Monday, April 29, 2013

Dairy: decrease or desist?

From Refinery29 article, link below
I was recently consulted for a Refinery29 article “No Whey: What Milk Really Does To Your Bod”. Dairy baffles many people that I thought I would review the dairy details.

Dairy Hierarchy
Not all dairy is the same. In any food category whether it’s carbs or soy sometimes you can tolerate or benefit from certain types versus others.  You probably know I’m anti skim milk; non-skim, fermented, organic dairy is very different from conventional, skimmed, subpar stuff. It’s important to be discriminatory with your dairy.
Fermented dairy is easier to digest and fermented foods can benefit you well beyond your immune system. Unlike Vegas, what happens in your gut doesn’t stay in your gut and probiotic foods have far reaching effects from your weight to your mood.
Additionally, goat and sheep dairy is often better tolerated. Anti dairy folks often point out that it’s unnatural for us to drink another animal’s milk.  In the case of goat and sheep’s milk it’s actually most similar to human breast milk in its makeup (I can’t decide if knowing this makes it more or less appealing). While lactose slightly lower in goat or sheep versus cow it’s really the casein content that makes the difference. Furthermore there are higher levels of MCTs (same type of fats in coconut milk) in goat and sheep versus cow milk. There’s a great sheep’s milk company called Old Chatham. Their ginger yogurt is amazing.
And unless you find antibiotics, added hormones and inferior nutrition appealing…if nothing else all dairy you purchase should be organic. You can make the argument that you can wash (not that this makes it pesticide free) an apple; you can’t wash your yogurt. A study on 3rd graders in another country showed their hormone levels soared after a month on US, conventional milk, enough said.

Pro Dairy
A case can be made that dairy helps with PMS symptoms (do you recall the California Milk Board’s ad geared toward men “living with PMS”? oy those caused a little bit of a backlash). Full fat dairy is associated with less fat around the waist or midsection, decreased likelihood of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. This is due to a fatty acid called palmitoleic. I expect we’ll be hearing more about this. And men who strength train may be able to get more muscular with dairy in their diets.

Dairy Drawbacks
If you look up the important research from Dr Davaasambu (what a name), you will see studies linking milk consumption to a host of cancers. The proposed reasoning is that cows are being milked more days per year, often when pregnant when levels of certain hormones are higher.
In terms of digestion, while many point to lactose as a source of tummy troubles, there’s another potential covert culprit and that’s casein. Casein is a protein in milk (I mentioned it earlier with sheep/goat dairy) that many people, especially those who have problems with gluten, do not do well with.
If a client presents with sinus symptoms and allergies or certain skin conditions, I consider advising them to experiment with ditching dairy.
Bones When it comes to bone health, if you’re only keyed in on calcium you’re missing the “bone” boat. We need calcium but it doesn’t have to come from dairy think about sardines, greens and beans. Having enough Vitamin D seems to be way more important than supplementing calcium. Additionally there’s magnesium sort of a sly player in the osteoporosis game.
There are a host of “alternative” milks from almond to cashew to coconut and nut milk is very easy to make (and delicious).If you choose to purchase nut milk make sure there’s no carrageenan in the ingredient list. In NYC, OMilk makes fantastic small-batch nut milks in fun flavors.
I think it’s important to think about your diet, your goals and consider whether you need dairy and how much; there’s certainly no need to overload on it.  It’s no coincidence that as I googled dairy MyPlate and Dairy Counsels etc. came up. There’s this conventional “wisdom” or belief that we need lots of dairy to be a healthy and further that we should look for fat free and low fat sources. I would challenge both of those ideas. And our ability to digest dairy decreases with age so what worked at 20 may not at 50, reassess.
Do you eat dairy? How much and which types? Have you considered decreasing or desisting?


  1. Very interesting post. I'm on the fence here. I eat dairy, but only in the form of cheese (mainly Swiss and my string cheese!) and yogurt (mainly greek, and organic). I'm favoriting this post :) Great info.

  2. Thanks Gina, it's a big topic (I went on and on a bit) but main message is don't need to necessarily give it up as much as assess sources, risk etc. My half and half in my coffee, kerrygold butter and organic goat cheese isn't going anywhere.

  3. I eat quite a lot of dairy and I love it. I'm not that discriminating about the type because I like pretty much all of it...milk, cheese, yogurt, you name it. I get most of my milk in the form of lattes and the occasional bowl of cereal, but I'd say most of my dairy comes in the form of yogurt and cheese. Greek yogurt all the way, usually fat free. Have you been to the Chobani store in SoHo? Fantastic. They even let you keep the cute little cup the yogurt comes in.

    Once thing I have done recently is switch to organic milk only. It does cost twice as much but the benefits are worth it. I drink skim mostly because I prefer the texture...even 2% is too thick for me.

  4. haven't made it to Chobani but love the concept of a "Greek" yogurt bar. Organic is a great switch, I would try working your way up from skim start with 1% and go from there.

  5. I desisted long ago and never looked back. I found a rice milk at Whole Foods that has no Carageenan and that works for me. Don't miss milk or yogurt at all. I do miss cheese though...but my skin doesn't like it so I avoid it.

  6. Nice roundup! Just (finally) finished my thesis that was on bone health in kids with cow's milk allergy, so I'm a sucker for this topic! The concept of going beyond calcium and vitamin D for bone health is so important. I agree that quality trumps quantity here, but that people can easily live without it if they like. I'm not diary-free, mostly because I love cheese and sometimes do full fat yogurt. Strongly discourage that gelatinous mess they sell as yogurt.

  7. What do you use rice milk for Ameena? Only because, while fine as an ingredient haven't ever enjoyed the doesn't like all cheese even sheep/goat?

  8. Ooh interesting thesis (masters?) and good point, you don't need dairy. Few things worse that that "gelatinous mess" and many other issues with "fauxgurt" than crap dairy (dyes/sweeteners/thickeners).

  9. I have a hard time finding good quality dairy products. The closest Whole Foods is over forty miles away. I've eliminated all dairy except organic half and half which I put in my morning coffee. I have allergies so I'd like to eliminate dairy completely but I can't find a good non dairy creamer that is still creamy. The half and half is not even grass fed. Can you recommend a good quality non dairy coffee creamer?

  10. Great post Lauren! I work with a lot of clients who do better without dairy (or certain dairy products) either due to food sensitivities or lactose intolerance, so I'm a firm believer that dairy is not necessary in a healthy diet. That being said, I enjoy some dairy products and seem to tolerate them well, so I keep a variety of them in my diet, including whole grass fed organic milk for my coffee, a variety of cheeses (this would be the hardest dairy category for me to give up!), whole or 2% yogurt , and, yes, a little ice cream from time to time :-), but I also mix them up with non-dairy alternatives (and have now been on the hunt for carrageenan free ones thanks to you!)

  11. I eat vegan most of the time, but I do still eat dairy once in a while, mostly in the form of cheese. I've found that the older I get, the less dairy agrees with me, which is sad because I LOVE ice cream.