Research links dairy with the possible development of various cancers. Should we continue eating dairy products?
When you think about it, it actually seems unnatural for us to eat cheese or to drink cow’s milk.
Think about the following: ‘Why are we the only species on the planet that drink milk as adults?’ Not only that, we drink milk from other animals. Not only that, a large part of us is actually lactose intolerant.
The general knowledge is that milk consumption began in Central Europe about 7500 years ago. Because of a gene mutation some of us were able to digest dairy, others did not. From then on, eating cheese and drinking milk became part of that culture. The presumption was, and is, that it is natures perfect food. But is this the perfect food meant for our consumption?
From an Aristotelian point of view, cow’s milk has a purpose and it is to raise a baby calf into a full grown cow within one year. That’s why it contains a mix of ingredients suitable for calf. We don’t need to grow into full grown cows. If drinking milk is so natural why don’t we just push the baby calf aside and suck on the cow’s tit. That seems rather unappealing, doesn’t it?.
2. So why do we consume it?
Dairy is addictive. People consume a lot of it and can’t imagine living without things like cheese. I think we all, at one point or another, felt this way. And there’s a reason for that. Dairy contains a protein called casein. This protein has some traces of opiate. So it is like a drug. Once you start, you have trouble putting that cheese back into the fridge. When you think about it it makes sense. As babies we need to get hooked on this opioid to motivate us to nurse and drink milk so we survive. After the age of 5 however we need less and less of it. We even start losing our ability to digest lactose. So it‘s a bit strange that we’ve developed a whole industry of impregnating cows just so we can enjoy a white mustache in the morning. (In addition to a gut full of saturated fat).
3. But what about calcium?
You don’t need dairy for your daily calcium needs. In fact, there isn’t even any evidence that drinking milk protects you from bone fracture or osteoporosis. But calcium is still important for bone health. So is vitamin D. In fact vitamin D helps to absorb calcium. The problem is that if you eat too much animal protein, calcium can be washed out of your body and exerted via urine. However, your body still needs calcium for your muscles and nervous system, so it uses up the calcium reserves in your bones.
This is not so much the case with plant protein. Just look at the Asian and African populations. They have relatively low hip fracture incidents in comparison to the US, the Dutch, and Swedish population. These are, by the way, countries that consume a lot of dairy products. Contrary to popular belief, you can get enough calcium from non-dairy based sources. And this has to be the case logically or else we would never have survived before we had a dairy industry.
4. What about absorption of calcium from non-dairy based sources. Aren’t they poorly absorbed by our bodies?
That’s irrelevant. Look, calcium is a mineral present in the soil. It is absorbed by plants. And those plants are eaten by animals. We can eat the plant source, we can eat the animal itself, but no, we have to catch the cow, impregnate it, and suck it dry to have better absorption rates? Absorption rates are irrelevant as an argument for drinking milk if you look at what is necessary to obtain them. The only thing absorption rates are good for is to create confusion about whether to drink milk or not. You know, while we’re at it, why not drink rat’s milk or human milk? Seems disgusting? Well, rat’s milk has the highest protein content of any milk, and human milk seems to be made for … humans. If these things don’t appeal to you, what’s so special about the cow then?
Why don’t we turn to the primary source of calcium instead? The notion that dairy is essential for adults has been put to rest a long time ago. Some people still fail to acknowledge the fact. It is true though that certain greens (spinach) and beans have higher calcium content but have a lower percentage of absorbable calcium. Other greens like broccoli and kale enjoy a better calcium absorption in comparison to calcium in milk (and they have some other benefits as well). But even fish, eggs and meat contain some calcium. The key to getting enough calcium and nutrients is to eat a diversified diet. The best non-dairy sources of calcium are canned sardines (in oil), white beans, cress, and tofu (link).
5. But will we get enough calcium!?
The current recommendation for calcium is around 1000 mg to 1200 mg a day. However, A study points out that we could even lower calcium intake to 500-800 mg/day. Without the increased risk of bone fracture (link).
Of course cheese and milk are known to be the primary sources of calcium but they are full of saturated fat and their consumption comes at a price to your health. Other, safer, plant sources include kale, broccoli, sweet potato, carrots, legumes, tofu, and fruits (like orange, dried figs, and raisins). If you don’t like veggies and you don’t eat dairy either, you can turn to foods like soy or almond milk, cereals, and oatmeal. Don’t forget fish and eggs. If you eat such varied diet you have no reasons to worry. But you should remember to take vitamin D supplements as it helps calcium absorption.
- Calcium Content of Common Foods (International Osteoporosis Foundation)
- How to Get Calcium Without Dairy
- Milk drinking started around 7,500 years ago in central Europe
- Want more protein from milk? Rat’s milk is your answer
- Calcium requirements