I was recently reading an article about how low-fat milk is not really good for us according to Harvard specialists. While this is not really news to me, it got me thinking about how most people don’t really know that. It is one of the most ill-advised health recommendations made by most doctors, yet it is very prevalent in our culture. While milk is tooted left and right, few really understand the benefits and pitfalls of this “health” food. In that spirit I would like to share and article I wrote about the subject about a year go. I have added some new links with more up-to-date info for your benefit 🙂
Let me confess, I’m not a fan of milk. I’m not talking about raw milk, but the kind you will find in most grocery stores: ultra pasteurized, ultra processed, polluted with growth hormones, ghost of what might have been milk. It is not my intention to create a hate campaign against it; I just thought I’d let you know. In any case whether you are pro or con milk there are some facts I would like to share with you; in case the “got milk” campaign got the best of you and you are currently chugging a gallon of milk a day in order to protect yourself from osteoporosis and to “do your body good”
Milk as an allergen
Cow’s milk is one of the top allergic foods in America, now I’m not talking about lactose intolerance (which, by the way, is rampant in this country). I’m talking about allergic reactions ranging from cramps to full on Anaphylactic shock. Milk allergy is the most common food allergy for children in the United States. Recurring ear infections are one of the symptoms. It has been well documented as a cause in diarrhea, cramps, bloating, gas, gastrointestinal bleeding, iron-deficiency anemia, skin rashes, atherosclerosis, and acne. So you might be allergic to milk and not even know it.
What’s in your milk?
Most milk available to us comes from factory cows. These cows live (if you can call it living) in factory farms. A factory “farm” is as far removed from a farm as you can imagine, it’s an industrial operation. Cows are fed an unnatural diet based on cheap corn, pumped with growth hormones to maximize milk production, and then given large doses of antibiotics to deal with all the diseases caused by the first two. So if you think that glass of milk is full of goodness, think again. I’m not going to get into the whole pasteurization and homogenization business but let’s just say that after all of that most natural nutrients found in milk are destroyed. Even if you are not morally appalled by the way this milk is produced you should consider what is going into your body.
You would do best to invest in organic milk. There are some small dairy farms that offer milk from grass-fed cows and the milk is just lightly pasteurized and sometimes not homogenized. I usually get Natural by Nature at Whole Foods and no I don’t get any royalties for sales.
But what about calcium?
The concept of milk equaling bone health is as antiquated as an arranged marriage. Contrary to what the Dairy Industry’s expensive and extensive marketing would have you believe, modern nutritional research indicates that the excessive consumption of animal protein (like that found in dairy products) leads to loss of calcium and an array of other problems. World health statistics show that osteoporosis is most common in the countries where dairy is consumed the most: the United States, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. You do the math. Besides, the calcium in pasteurized milk isn’t as well absorbed by the body because the milk itself is lacking vitamins and minerals that aid in calcium absorption such as vitamin D (yes they add a synthetic version to milk after pasteurization but it’s usually D2 which is also not absorbed well by the body) There are many other healthier sources of calcium for example dark leafy greens, beans, nuts and some fish to name a few.
Whole or Skim?
Here is my problem with skim or non-fat milk; it’s a highly processed food. Not only is it nutrient deficient (most nutrients are not only found in the fat but are fat soluble), but it usually contains powdered milk, which has toxic nitrites that contribute to plaque buildup in arteries. If you are concerned about cholesterol you might be doing your body more harm than good. And if you are concerned about gaining weight, well, researchers at the Harvard Medical School conducted a study in children and found that skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not. I wonder if one of the reasons could be that skim milk or fat free milk is loaded with sugars for flavoring(even if its just plain milk). In any case if you have serious weight or cholesterol issues you really shouldn’t be drinking milk.
In the end, from a nutrition and health standpoint, I really don’t think there is a big nutritional pay off with milk. Aside from a glass here and there I really wouldn’t recommend it and that goes for children too; the phrase “drink your milk so you can grow big and strong” really makes my blood boil. To all parents out there, I know how confusing and frustrating it is to provide your family with a healthy diet but if you do one thing please make informed decisions, don’t believe everything you hear even if it’s from your doctor (while they have the best intentions they are not always well versed in nutrition). Ask questions, do a little digging and keep an open mind. You don’t have to believe me either, there are always two or three sides to a story so I encourage you to do your own research, find your own truth and take charge of your health.
Here are some interesting articles if you would like to learn more: