Let’s just get back to the basics. We’re mammals.
We may be more highly evolved mammals than most, but nevertheless, we’re mammals. All mammals nurse, which puts us in the same category as dogs, cats, horses – you get my point.
Now here’s the thing; no other mammals nurse past toddler-hood, nor do they drink the milk of other mammal species (unless in extreme circumstances when a baby is left motherless). Don’t get me wrong, breast milk is clearly nature’s first good food but nowhere else in nature do these behaviors occur, except with humans?
That alone should make you stop and go, ‘hmm’. Now, I’m not arguing that cow’s milk is a decent source of protein and other nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D – FOR COWS, but it’s not all that the American Dairy Association would have us think it’s cracked up to be, for us humans. Yes, calcium and vitamin D are necessary for healthy teeth and bones – but there are many other more appropriate sources of those nutrients. Cue list:
Many of us lose the ability to digest milk after infancy. This is because the lactase enzymes that help us to break down lactose (a.k.a. milk sugar) tend to decrease as we age. So if you’ve ever gotten that bloated feeling after having indulged in dairy, chances are, you’re one of those people. Then there is the issue of milk allergies. Some of us are definitely allergic to milk but I believe that many more of us have sensitivities to milk.
The best way to determine if you have an issue with milk or dairy products is through an elimination diet. To do this means to eliminate all dairy products from your diet for a few weeks, noting any changes in your health, and changes in how you feel. Afterwards, challenge your system by reintroducing dairy and see what happens. If you don’t have a sensitivity or allergy, and you enjoy dairy products, then by all means, feel free to indulge. You’re on what I call “the winning team.” However, if you suspect or find that milk is an issue for you, then it would behoove you to eliminate dairy products from your diet. — “Did she just suggest what I think she suggested?” Yes. Yes, I did.
For those who want to forgo dairy products, there are some alternatives for your coffee/cereal, and whatever else you would typically put milk in.
- My favorite is unsweetened almond milk. It has a nice, rich consistency and makes a great coffee creamer or cereal base.
- A lot of other people prefer soy or rice milk, but because of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) – I would stick to organic on those.
- Coconut milk is also a good alternative.
Now, I can’t write an article about milk and not mention the raw milk craze, so here is what I have to say about that: I think raw milk is probably more digestible than pasteurized milk because it has more enzymes to aid in digestion. On the other hand, it’s not widely available, and sometimes it’s just flat out illegal. So, if you have access to raw milk and feel comfortable, it might be a good option for you as well.
So there you have it. Remember the list above for food-based calcium sources. If your ultimate concern and reason for drinking milk is to derive the calcium for bone health, then I have a couple more recommendations for you. One is to do more weight-bearing exercises which can have a huge positive affect on bone density. My second recommendation is to avoid carbonated beverages (that aren’t fortified), which can negatively affect bone mineral density. In my opinion, you’d be much better served doing weight-bearing exercises and avoiding carbonated beverages than drinking milk. If you’re drinking milk for its vitamin D content, then I have good news for you. Supplementation for vitamin D is affordable and easy! Hello, sun exposure! Just 15-minutes a day without sunscreen and you can consider yourself supplemented during the summer months. Supplementation is necessary in the colder months, but again, cheap and easy.