Milk and dairy products are a staple of the typical Western diet. From childhood through adulthood, we are told that milk is nutritious (ex. high potassium content) and helps to keep our bones strong (ex. high calcium content). However, in many Asian countries, milk and dairy does not form a major part of the typical diet. In fact, some of the longest lived peoples in the world, such as the Papua New Guinea Highlanders and Tarahumara Indians of Mexico eat little to no dairy. Furthermore, human beings are the only species on Earth that consume the milk of another animal. In no other instance in nature does an animal consume the milk of another animal from a separate species. This begs the question – is dairy necessary for good health?
Dairy is not essential for good health. We recommend that you greatly reduce, or if possible, eliminate it from your diet. If, however, you choose to eat and drink dairy products, ensure that you monitor your consumption, choose your source carefully and try to limit yourself to a serving every few days.
Milk is very difficult for humans to digest because it contains lactose and casein. In addition, the garden-variety container of milk available at the grocery store is likely racing with hormones. Dr. Joseph Mercola points out that much of the milk available on dairy shelves today is filled with allergens and carcinogens. This begins with the feed given to cows. Rather than providing cows with a natural diet of green grass, soy-based high protein feeds are provided by many commercial farmers to produce cows with abnormally large pituitary glands, which in turn produce three times the milk.
The pasteurization process then takes that milk and destroys any valuable enzymes in it such as lactase for the assimilation of lactose; galactase for the assimilation of galactose; and phosphatase for the assimilation of calcium.1 Dr. Mercola also writes that synthetic vitamin D, which is known to be toxic to the liver, is added to replace the natural vitamin D complex that is lost when butterfat is removed from milk to create 1% and 2% milk.2
Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) is FDA approved and commonly used by dairy farmers to increase the milk production of their cows. The use of BGH causes a rise in IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) in the milk of treated cows. This is dangerous for humans because IGF-1 can withstand milk pasteurization and the human intestinal digestive process, which allows it to be absorbed into the bloodstream.3Dairy is also extremely acid- and mucous-forming.
In light of such farming methods, the use of Bovine Growth Hormone, and the various carcinogens and allergens present in most dairy products, we strongly urge you to think about eliminating, or greatly reducing the consumption of dairy products from your diet. If you find that you cannot accomplish this, choose organic, hormone free products from quality farms and try to limit your consumption to a serving every few days.
What About Calcium?
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who advocates a plant-based diet to treat heart disease (and counts Bill Clinton among his patients), says that a diet with, “lots of leafy greens like kale, collard, spinach, and Swiss chard, is one of the best sources of calcium.”4 Calcium in leafy greens is more bioavailable to the body than calcium from dairy, as well.5
There are numerous other plant-based sources of calcium such as dried fruits, nuts and seeds, especially sesame. Kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, broad beans, lentils, and peas are all excellent sources of calcium as well. These plant-based sources also offer better bioavailability of calcium, which make them superior choices to the oft-recommended tall glass of milk.
The Bottom Line
You do not need dairy to be healthy. Because of the farming and production methods used in the modern dairy industry and the fact that dairy is not the best source of bioavailable calcium, dairy products are not essential to a healthy, balanced diet. In fact, they do more harm than good. If you must eat dairy, look for organic, hormone-free products from quality farms and space out your consumption.