If there’s one question I get more than any other, it’s this one: “Is dairy healthy to eat?” I’ve found that nothing causes more emotional response than discussing dairy in our diets. While we may not all agree, this is where my years of personal experience and research have brought me:
Dairy is a personal choice. If you’ve tested your body’s response to life with AND without it, you know the answer already. The real question you should be asking is this: “Is non-organic and non-fat dairy healthy?” My answer is “No.”
The days of dairy farming have changed. I feel good about supporting the traditional farmers who let their cows out in the morning to graze on grass (their natural food) and welcome them back at milking time. Unfortunately, most grocery stores offer dairy options that come from cows who are housed in feedlots and fed unnatural feed containing antibiotics to fight the common infections of their often deplorable living circumstances as well as hormones like rbST, an artificial enhancer for increased milk production. What used to be clean and natural has now become tainted and dangerous.
When a large number of the population has noticeable reactions to one substance, it’s worth taking a closer look at your own symptoms and reactions. I love cheese. I mean, I ate it all the time. Yes, I was always congested; yes, I had strep throat over 50 times; and yes I was often constipated. But it was so good that I never wanted to understand that what I ate was related to how I felt. Through trial and error, I found that eliminating all dairy solved 100% of these problems. Though still heavily debated, a growing number of scientists are finding that dairy consumption is linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and even osteoporosis. While Vitamin D is needed for your bones, dairy has been shown to give you that good stuff and then take back more than it gave. But I ask myself, is it really dairy that’s the problem? Or is it the processing of cows and their byproducts?
Personally, I only buy organic for my kids when they want dairy, however, just because it’s labeled “organic” doesn’t mean it’s a no-brainer. New guidelines of “organic” have allowed for some creative practices – ones that go against the spirit of the practice. Feeding your cows organic grain instead of grass makes for organic but it doesn’t provide the cow their natural food – a variety of grasses. This can get rather complicated, so know your supplier. It doesn’t take much effort to get the “reviews” on your favorite food producers on Google or on Fooducate.com.
America’s focus on beef and milk from feedlot cows is unnatural and unhealthy; for the animal, for us and for the planet. Additionally, the process of defatting milk to make it skim or low fat doesn’t yield a food product worth consuming. I’m continually surprised by the arguments that ingesting pesticides is worth saving the extra dollars you spend each week at the market. If you decide to cut back or eliminate dairy, there are a number of ways to get the calcium and Vitamin D you need, including spinach, kale, white beans, high fat fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna) and egg yolks. However, if milk works well for you, know your producer and select one that not only uses organic practices, but one that goes beyond that to clean AND the true meaning of “natural”.
The one challenge I often give people with constant illness, discomfort or low energy is to skip all dairy for 2 weeks and see how they feel. The overwhelming response has been, “I feel better”. And when they go back, they often feel worse. I’ll admit to being a bit overzealous in my espousal of the non-dairy life, but over time I’ve discovered two truths: How one body reacts to dairy isn’t true for everyone; and the effects of organic is very different than that of non-organic. I invite those who can handle dairy without problems to read some of the article links I’ve posted below. Consuming nutrients that your body can use as fuel is far superior to consuming food-like matter that was developed for profit regardless of its effects on the health of humans and the planet. Understanding the difference between wholesome food and these fake food products may extend your life.
There are very few unbiased opinions on this subject. At the end of the day, it will come down to personal choice. You have to decide how you feel with it or without it in your body. There are many plant based choices giving you the nutrients people choose milk for and plenty of support for leading a non-dairy life. But choosing organic over a highly processed regular/low/non-fat milk is the first step. Grass fed, organic is my choice for those who want to consume dairy.
Pro-dairy (anti-non-fat) consumption: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/02/12/275376259/the-full-fat-paradox-whole-milk-may-keep-us-lean
Pro-organic dairy: http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20428001,00.html
Parenting without dairy: http://babyparenting.about.com/od/nutritionandfeeding/f/calcium-vitamin-d-toddlers.htm
Is “organic” really organic? http://www.npr.org/2011/03/01/134162035/a-growing-debate-how-to-define-organic-food