If you told me when I was a kid that the dairy I was drinking was really supposed to be for baby calves, I wouldn’t be happy to hear that! I was a huge fan of dairy, often eating cereal with milk and putting cheese on anything I could!
Dairy is often met with a mixed bag of feelings when it comes to its measure of healthiness. Yes, we need milk from our mothers to help us grow. This milk is necessary for our health but what happens when we start drinking the same stuff the baby calves need to drink to become healthy?
Today we will talk about some of the perspectives of dairy, what exactly dairy is as well as some thoughts to help you decide if dairy is worth it for you to add into your normal diet.
Is dairy natural for us to consume?
We all know how important it is for us to grow strong bones with mom’s milk. For all you mom’s out there it was a decision that you had to make at some point - how long am I breastfeeding for?
Breast milk is one of the most nutritious and jam packed foods that this world has to offer. It’s purpose is to greatly increase the nutrient content of a baby so that the baby can grow into a big strong girl or boy!
We clearly need our mothers milk to help with our ability to grow so it must be natural for us to consume!
Hold on though....when we talk about dairy it’s almost never about breast milk. It’s always about cow’s milk!
It wasn’t until after the agricultural revolution that humans began to drink any milk other than a mother’s milk. This is one reason why dairy is excluded from the paleo diet.
Cow’s milk is supposed to be for a growing calf...not an adult human!
However through years of including cow’s milk into our diets we have altered our genes to better help digest these products from cows (or goats). We know that dairy is natural for us to consume as we’ve evolved to do so over many many years of human history.
As true as this is, we still have many people across the world who cannot break down and digest lactose (the carbohydrate that is found in milk).
What does it mean to be lactose intolerant?
The popular words “lactose intolerant” have been echoed for years after you or your child drinks that milk and all of a sudden begins to have an upset stomach or diarrhea. It’s those dreaded moments of realization when a food that was one day fine for you to eat has now entered the category of “only eat when I am close to the bathroom”.
About 75% of all the world’s adult population are unable to break down lactose and are considered lactose intolerant.
Chances are - you have some intolerance to lactose that you may or may not be aware of. It all depends on how often you have dairy, how much you eat, and how adapted your body is to digest it. These factors all outline if you will be enjoying that tub of ice cream or not!
Think about it for a second - do you ever feel an upset stomach shortly after eating a meal that includes a lot of dairy?
(You probably already know if you fall into this category or not!)
As always the awareness of such things can help lead you into a place where you gain knowledge and understanding of how your body fares with dairy products.
Be aware however that some people may have a better chance of digesting fermented dairy products such as yogurt, kiefer, and some cheeses. The same can be said about high-fat products like butter. These dairy’s, because they go through a fermentation process can be better handled by our digestive systems. For all those cheese lovers out there - let’s rejoice!
So what’s the big stink about this dairy stuff anyway? Why do we care if we can digest it or not?
Super powered nutrient composition!
Most dairy products are very nutritious and provide an array of important nutrients. Take for example a single cup of milk (about 237 ml).
This single cup will include: (RDI is short for recommended daily intake)
Calcium 276g or 28% of RDI
Vitamin D: 24% of RDI
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) : 26% of RDI
Vitamin B12: 18% of RDI
Potassium : 10% of RDI
Phosphorus : 22% RDI
146 calories - 8 grams of fat, 8 grams protein, 13 grams carbs
This is all from ONE cup of whole milk!
This is nutrient PACKED and offers a diverse range of nutrients for your body. The big one of course being calcium which helps maintain bone health and bone integrity. This can be huge when we get older and increase our risk of osteoporosis and fractures. No brittle bones here - milk provides that calcium punch needed to keep us strong even as we get older!
Thinking about this for a moment it’s clear why milk is so nutritious. It’s the first food product that we as humans need, as well as baby calves. This time is so vital in developing a healthy baby and therefore the baby benefits most from having a wide range of nutrition in one food.
Does this mean that you should be drinking milk at every meal?
Not so fast! Although whole milk delivers so many good qualities, we need to be aware of how dairy can work within your diet!
Not all milk is created equal!
Grass fed cows and Probiotics
If you are going to drink milk, choose milk that has been raised by grass fed cows. These cows will produce milk that is higher in vitamin K2. What this does is help with blood clotting, calcium metabolism and heart health.
This vitamin helps to prevent the calcification of blood vessels and the kidneys. What this means is calcium deposits in your blood vessels will be filtered out more readily with the help of vitamin K2.
When this happens it enables your blood to move more freely to it’s needed spots and therefore help with overall heart quality thus reducing the risk of heart disease, and clogged arteries.
This isn’t to say that you only need to drink milk from grass fed cows but it does point to an interesting factor in overall health quality.
Probiotics are a huge buzz word that many people throw around without really knowing exactly what it is.
Probiotics are normally found within fermented products like yogurt and kefir. Probiotics are living microorganisms that when ingested, have numerous health benefits. This bacteria helps to break down vitamins, break down fiber and strengthen the gut walls in your intestines to help prevent “leaky gut” syndrome.
Probiotics help to promote a healthy gut flora - the balance of different organisms in your gut that promote healthy living.
If you haven’t had much probiotic in the past and want to try - be aware that during the first few days monitor how you feel. You may experience gas and abdominal discomfort. Your body just needs time to adjust to this.
So...is dairy good for me?
The big question that you came here to get answered! It might not be as flashy as you want but with some background information as to what dairy is - I hope that this makes sense for you.
If you are someone who can tolerate dairy products without discomfort then I would suggest that dairy is good for you and is perfectly fine to include in your diet.
If you are someone who can’t tolerate dairy products without discomfort then I would suggest that dairy is something that should be avoided and limited.
Ground breaking, I know...but this is the truth of the matter.
If something doesn’t make you feel good, listen to your body. If something makes you feel good, listen to your body.
What’s more important is how you implement this into your diet and how you can change your perspective on what is healthy and what is not.
Dairy and fat have long been sold to us as foods that aren’t good because they are high in sugar and fat. While this may be true, that doesn’t automatically make this food group a “unhealthy” or “bad” food choice.
As you’ve seen above, dairy products can include a multitude of vitamins and solid nutrition for those who can stomach it. This doesn’t mean that if you can’t stomach it, it’s a bad food but instead it’s a food that isn’t RIGHT for you. There is a difference.
Again it always comes down to perception and my goal here today was to give you both sides of the dairy story, break down those preconceived notions of dairy being bad and instead bridge the gap for those who just want to add some cheese in their eggs!