Understanding Dairy and Its Impact on Human Health
Dairy is the lactation product or milk that comes specifically from a cow. All mammals secrete milk as a food designed for nursing their young and assisting the expedited growth process of the offspring. Dairy is the most consumed source of milk in industrialized countries. Other forms of milk such as goat's milk and vegan sources like soy, hemp, almond, coconut milk, and banana milk are also consumed, but are not as commercially available or as mass marketed as dairy milk.
It is important to realize that every source of dairy that has made it to grocery store shelves and to your palate came from a cow that had recently given birth. No mammals, including humans, produce milk when they are not lactating, or after they have given birth. Milk is also designed to naturally assist with the large growth demands on the rapidly developing calf, allowing the animal to grow 3x it's body weight in a matter of months.
Milk and its by-products (cheese, yogurt, butter, cream) are naturally high in fat. It is the fat within the milk that assists with the large growth demands of a young calf and what appeals to most human palates. A single cup of whole milk contains 149 calories with 47% of the calories coming directly from fat. That same cup contains 8 grams of total fat, 4.6 g saturated fat, 24.4 mg of cholesterol, 7.7 g protein, and 0 grams of fiber. Processed dairy products, such as cheese and butter will have much higher total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium contents. For just one slice (1 oz.) of cheddar cheese you will get 113 calories, with 75% of those calories coming from fat, 9.3 g of total fat, 6 g of saturated fat, 30 mg of cholesterol, and 174 mg of sodium. Cheese is one of the most fat gaining, addictive foods on the planet due to its high fat and sodium content. Butter contains a whopping 100 calories comes from just 1 tablespoon, with 100% of those calories coming from fat, 11.5 g of total fat, 7.3 g of saturated fat, and 30.5 mg of cholesterol. Aside from the fat content, dairy products lack several health promoting nutrients. They contain little to no fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, B6, niacin (B3), folate, manganese, iron, copper, and potassium.
Lactose intolerance is a condition that results from the inability for the small intestine to digest or breakdown the sugar lactose. Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products, including human breast milk. In order to digest lactose, the small intestine needs to create the enzyme lactase. Most humans lose the ability to digest lactose between the ages of 2 and 5. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal bloating, gas, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. It is estimated that 75% of the world's population is lactose intolerant.
Dairy and Calcium Balance
One of the main reasons people believe dairy is a necessary component in the human diet is due to its calcium content, specifically for bone health. Gram for gram, milk has a higher percentage of calcium than most foods, but at what cost to the human body? Studies suggest that increased dairy intake does not correlate with increased calcium levels/ In fact, in one study the girls who consumed the most dairy had the highest risk of stress fractures. It is theorized that the protein casein within milk hinders calcium absorption, and promotes calcium loss from the bones due to it's acidity.
Plant foods generally contain a lower percentage of calcium per gram than dairy products, but nevertheless are a great source of calcium without potentially acidic byproducts. Almonds, citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cabbage), leafy greens (romaine), soybeans, flax seeds, chia seeds, legumes/beans, sesame seeds, figs, cherries, bananas, dates, mulberries, leeks, onions, avocado, asparagus, butternut squash, sapotes, raspberries, blackberries and dried fruits are all great sources of plant-based calcium. A value of 600 mg of calcium from calcium containing plant foods is recommended per day.
Humans are the only species of mammals that continue to consume dairy from another species, and well after being weaned from mom. While the overall nutrition of dairy gives us an idea of where the obesity epidemic comes from, what are the other consequences of consuming the milk product of another species?
When a cow is lactacting, just like a human, she is secreting growth hormones into in milk. These growth hormones also assist the growing calf with development into a full grown cow. Humans that regularly consume dairy can experience weight gain, acne, allergies, eczema, psoriasis, and other hormone-related side effects.
Dairy milk is also loaded with pus or mucus, which can increase a person's risk of developing infectious disease (cold, flu, virus) even after the milk has been pasteurized.
Any dairy products coming from factory farms (including organic) has the potential to be loaded with additional hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides.
Raw dairy contains the same nutritional profile as pasteurized dairy, only it hasn't been pasteurized or heated. This means that it contains all of its enzymes in tack, but will go rancid faster and has a higher risk of pathogenic contamination.
Dairy consumption has been linked to a number of different health problems including allergies, lactose intolerance, sinus problems, ear infections, immune system deficiencies, frequent colds/flus, anemia, diabetes (type 1 and 2), obesity, acne, skin disorders (eczema, psoriasis), inflammation, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, digestive disorders (IBS, constipation, diarrhea), and candida.
Dairy and Digestive Health
Leaky gut syndrome, a symptom of candida, is believed to be the result of animal product consumption, including dairy. It is believed that the animal foods cause the gut lining to become leaky, allowing bacteria to enter the blood stream producing widepspread toxemia and inflammation. It is best to avoid all animal products, including dairy if experiencing digestive issues or candida symptoms. It is a popular myth that yogurt will benefit the digestive track due to it's bacterial content. Prebiotic rich foods, such as bananas, blueberries, spinach, and beets can aid in rebalancing and repopulating the gut with good bacteria.
Due to the onslaught of scientific information making its way to the surface concerning dairy products and human health, it is highly suggested to start reducing/limiting dairy intake, and opting for plant based alternatives.
Plant foods naturally contain high levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that are designed for human consumption and utilization. Plenty of cheese alternatives exist, including soy, nut, and seed options. Nutrient needs can also be met consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables! The key to success on a plant-based diet is consuming enough plant foods to meet nutrient requirements.
Plant-based Dairy Alternatives
Great Dairy Alternatives Include: Almond milk, Rice milk, Oat milk, Flax Milk, Quinoa Milk, Hazelnut Milk, Hemp milk, Soy milk, Coconut milk, Coconut Yogurt, Soy Yogurt, Coconut Ice Cream, Cashew milk and cheese, Daiya products
If you need help making the switch to a plant-based diet, leave me a message at the Contact page!
Milk Supply Safety: http://nutritionfacts.org/2012/04/25/mad-cow-california-is-the-milk-supply-safe/
Calcium Intake and Osteoporosis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23217270
Leaky Gut Theory of Why Animal Products Cause Inflammation: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-leaky-gut-theory-of-why-animal-products-cause-inflammation/
Acne Promoting Effects of Milk: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-acne-promoting-effects-of-milk/
Lactose Intolerance: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001321/
Health Concerns About Dairy Products: http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/health-concerns-about-dairy-products
Dairy: 6 reasons you should avoid it at all costs: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/dairy-free-dairy-6-reason_b_558876.html