Dairy can be a difficult topic when trying to determine its impact on health. While dairy is necessary for infants, it is not as necessary for adults. Some “foods,” such as grains and man-made fats, are more obviously unhealthy for humans to eat. Dairy products, however, can be confusing.
In its raw state, dairy has a good profile of available nutrients, including protein, fat, and carbohydrates. This food also causes a large insulin reaction, especially considering the amount of sugar (lactose) it contains.
Dairy products can vary greatly in form and quality. For example, full-fat raw dairy is much higher in quality than the processed, low-fat skim milk found on supermarket shelves.
There is also a substantial difference between ice cream and organic grass-fed butter. Ice cream is made from dairy products, while grass-fed butter is made from cow’s milk.
What can a health mom of growing kids do? Some, like the highly recognized Weston A. The Price Foundation recommends regular consumption of organic, raw, grass fed dairy, especially in fermented form like yogurt and kefir.
Some people who eat a paleo or ancestral diet believe that dairy is a new food for humans and that our bodies are not yet able to process it.
Regular Pasteurized Dairy
The law requires that most dairy products sold in stores be pasteurized and homogenized, which extends their shelf life but diminishes their nutrient content. Pasteurization destroys the enzymes in milk that are beneficial to health and changes the structure of proteins.
It dramatically reduces vitamin content and kills the live and active cultures that are supposed to be healthy.
While milk is consumed in America for its calcium content, it contains little available calcium, and the calcium it does have is much lower than that in many vegetables, nuts and fish like salmon or sardines.
Dairy that you buy at the grocery store is also a food that is marketed a lot. Extensive marketing is often a good warning sign that a product is not worth consuming.
Dairy marketing is specifically targeted at kids, those wanting to lose weight, and those at risk for osteoporosis. This is because calcium needs saturated fat to be absorbed, so a low-fat diet will put you at a higher risk for osteoporosis than not drinking milk.
Kids consume more milk than any other group since it is recommended for their growth and given in schools instead of water.
It’s unfortunate that full-fat dairy is often given in low-fat or chocolate forms, which have been shown to actually increase rates of obesity more than full-fat dairy.
A 2006 Swedish study that followed 230 families found that children on a low-fat diet (including low-fat dairy) had a 17% higher rate of obesity. These children consumed more sugar (to make up for the calories they weren’t getting from calorie-dense fat) and had higher insulin resistance.
Although all kids need healthy fats, milk is not the best source of nutrients for them.
Vegetables and fish that are high in calcium are easier for the body to absorb. Human breastmilk is not as rich in calcium as previously thought. In fact, an equivalent amount of Brazil nuts or olives contains more calcium than breastmilk.
Vegetables also create an environment that is good for calcium absorption and retention in the body. (Milk, on the other hand, makes the body acidic).
You’ve probably heard that conventional dairy products can also have moderate to high levels of growth hormone and antibiotics that are not active.
Foods such as cheese and yogurt are marketed as healthy snack options for growing kids. Most of the nutrients are lost when the products are pasteurized. Also, there is so much added sugar in yogurt that the benefits are cancelled out by the insulin spike.
Raw, Organic, Pastured, Grass-Fed, Full-Fat Dairy
This dairy is a different animal altogether. The FDA has demonized probiotics because they may contain live bacteria. The FDA’s record of keeping us safe from dangerous foods is not good, so if the FDA does not approve of a food, I will investigate it further.
Organic and raw dairy that comes from grass-fed sources contains more nutrients and live enzymes than pasteurized versions. The higher fat content also helps to reduce the spike in insulin levels and makes the calcium more easily absorbed by the body.
This type of dairy can be a good source of probiotics and calcium when it is fermented. The fermentation process also helps to break down the lactose, which reduces the overall sugar content.
Raw dairy that has come from cows that graze on pastures is the most natural form of dairy and has not been changed by any type of processing. You should consume the most natural form of the food.
Dairy products like butter and ghee have very low levels of lactose and are rich in healthy fats. Dairy from grass-fed sources is particularly nutritious, and most people can tolerate it well.
A percentage of people worldwide are intolerant to lactose. The fact that more and more people are intolerant to dairy is a sign that consuming it, or consuming too much of it, can be harmful.
A food group is often problematic when many people have difficulty digesting it. This may be because the body is not designed to digest that food group in large quantities.
In contrast, have you ever heard of someone being allergic to meat or leafy vegetables?
We should investigate the health implications of dairy intolerance more closely, since it is so common.
The ability to properly digest lactose and casein is lost after age 4, which is also the age that many cultures around the world stop breastfeeding.
I have found that many people are allergic or sensitive to dairy products, but they don’t realize it because they are used to feeling the effects that it has on their health.
To see how your body responds to dairy, try removing it from your diet for a month, then reintroducing it and monitoring your reaction. Some people feel better when they stop consuming dairy, while others don’t notice any difference.
Prostate and Other Cancers
One should be careful when it comes to more serious risks associated with drinking cow’s milk. In their review, Willett and Ludwig noted that some studies indicate that dairy consumption, including whole milk, is closely linked with rates of prostate cancer.
Dairy consumption is associated with endometrial cancer, especially in older women not receiving post-menopause hormone therapy.
The long-term effects of consuming milk on humans is unknown. There is a possibility that it could increase the risk for cancer, but it is not clearly proven. There is a need for more research.
There is much debate about whether there is a link between cow’s milk and breast cancer, as well as other cancers.
Studies that research life-threatening diseases like cancer are often limited by time constraints.
Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure
Based on current dietary recommendations, it is better to choose reduced- or low-fat milk varieties over full-fat options. This is because full-fat milk contains more saturated fat and sodium, which can increase the risk of developing heart disease and other problems.
The research on whether milk products provide cardiovascular benefits or risks is not definitive.
The reviewers found that studies connecting low-fat milk with reduced blood pressure have been inconsistent. They also found that neither whole or low-fat milk has been clearly linked to heart disease or stroke.
Drinking three glasses of full-fat milk a day would likely add too much saturated fat to one’s diet. Milk is good for you, but too much of anything is never a good idea.
Low-fat milk might not make children feel full, so they would eat more of other foods. The calorie counts for snacks can add up quickly. Instead of the typical one or two cookies kids might have eaten in the 60s, now they drink the fat-free milk with four or five cookies to go along with it.
The trade-off of potentially gaining weight, having cardiovascular disease risks, and developing chronic diseases is not worth it.
Further research is necessary to draw any firm conclusions between the effects of different fat levels in milk and any potential problems with heart or blood pressure.
Milk Consumption and Race
Groups have disagreed with the federal government’s dietary guidelines because they believe that race is closely linked to health and health disparities. Non-white Americans have much higher rates of lactose intolerance. Most people from Asia, Africa, Ashkenazi Jews, American Indians, and Hispanics are lactose intolerant.
The PCRM has written a letter to the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services arguing that the current dairy recommendations of three servings a day are not applicable to all Americans. The letter argued that the agencies should revise their recommendations because “dairy products are not only unnecessary, but also disproportionately harmful to people of color.” The letter claimed that dairy was associated with high rates of prostate cancer.
Levin, who works for the PCRM, says that unfortunately, African American men have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer than any other American demographic group, which makes this a racial issue.
The letter cited concerns over other cancers, asthma and fat and cholesterol.
One study has suggested that a gene that promotes calcium absorption, which is found more often in populations of African origin, could be contributing to disparities in prostate cancer. There is a possibility that racial disparities in healthcare access may play a role in the differing rates of cancer.
The Diabetes Guide to Foods of African Heritage recommends limiting intake of dairy and sweets. My Native Plate is an initiative from the Indian Health Service that recommends people of Native American descent cut out dairy.
Consider the context when you decide whether or not to use cow’s milk. People don’t just drink dairy by itself, they drink it with other things. They drink dairy instead of something, or with something. They eat cheese instead of something, with something.
Adding milk to a balanced, nutrient-rich diet may not result in any additional health benefits.
This is why plant-based milks are not mandatory, similar to dairy milk. You would get more dietary calcium from eating almonds or cashews than from drinking almond or cashew milk.
People are buying this milk to pour on their cereal because they grew up putting milk cereal.
This means that people like certain types of food more than others, and they don’t necessarily care about what food will give them all the nutrients they need.