Dairy is cow’s milk and any product made of cow’s milk including cheese, butter, cream, ice cream and yogurt. It’s up to you to choose how you’d like to include or exclude dairy in your diet. Whatever milk or milk substitute you do end up going with, make sure it’s high quality and be sure to consume it in moderation with a variety of other foods.
Cow’s Milk Pros
- Milk is naturally a good source of B vitamins, phosphorus and potassium.
- Most milk is fortified with essential vitamins A and D.
- 1 cup of milk meets 30% of the recommended daily calcium intake.
- An 8 oz serving of milk contains 8 grams of protein.
Cow’s Milk Cons and Controversies
- Cow’s milk was meant for calves, to help them grow. There’s some controversy as to whether dairy milk is appropriate for human consumption.
- For a significant percentage of the population, cow’s milk tends to be difficult to digest and continues to get more difficult with age. Lactose, the sugar in milk must be broken down by intestinal enzymes in order to be absorbed. Often we don’t create enough of these enzymes for proper breakdown. The result is an upset stomach or lactose intolerance.
- Conventional dairy cows receive hormones that increase their milk production. (Increased milk production can lead to increased infection rates and antibiotic use in cows.)
- Research indicates that the calcium from milk might not be as closely associated with bone health as we once thought: In recent studies, no overall association was found between milk intake and reduction of hip fracture risk and no benefit was found for children or adolescent bone health.
- Reducing the fat content of milk also reduces the amount of fat-soluble vitamins in the milk. Almost all milk is required to be fortified with vitamins D and A. Fortified vitamins aren’t absorbed as well as those naturally contained in food.
- Recent evidence suggests milk and milk products may aggravate autoimmune disease increasing symptoms and inflammation.
- 8 oz of milk contains the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of sugar.
- The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons for men.
When Choosing Milk
Here are a few tips to consider when choosing the milk that’s right for you. If you opt out of drinking milk, you can certainly get your calcium from plants.
Cow’s milk: Choose organic, hormone-free milk from grass-fed cows. Grass-fed cows have a more beneficial fat composition and higher density of nutrients and antioxidants.
Soy milk: Choose soy milk that’s organic, made from whole soybeans (not processed isolates or concentrates) and is carrageenan-free.
Calcium: If you forego or are intolerant to cow’s milk, bulk up on broccoli; canned or fresh, wild salmon; dark leafy greens; pinto beans; black-eyed peas; sesame seeds; almonds; and soybeans, all of which are great sources of calcium.