Dairy has become quite the controversial food category in recent years which may be causing you to think twice about consuming your go-to favorites. The truth is, dairy has both good and not so good qualities for those that are able to tolerate it.
So what’s provoked this so called dairy debate you ask?
Let’s start with a little history. You may or may not know that humans are the ONLY species that consumes milk in adulthood. We’re also the only species that consumes it from another species. This might not sound so strange but take a minute to really think about it.
A cow’s milk is equipped with all the right proteins, fatty acids and micronutrients needed to nurture a growing calf. Human muscles, cells and organ systems are not so different from a calf’s when it comes to nourishment requirements. What’s interesting is the digestive enzyme that breaks down milk or rather when our bodies produce this enzyme.
Lactase is the digestive enzyme that allows us to break down lactose, the ‘milk sugar’ or main carbohydrate in milk. Our bodies stop producing this enzyme around the age of 2-5 years of age. Truthfully, most of us are unable to break down lactose after infancy, hence the lactose intolerant epidemic. In fact, about 75% of the world is lactose intolerant.
Keep in mind that lactose intolerance is completely different from a milk allergy and that those with a lactose intolerance can sometimes consume fermented dairy like yogurt and high-fat dairy such as butter.
Not All Dairy Is Created Equal
This brings up an important point that not all dairy is equal. Fatty dairy products like cheese and yogurt have a very different nutrient make up than milk does. The nutrient composition also varies depending on what the cow ate and how it was raised, especially when it comes to the fatty components.
A pasture grazing cow that is grass-fed produces dairy that is higher in omega-3 fatty acids as well as having higher fat soluble vitamin levels. Fat soluble vitamins like vitamin K2 are what your body needs to support calcium regulation and healthy heart and bones.
Make note that low-fat and non-fat milks do NOT contain these healthy fats or fat soluble vitamins. Instead, sugar is added to these milks to enhance flavor after removing the fat.
It’s true that full-fat dairy has some benefits for metabolic health. Many studies have been done on the relationship between full-fat dairy and obesity. Surprisingly, one review found 11 out of 16 studies showed that full-fat dairy was associated with reduced obesity. Ironically, none of them found the same effect with low-fat dairy.
It’s also true that dairy quickens the release of insulin and IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1) and is highly inflammatory. This is why you may hear that dairy causes acne because of its effect on hormones.
Listen to Your Body
Our best advice is to start by evaluating your health concerns. If you are eating healthy but still experiencing acne, GI trouble, acid reflux, joint pain, sinusitis, headaches, constipation, eczema, autoimmune disease or even cancer, our advice is that you try ditching the dairy. Do it for 30 to 45 days. You might be amazed at how good you feel.
You might also be wondering where you’re supposed to get your protein, calcium, and vitamin D if you’re not eating dairy. Not to worry, there are tons of alternatives. Our personal favorite is a high density, nutrient-packed smoothie.
Also check out our Guide to Plant-Based Milk + recipes here.
Share your thoughts on the great dairy debate, we love hearing from you!
The Blendtopia Team