This category of food, enjoyed by many people, include milk, butter, cheese and yogurt. Although these foods are most important in growth years and during pregnancy and lactation, many people continue to consume an excess of these foods in adulthood. Most of us grew up thinking they were important and needed for our health, especially to develop strong bones and teeth. However, the reality is that dairy products are not necessary or needed to remain healthy.
Milk is nature’s perfect food – for babies. They’re the ones for whom it is produced. It’s the basic food for life and the connection between mother and child. When other kinds of milk, such as cow’s or goat’s milk, are substituted for mother’s milk in infancy, milk allergy is very common. These kinds of milk are richer in proteins and have new protein molecules for the baby’s system to handle. Milk is the most common food allergen and manifests as skin rashes, eczema, chronic otitis media, hyperactivity and other problems. Humans are the only species that keep dairy products in their diet and that consume milk from other species.
In adults, nearly half of the world population is lactose intolerant, which may cause bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea after milk is consumed. While some have problems digesting lactose, the primary sugar in cow’s milk, some may experience allergic reactions to casein and lactalbumin, the primary proteins found in milk. Dairy foods also seem to be congesting for some people. There is also an issue involving the treatment of dairy cattle from a physical and humanitarian standpoint. Dairy cattle often need prescription medicines to prevent infection and stimulants to increase the rate of milk production. They are also often raised under unnatural and inhumane conditions.
On the positive side, milk is a good source of protein and calcium, although the bioavailability of milk calcium in the body and bones is now questioned. Milk is a complete source of protein and contains many of the B vitamins as well as vitamins A, D and E. Milk also contains minerals like calcium and phosphorus, along with potassium and some sodium. An adult’s calcium and protein needs can be met, however, with many other foods.
Many years ago, milk was consumed raw and was coming from local, healthy cows. It was considered a healing food and was even used to ease some diseases. Organic raw milk is the best animal milk you can consume, especially from goats. All the nutrients are present and in its original state. It also contains natural enzymes, vitamins, minerals and living bacteria, which is better for the digestive system. Today, most of the milk we have is homogenized and pasteurized, which destroys all the nutrients, enzymes and good bacteria present in the milk. It also contains estrogen, which affects our hormones. If the milk is not organic, it may contain antibiotics and growth hormones as well.
Additionally, homogenized and pasteurized cow’s milk is hard to digest and is the main allergen in children. Dairy products are known to be mucus- and acid-forming as well as being inflammatory to the body. They may cause a variety of health problems like congestion, constipation, acne, cramps, bloating, Crohn’s disease, joint pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, infertility and even cardiovascular diseases as well as prostate, ovarian and breast cancer. Because they are acid forming – just like other protein-rich foods – they may contribute to calcium loss as the body needs calcium to neutralize acidity in the body.
If you want to keep dairy products in your diet, I highly recommend getting whole, organic, grass-fed products and eat them in small amounts or occasionally. If you can find raw dairy products – that’s even better. Always think quality rather than quantity. Avoid dairy products that are highly processed and those that have added sugars, artificial sweeteners, flavorings or colorings. Note that fat-free products are not a better choice as they are even more processed, usually higher in sugars and not as satisfying as fat is missing. Fat is also important to absorb vitamin D in the body, which is crucial for calcium utilization.
Remember that to have strong bones and teeth, you don’t only need calcium but also magnesium, vitamin D and regular exercise. All our precious alkaline minerals can be found in plant foods like nondairy milk, kale, collard, almonds, chia seeds, tahini and figs. We don’t need dairy products to remain healthy but should have a healthy diet that includes a variety of fresh, wholesome foods as well as exercise.