So, what’s the beef with dairy?
Honestly – I’m not as extreme as others about dairy. It slips into my diet every now and again – I mean… cheese and wine anyone?! (There are some important caveats to these times though) But here’s the real deal; for most people it doesn’t just sneak in. It’s in EVERY SINGLE MEAL they eat EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Imagine this; upon asking me about my daily intake of food I said…
“For breakfast today I had broccoli on my bowl of porridge, then for lunch a broccoli sandwich and some broccoli in my cuppa, then I had an afternoon snack of broccoli, followed by broccoli pasta for dinner and a lovely hot broccoli drink before bed”
You’d be like… Jo. Dude. What’s with all the fucking broccoli?! But seriously, many people are having milk on their cereal in the morning, a cheese sandwich for lunch, milk in their tea or latte, a yogurt or biscuit as an afternoon snack and a creamy pasta sauce for dinner before cosying up with a hot chocolate before bed. That’s at least 6 TIMES of one food group and not even taking into account the hidden dairy in processed foods.
You know me, I’m all about balance and less about restriction – but this is NOT balanced. Even eating a so-called ‘healthy’ food isn’t recommended 6 times a day.
So, here’s the low down on dairy for you to make the choice about if you include it in your diet every now and again or completely cut it out (or eat it #everydamnday)
Milk has changed – I’ve had a fair few chats with my parents generation about milk and the usual response is “Pish posh, I’ve been drinking milk all my life and I’m fine.” Ok, I hear you – I’m not going to go too far into the argument of; how do you know you wouldn’t feel EVEN better if you’ve never tried not having it? But here’s a biggy; the milk we drink is not the same milk as our grandparents drank. Over the last fifty years, dairy-farming has become more intensive to increase the amount of milk produced by each cow. In fact milk production per cow has more than doubled in the past 40 years. Unless you’re looking at organic (more on this later) conventional milk comes along with antibiotics, allergenic proteins and hormones (in fact, even organic cannot avoid this one). Delicious.
Speaking of hormones, lots of people’s argument for not drinking cows milk is that they are injected with growth hormones, which they are across the pond in the USA. This is actually illegal in the EU, but milk naturally contains hormones anyway, mainly oestrogen and progesterone because THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT OF MILK. So weight gain is going to happen if too much dairy is consumed – because it is designed to help a baby cow grow into a mofo big mama.
Allergies – According to research by M.Heyman, 70% of the world’s population have milk induced digestive stress because of an intolerance to lactose. That’s 7 out of 10 people in a room. Milk allergies are particularly prevalent in children and it’s usually one of the first foods introduced to them. Full on allergies are caused by milk proteins (either casein or whey) which induce inflammation – this then leads to eczema, ear infections, sinus issues and a lot of snot. Allergies are serious but less common than lactose intolerance which effects many more people.
Lactose is the sugar in dairy products – to digest it properly humans need an enzyme called lactase. This enzymes job is to break down the lactose into glucose and galactose, so the body can absorb it. Problems arise when your body cannot produce enough lactase and therefore cannot digest the lactose (you still with me?). And why should your body produce lactase?! The only reason we need to breakdown lactose is when we’re being breastfed. Now unless your sat on the sofa sucking on your mums nipple right now (gross, but true) then biologically it makes sense that your lactase production is probably pretty low.
Lactose intolerance symptoms range from;
- bloating/swelling in the abdomen
- abdominal pain/cramping
- nausea, vomiting
- headaches or migraines
Sustainability – Luckily the dairy industry in the UK isn’t as diabolical as the mess over in America (seriously, look into Big Dairy USA. Got Milk? Hope not.) We do still have many cows who are grass-fed and are allowed to roam the fields as they should. In fact, organic dairy cows spend much of their lives outdoors where they can graze on a natural diet of grass and Waitrose and Marks & Spencer’s guarantee that their cows have grazed for at least 100 days a year (2) .In the UK most dairy cows still have daytime ‘access’ to grazing on pasture in summer, but more cows are being kept indoors for longer, or even all year round.
Regardless of this, dairy is crap for the environment. It takes a shit ton of water to keep the cows hydrated, clean the facility and to grow the feed they eat (I’m talking 4,954 gallons per day PER COW according to One Green Planet). All this, alongside the methane and nitric oxide emissions from manure makes the footprint pretty giant.
But it’s a good source of calcium – I smell B.S. Sure, milk does contain some calcium BUT the most recent studies are clear – there just isn’t a link with dairy consumption and bone health. Sure we need calcium, but what’s really important is how much calcium our bodies can hold onto. AND there are loads of other sources of calcium anyway! (See end of post for a list). But time and time again the research is showing that by simply drinking more milk won’t stop those bones a-breaking. You know what does? Weight-bearing exercise and physical activity.
THE GOOD BITS
Fermented Milk – If you don’t struggle with dairy then there may be benefits from having some kefir, good quality unflavoured yogurt and decent locally sourced cheese (yay!), better still are sheep and goats cheeses like Manchego, Pecorino or Feta. This is due to the probiotic benefits they hold.
Fatty fat fat – My favourite subject. The WORST thing that EVER happened to dairy was when it was stripped of fat. Skimmed milk makes my skin crawl – just. no. The fat content in dairy may be it’s best quality. When its removed, the beneficial fatty acids are removed too, as well as vitamin A, and it’s ability to satiate you. So you eat more.
Organic, grass-fed is the best – (grass-fed butter on your veggies gets the thumbs up from me because you need the fat to digest the fat-soluable vits in them). When a cow is eating a good grassy diet free from pesticides and antibiotics then it actually changes the balance of Omega 3 & 6 fats. This is important because the incorrect ratio of these fats promotes inflammation – we need those 3’s.
It has some vits and minerals – As well as calcium, dairy contains Vitamins A, B2,B3, B6, B12 and D (but only because it’s added in) plus magnesium, selenium and zinc.
So what do you do…
- If you can’t afford to go organic, local and grass-fed then don’t buy it. You don’t need the stuff (we now know that we can have optimal health without it) you just want it.
- Eat full fat (otherwise go away.)
- Go for small amounts, every now again – otherwise I’ll make you eat broccoli 6 times a day just to prove my point.
- Try ghee to cook with – it has the milk solids and water removed so can be easier on digestion but still gives you those lovely fats with a high smoking point.
- Try the alternative milks – best enviromentally friendly is Oat and nutritionally better are nut milks. Coconut yogurt is a personal fave
Top sources of calcium from Dr Axe
- Sardines (canned with bones included) — 1 cup: 569 milligrams (57 percent DV)
- Yogurt or Kefir — 1 cup: 488 milligrams (49 percent DV)
- Raw milk (careful with sourcing this)— 1 cup: 300 milligrams (30 percent DV)
- Cheese — 1 ounce: 202 milligrams (20 percent DV)
- Kale (raw) — 1 cup: 90.5 milligrams (9 percent DV)
- Okra (raw) — 1 cup: 81 milligrams (8 percent DV)
- Bok Choy — 1 cup: 74 milligrams (7 percent DV)
- Almonds — 1 ounce: 73.9 milligrams (7 percent DV)
- Broccoli — 1 cup: 42.8 milligrams (4 percent DV)
- Watercress — 1 cup: 41 milligrams (4 percent DV)
- Compassion in world farming (2018) https://www.ciwf.org.uk/farm-animals/cows/dairy-cows/?gclid=CjwKCAiAlvnfBRA1EiwAVOEgfBAr2vc8e6EIRkOQnYv3g9PuQYKEF3g93rsuH-vCVIYOgyyIniWWMRoCN-MQAvD_BwE
- World Animal Protection https://www.worldanimalprotection.org.uk/campaigns/animals-farming/dairy-farming-in-uk