Time to ditch milk?
It’s not easy to persuade someone who’s used to drinking cow’s milk to change their habits. As a Nutritionist, I’ve long been aware of milk’s negative health effects, but it still took me a while to stop automatically adding a couple of bottles to the family shopping cart - well it was organic at least! There were three teenagers who protested loudly when I finally did.
The dairy industry has done a thorough job in convincing us that milk and dairy products are fundamental to good health – and it uses its formidable lobbying power to do so. The brainwashing begins early; In kindergarten children are told that they need to drink milk to builds strong bones and teeth. Later they learn that milk and dairy are the best sources of calcium and vitamin D. They probably don’t hear much (if anything) about healthier, more sustainable sources of these important nutrients.
As adults the focus in on how low-fat milk can help you lose weight or even prevent osteoporosis - even though all research points to the exact opposite. Then there are all those highly questionable, successful marketing campaigns that would have us believe that certain yogurts can help build a healthy intestinal environment and even give us a flatter stomach.
When you think about it, there’s nothing natural about consuming cows milk. All mammals produce milk to nourish their young, but human babies weren’t intended to drink cow’s milk – that’s intended for baby cows. Modern factory farming practices have turned dairy cows into ‘milk machines’ living their shortened lives out in pitiful conditions.
We are the only species on earth that consume the milk of other species in adulthood. We’re so used to having milk in the fridge that it’s easy to forget that humans survived 7 million years with no dairy products at all - and there is no evidence of bone disease in prehistoric man). Milk products have only been around 10,000 years – a very short time in evolutionary terms. Many of us lack the enzymes to digest it properly - no wonder up to 75% of us are lactose intolerant: bloating, gas, weight gain and abdominal discomfort are all classic symptoms.
More worrying is the cocktail of antibiotics, pesticides and hormones in dairy products, including One of these is IGF 1 (insulin like growth factor 1), which stimulates the very rapid growth of calves. It stimulates growth in us too. The problem is it does so by boosting the division and multiplication of all our cells – including the abnormal ones. It’s not surprising that more and more studies are finding a link between IGF 1 and various cancers.
What about the Food Pyramid?
Perhaps you’re wondering why ‘official’ guidelines recommend consuming dairy products every day? It’s not surprising when you consider that many of people making these recommendations have direct affiliations to the dairy industry. It’s simply not in their best interests to encourage people to explore healthier alternatives.
I’m not suggesting that you eliminate all dairy products overnight. But we need to accept that modern milk just isn’t the same thing our grandparents (or even parents) drank. While there’s room in a balanced diet for some goat and sheep’s milk products (purer, more nutritious, easier to digest and not factory farmed), my advice is to limit your consumption of cow’s milk products, avoid industrialized milk products completely (buy organic) and explore healthy alternatives like almond, rice and soymilk. It might take time to adjust, but even my teenagers have come around.