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Nutrition Articles

The Dairy Dilemma

There is much controversy surrounding dairy these days. Is it really that good for us or have we been somewhat mislead? It’s easy to understand why most of us think that milk is good for us. The dairy industry has done such an amazing job in convincing us that we have to drink milk if we want to grow up strong and healthy. For goodness sake, where on earth would we get our calcium from? Osteoporosis anyone?…Better get the milk in. Drinking milk has become such a huge part of our culture; just walk into any school and you will find posters of dairy products in every classroom. It’s like grandma’s made from scratch delicious home baked apple pie, milk is the perfect food.

Recent research, however, indicates that dairy products may not be as beneficial as we once thought specifically pasteurized and homogenized dairy. There are two camps on the milk issue. One side strongly emphasizes that it is not part of our evolutionary diet. Loren Cordain’s view is that milk has numerous properties that may adversely affect health and it does not belong in the modern day diet in any form. Others like the Weston Price Foundation tout milk, specifically raw milk, as a healthy addition to any diet. There really is no consensus among the masses, both sides have great arguments. It truly is a grey area.

The truth of the matter is, good or bad, there are many disadvantages to dairy that are becoming hard to ignore. When it comes to nutrition, is it really the best option?

Nutritional Value

Processed cow’s milk has no superior nutritional value. By pasteurizing, homogenizing and sterilizing milk, we strip away any beneficial nutrients that the milk might have had. The bottom line is that milk bought in the grocery stores is a processed food. Furthermore, whatever this milk has been fortified with (meaning all the good stuff added back into it because the processing has taken out the naturally occurring good stuff) can be found in a variety of other foods namely fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The biggie here is calcium. Oh man here we go…

Calcium

Drinking milk may in fact contribute to calcium deficiency!! 

While milk does contain high amounts of elemental calcium it also contains even higher levels of the mineral phosphorus. Phosphorus binds to calcium in the body preventing adequate absorption. Dairy is also highly acidic and gives the body an acidic PH. Good bone health begins in the bloodstream and for the body to function optimally it must have an acid-alkaline balance. When we drink or eat dairy and don’t include alkalinizing foods, ie. veggies, we suck more calcium from our bones than provided, eventually leading to osteoporosis. Evidence has shown that countries like US, Canada, Australia and most Western European countries have the highest fracture rates consuming more dairy than anywhere else. Countries where daily calcium intake is low, such as India and Japan, the incidence of bone fractures are quite low. Calcium alone is not the only necessary nutrient for growing strong bones. Vitamin D3, magnesium, zinc and chromium are just a few from a long list of others that are required and can all be found in a diet rich in vegetables. Good sources include collards, kale, cabbage, sea vegetables and any other dark green leafy veggie.

Calcium-rich foods:

Foods Quantity Calcium provided
wakame (sea vegetable) 1⁄2 cup 1,700 mg
agar (sea vegetable) 1⁄4 cup 1,000 mg
nori (sea vegetable) 1⁄2 cup 600 mg
kombu (sea vegetable) 1⁄4 cup 500 mg
sardines 1⁄2 cup 500 mg
collard greens 1 cup 355 mg
cow’s milk 1 cup 300 mg
almonds 1 cup 300 mg
spinach 1 cup 280 mg
yogurt 1 cup 270 mg
sesame seeds 1⁄2 cup 250 mg
kale 1 cup 200 mg
broccoli 1 cup 180 mg
walnuts 1⁄4 cup 70 mg

Insulin Response

Dairy consumption has been shown to increase insulin resistance dramatically. Insulin is a hormone released to “clean up” excess sugar in the blood, after every meal for example. It picks up the sugar and stores it either in your muscles, liver and eventually fat. Insulin resistance occurs when your body doesn’t respond to the action of insulin effectively. The insulin is produced however the body resists it leaving a consistent high level of sugar in the blood. This often occurs in people with type 2 diabetes. As well, insulin resistance plays a central role in the Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X whose main features include hypertension (high blood pressure), cholesterol abnormalities, high insulin levels and abdominal fat. Interestingly enough, the lower amount of fat in the milk, the more it raises the blood sugar. So those who drink low fat milk for weight benefits aren’t not getting any benefit at all!

Allergies and Intolerance

Just as celiac’s who are allergic to gluten in grains, those who are allergic to milk react to the casein and whey proteins in dairy. This is because the shape and size of those molecules cannot be digested easily by humans. Cow’s milk is by far the most common cause of food allergies. It creates chronic inflammation in the body which has been shown to be the root cause of almost every serious disease. It will also lead to problems like asthma, strep throat, tonsillitis, ear infections, pimples/acne, excessive mucous and phlegm.

It has been estimated that 70% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. This means that we lack the enzyme lactase responsible for lactose digestion. If we consider that milk is the most common allergen in humans, it only makes sense that it is not a compatible food choice even if it doesn’t bother you. Consuming dairy can create chaos in your body. Cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea and headaches are only a few of the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.

Toxins

Milk is full of toxins such as hormones and antibiotics. In Canada, Bovine Growth hormone is banned in dairy cows, but it’s use runs rampant in the US. Increased rBGH levels boost milk production in cow’s causing a number of problems which have been linked to a range of illnesses.

The Cancer Connection

IGF-1 is a naturally occurring hormone found in the milk of both cows and humans. It affects cell growth and is responsible for quick growth. This explains why it is biologically present in mother’s milk. Babies are meant to drink milk for rapid growth. It also explains why bodybuilders will use it for mass gain. It’s an excellent tool for putting on weight.

However, when cow’s milk is consumed, the increased presence of IGF-1 (remember IGF-1 already exists in humans naturally) behaves as a cancer accelerator. It has been linked to breast, prostate and colon cancers. Instead of cells dying at the right time as they are supposed to, IGF-1 promotes uncontrolled cell division…another way of saying cancer.

Most of us have been drinking milk all of our lives so we really don’t know if dairy affects us negatively or not. Eliminating it from the diet for a month and re-introducing it to see the effects is the best way to determine if we do have any issues with milk. Considering there are many alternatives out there, our nutrition does not rely on milk and therefore there is no real need to consume dairy. For optimum health eliminate dairy from your diet, you may be surprised to find the the effect it has on you!

By: Gordana Jakopcevic