To listen to the National Dairy Council, milk is the ultimate for your health. According to them, milk and the rest of its dairy cousins such as cheese are supposed to build healthy bones, contribute to a healthy weight, and even benefit heart health. But does milk really do your body good or is there a dark side? Let’s take a look at some points that are regularly promoted by the dairy industry.
Protein Rich Dairy Foods are Harmless
At the same time that the National Dairy Council is saying: “There is no evidence that protein-rich foods such as dairy foods adversely impact calcium balance or bone health”, they are also quietly stating the following: “Excess dietary protein, particularly purified proteins, increases urinary calcium excretion. This calcium loss could potentially cause negative calcium balance, leading to bone loss and osteoporosis. These effects have been attributed to an increased endogenous acid load created by the metabolism of protein, which requires neutralization by alkaline salts of calcium from bone.” Ugh! Which is it?
Dairy Tastes Delicious
Now you know that people love their milk, ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and butter. But, why do you suppose that is? Could it be because they are loaded with sugar and salt? One big reason that plain milk is appealing is that it contains about 30% of its calories as sugar (lactose). Chocolate, strawberry, and other flavored milks contain more sugar on top of what’s already there. It’s no wonder that studies have shown that elementary school kids will drink 28 percent more milk when it’s offered in yummy favors and “cool” packages. The more sugar, the better the taste! For example, ice cream which can contain 52% of the calories as sugar! Ah, oh, how about cheese? Sounds yummy? What happens when you remove the salt? Would you consider eating cheese without any salt or would it taste like a blob of grease? Yuck! And heart healthy? I don’t think so!
Dairy Promotes Bone Growth
Cow’s milk, for example, has been shown to stimulate bone growth. This, of course, would be of interest to post-menopausal women who are at greater risk of osteoporosis. The reason is because of a powerful hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). When you drink milk, your IGF-1 levels also increase. This rise in IGF-1 level is the main factor for the “bone-building” effects of cow’s milk. Sounds great right? But there is not so good side to IGF-1. Did you know that IGF-1 is one of the most powerful promoters of cancer growth for cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon? If that is not bad enough, excessive stimulation of growth by IGF-1 also leads to premature aging!
At this point, you may be wondering, “If I avoid dairy, how do I get my calcium and maintain strong bones”? It’s easy! Just consume a variety of natural plant foods. Doing this would provide the calcium required to build strong bones. Green vegetables in particular are rich calcium sources. For example, did you know that one four-ounce serving of steamed kale has just as much calcium as one cup of milk? Foods like broccoli, bok choy, sesame seeds, and garbanzo beans are also excellent calcium sources. And here’s the really good news: the body absorbs about 50% of the calcium in green vegetables, compared to only 32% of the calcium in milk! So, if you carefully design your meals, there is no reason to be concerned about a calcium deficiency. For meal inspiration, check out Eat to Live: The Cookbook by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. To your good health!