“What kind of milk do you want?”, a phrase I overheard as I was typing away on my laptop at a coffee shop. Five years ago and that question would’ve been very odd. Today though, the opposite is true. If my barista doesn’t ask me what milk I want in my coffee, I’m low key getting offended. How dare she/he think I want ordinary, cows milk!? Dairy, once a super food, now turned into the enemy. Let’s get down and gritty on the truth about dairy.
What is dairy?
This might be a weird question to ask, since dairy is such a huge part of our culture. Milk, cheese, ice cream, butter, I mean we pretty much have some kind of dairy every day (assuming you’re not a vegan). Dairy is defined as the milk that comes from mammals, such as cows, goats, sheep, and even humans. Not that we typically splash some human milk in our morning coffee, but yes, human breast milk is also a kind of dairy. To put a fancy definition of dairy we can call it “the milk produced from mammary glands”, basically boobs.
Lactose and dairy.
Another significant trait of dairy is the lactose. A lot of people claim they are lactose intolerant, but do we all really know what lactose even means? To clear up any lactose confusions I’m going to tell you right now that lactose is the natural sugars we find in any kind of dairy. And again, in the recent years we have put the bad guy stamp on the lactose.
Should humans consume dairy?
This questions really ramps up an argument. We have one side that is convinced dairy is the epidemy of health, and provides us with protein, calcium, D vitamins, and other important minerals. On the other side we have the people who say that dairy is the devil in disguise, and actually makes our bones weaker, and increase the risk for developing various cancers.
If we look at dairy from an evolutionary perspective we aren’t supposed to eat dairy. Humans didn’t consume any dairy except from their mothers breast milk until the agriculture revolution took over and started to domesticate animals. No wonder that we see such a huge number of people with lactose intolerance in our current society.
There is a tiny population though from back i the days, that did consume a lot of dairy from other animals, and that’s why a tiny percentage of our current world population have an easier time digesting the lactose. By the way, when I refer to back i the days, we’re talking way back. When things went down in caves and we just discovered fire. Those were the good old days!
Is dairy healthy?
We have a million dollar question on our hands right now, and that is if dairy is healthy. Who is right? Who should we trust? We need answers! Besides from containing a lot of protein and vitamin D, dairy actually does more harm than good for humans.
The claim that dairy promotes strong bones and decrease our risk for osteoporosis is, sadly, just a myth. I mean call it myth call it a marketing scam to make more people buy dairy, I don’t know, but the bottom line is that you wont build strong bones by drinking milk. In fact, the opposite is true. The lactose actually damages our bones, and with the lack of vitamin K, and the added saturated fat from dairy, the calcium actually ends up in our veins rather than our bones. And if you did put two and two together, it’s not only the calcium that ends up in our veins, but also the saturated fat, increasing our chances for heart disease. On top of this, dairy is also the biggest culprit when it comes to promoting acne. If you want clear skin, lay off the dairy!
But! And let me say this with an emphasize on the but, there are actually some forms of dairy that are healthy for us. If you know me, you know that I follow a strict plant-based vegan diet, so I definitely wouldn’t say this if it wasn’t true. Aged, fermented cheese, you know, the type of cheese the french people eat, are in fact very healthy for us. Not for the dairy content itself, but fro all the healthy probiotic bacteria if forms in the fermentation process. We can also find these healthy probiotics in certain fermented yogurts such as Greek and Turkish yogurt, and kefir.
The ugly side to dairy.
After all these juicy dairy facts you might be saying well, maybe I should lay off the traditional dairy, and join the French! Yes, you definitely could, if you want to spike up your dose of probiotics. But, I need to talk about the other side of dairy that doesn’t affect our health.
Before I end this post, I need to touch on the subject of the dairy industry. It is the opposite of pretty. How do we get milk? From cows. How does the cows produce milk? From being pregnant. What does this mean in our current money hungry world? Dairy cows are being used as milk producing slaves. Right after giving birth to a calf, she immediately gets inseminated again. This process keeps going on and on until she’s so worn out she either dies or gets sent to slaughter.
You know that picture of cows strolling around on an open field, chewing grass, giving you weird stares, well that picture is not reality anymore. Not only do we need to produce dairy for the consumer need for milk, cheese, and ice cream, but also for the big corporations need for all these chemically processed additives that goes into pretty much anything. Have you ever heard of casein or whey? If you’re a gym-pumping protein junkie you probably have. Well, let’s break your protein bubble by telling you that both of these ingredients are made from dairy.
What can I eat instead of dairy?
For ethical reasons, please avoid dairy! Sure, if you have a farm where the animals get to actually live a nice life, fine drink the milk if you want. It’s not the most nutritious thing you can eat, but it’s your choice. For the healthy probiotic benefits of aged cheese, we have other sources which are packed with plenty of probiotics. Sauerkraut, kimchi, dairy free yogurt, and pretty much all other fermented foods.
In today’s world we are also very lucky when it comes to dairy free alternatives. We have ice cream made from all kinds of nut milk, yogurt made from soy, oats, and coconut. For cheese we have, well, in all honesty it’s been a struggle for the non dairy cheese to make a strong debut. But, there are a few brands which are stepping up their game, such as VioLife and Kite Hill Foods.
To end this post on a lighter note I suggest that you go out and grab yourself a pint of some dairy free Ben & Jerry’s! Bon ápetite!
Ask the Monger: Does Cheese Have Probiotics?