ovarian cancer is twice as likely to develop in women who consumed more than four servings of dairy products daily. That includes cream, milk, yogurt, cheese...
UNWANTED DIGESTIVE SYMPTOMS
None of us want to suffer from gas, nauseousness, cramping, bloat, or you know.. the runs. But the fact is that cow's milk can be hard on our digestive systems. Even if we don't realize it, think about how you feel the next time you eat it. Are you stopped up? Do you notice more breakouts in your skin? Any cramps or stomach pains?
Cow's naturally produce estrogens that are transferred to their milk, so consuming large quantities may significantly increase estrogen levels. In men, this can lead to prostate cancer, infertility, and tumors. Soy milk also contains estrogenetic compounds, so we should all, men and women alike, avoid soy of any kind as well.
CHOLESTEROL & SATURATED FAT
Plants don't contain any of it, but one serving of milk has as many as 24 mg of cholesterol which is awful for our hearts. An ounce of cheese has 30 mg. It's not to say that you can never enjoy it, but consider doing it in moderation. One serving of milk has over 20% of our daily allowance of saturated fat. Cheese is even worse. Harvard reports that pizza and cheese are the two biggest saturated fat food sources in the American diet.
WEIGHT GAIN IN CHILDREN
Over 12,000 children showed that the more milk they drank, the more they weighed. Skim and 1% actually appeared to lead to more weight gain than drinking 2% or whole milk.
Cheese can have up to 400 mg of sodium per ounce, especially blue cheese and feta.
A man-made growth hormone called rBGH (I'll spare you the long spelled out version) was created for dairy farmers so they could increase cow's milk production. Of course it was approved by the FDA but guess what - Canada, Europe, and other countries have banned it's use. Not surprising - America wants all the money and they want it now, so they come up with toxic ways to do so that harm is in the long run. This hormone is of concern to humans because of the fact that rBGH-treated cows have higher levels of IGF-1, a hormone that helps cellular growth, which when found in humans, may influence tumor growth.
Cow's milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, who have four stomachs and gain hundreds of pounds in a matter of months, sometimes weighing over 1,000 pounds before they're even 2 years old.
Cow's milk was never intended for us, so no wonder if causes issues!
I'm just a dog-mom at this point, so I'm not going to suggest anything for you because only you are capable of doing whatever is best for you child. But something to think about is the fact that a child's mother's breast milk was intended for them, just as a cow's milk was intended for her calf. Naturalchild.org states that health problems such as childhood diabetes, obesity, bowel disease, osteoporosis, heart disease, cataracts, colic, ear infections, hyperactivity, and cancer, on the rise in both children and adults, can be strongly linked to infant feeding choices. This should not be a surprise but many people still have trouble believing that food directly affects health and much of the state state of our overall wellness.
Milk is FULL of sugar. Does your child have trouble going to sleep at night or seem to be extra wired at different times during the day? Many parents give their children milk or juice at night before bedtime. Especially at bedtime when they're trying to wind down, maybe try switching them a new routine or beverage without the added sugars, like water. (Essential Oils tip: Add a drop of Lemon Vitality Essential Oils in it for taste too. It may take time to get them off of the routine, but the lack of sugar in their systems will help them wind down faster. It's also helpful to promote a calming environment at bedtime, so diffuse Lavender and Cedarwood to promote a relaxing state that also encourages a good night's rest.)
The dairy industry will do anything it has to to try and stop the "rumors" about the harmful affects of it's products.
Lactose is a sugar that's meant for babies, and it's generally harmful for adults. When adults DO breakdown lactose, the resultant galactose can cause vision, prostate, and other problems in older adults. The proteins in cow's milk are different from human milk proteins and cause problems of digestion, intolerance, impaired absorption of other nutrients, and autoimmune reactions.
Few of the proteins meant for baby cows are found naturally in human mother's milk, and none are found in any natural adult human food.
Even the high protein content in cow's milk creates problems. Human babies need the saturated fats and cholesterol in mother's milk. Cow's milk fat is not appropriately composed for human babies and is only deleterious to the health of children and adults. Cows also concentrate pesticides and pollutants into their milk fat, from their high dietary food and water requirements. The high amount of drugs now given to cows adds to this chemical soup. But we need milk to build strong bones, don't we? Actually, heavy milk consumption is associated with increased osteoporosis, as I stated above when talking about calcium.
Human milk and vegetable sources are superior to dairy for calcium and other nutrients in many ways. There are fewer nutritional or other health advantages to giving cow's milk to children than is generally believed, while there are certainly many risks. - naturalchild.org
We love nut milks in our house. Some of our favorites include Almond and Coconut, but with all things, it's good to switch it up sometimes and consume in moderation. So we rotate our nut milks. One week we'll enjoy Almond, then Coconut, Macadamia, and sometimes Cashew. We love them all, each has it's own flavor and consistency, but they're all creamy and delicious. Macadamia and Cashew are rich and luscious so I like to use those in my coffee, blending the milk separately with a frother with a pinch of cinnamon before adding it to my coffee on mornings I have it (once a week or so as a treat).
CHOOSING THE RIGHT BRANDS
As frustrating as it is, nut milks also contain less-than-ideal ingredients such as Natural Flavors and Synthetic Vitamins, so unless you make your own nut milk, I'd recommend being choosey about what brand you buy. I've searched them all... I personally like Mooala, Carrageenan-free, synthetics-free, and the cutest branding. Here's the nutrition label on their Vanilla Almond Milk. Do you recognize all of the ingredients? I do. And that's how I like it.
Brands like Almond Breeze, So Delicious, Bolthouse Farms, and Califia Farms all contain ingredients that I'd personally prefer not to consume. I just don't have enough clarity about what's in them so I don't even bring it home. I want to buy clean and honest food and support brands that I believe to have the same values as I do.
WHAT ABOUT CHEESE?
I know - that's the tough one because I too love cheese, but I feel so much better physically when I'm not eating it. Seriously, being dairy-free has made me feel like a new person. My skin is clearer, digestion is better, and I just feel better. But you can still eat non-cow's-milk cheese! There are tons of cheese made from other kinds of animals like sheep and goat that are so delicious. Feta, Manchego, Buffalo Mozzarella, Lebbene, and Pecorino (amazingly nutty rich flavor) just to name a few.
WHAT ABOUT ICE CREAM?!
This is a hard one for many people because ice cream is a nightly dessert routine in some households. But don't you feel like crap in the mornings? It could be from the ice cream, seriously. Try some non-dairy options - seriously, they're sooo delicious and easy to adjust to! I've label-read all of the ones in our grocery store (to ensure they're natural flavor and Carageenan-free, among other things). We love coconut milk ice cream by Coconut Bliss which is a great one, and sometimes we'll get Talenti's Cold Brew Coffee Sorbetto which is seriously like sex, like seriously wow. It's so amazing. Also, have you ever heard of "Nice Cream"?? You slice up a few bananas, freeze the chunks in the freezer for like 2-3 hours, and then blend them up in a food processor or blender with your favorite ingredients like chocolate chips, peanut butter, berries, coffee grinds, a little honey or greek yogurt perhaps, and holy WOW is that awesome... Even if you add some sugar to it, it's still insanely healthy and let me tell you - the texture is ICE CREAM. Like someone would not know the difference if you didn't tell them. And the craziest part is that it doesn't taste like bananas, it's such a creamy perfect texture and the first time I did it, I was amazed. It was so cool... So try these options! Your body will thank you! And I doubt your kids won't even notice.
NEVER SAY NEVER
Though it's not on my grocery list, we will still occasionally have cow's milk while out at a restaurant, at someone's house for dinner, or really craving a deliciously stringy grilled cheese on a cozy winter day. Unless you have a complete intolerance issue or can not have dairy for other reasons (in which case you probably already know everything I put in this post), if you choose to still consume cow's milk dairy from time to time, just do what we do and make sure it's from a healthy source. Read the labels and packaging and look to see if the cows were grass-fed and no antibiotics or hormones were used on them, and as a plus- make sure it's certified organic. I like to use creamer evvvvery once in a while in my decaf coffee so I'll get Organic Valley's creamer. It's delicious! I can tell such a difference between that and other standard cheaper brands.
RESEARCH ON YOUR OWN
It's up to you to do what's best for your family. My husband's stomach has never done well with dairy so we've always chosen nut milks. We do eat cheese semi-often though, but do it in moderation and maybe about once a week. We love goat cheese (especially with fruit) and Pecorino Romano. Feta is another favorite, especially on a Greek salad of course. But everyone is different and each of us have to do what's best for our bodies, our families, and our own wellness. Cow's milk does not work for us, so we choose alternatives. :)
If you choose to go dairy-free or cow's milk-free, let me know how the transition is working for you and your family and what you notice in your overall health and wellness as a result!