Is dairy bad for you? Lately, alternative milks like almond and soy have been all the rage. As of March 2019, the dairy industry reportedly dropped by a whopping $1.1 billion (https://www.dairyherd.com/article/dfa-reports-11-billion-drop-dairy-sales-during-challenging-2018)! So, it all comes down to this question: Is the extra 75 cents for these alternative milk options in your coffee truly worth it each morning?
Is it natural for us to drink milk?
As humans, we are actually the only mammals to drink the milk of another species. Furthermore, the milk of a cow is biologically made in order to speed up the growth of calves. We, as humans, do not need this kind of help with growing. During the agricultural revolution, humans only drank their mother’s milk. However, as time went on, one could say that we genetically adapted to be able to consume the cow's milk. So, though it is not necessary to drink in order to maintain good health, it also is not downright unnatural.
Is dairy linked to depression?
Dairy is actually one of the most reported foods being blamed for causing mood issues. This is because dairy’s protein contains this thing called casein. Casein has been linked to aggression, depression and anger. Almost worse than this, casein is also linked to addiction so you may find yourself stuck in a helpless cycle. Casein also takes a very long time to digest, so people tend to feel full for a very long time. UCLA had done research that literally shows that dairy consumption changes the way that the brain works. This is because it interferes with the gut-brain connection. There’s also been reports that dairy is linked to more serious disorders like autism because aggression and autistic symptoms seem to heighten when dairy is in the mix.
Are we all lactose intolerant?
About 75% of the worlds adult population is lactose intolerant, but many do not pay attention to their body enough to realize it. However, interestingly enough, lactose intolerance is less common in developed countries such as Australia, Europe and North America and more common in places such as Africa, Asia and South America. Though one maybe lactose intolerant, they sometimes can still consume high fat dairy products or fermented dairy products like butter or yogurt without getting symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.
Which types of dairy are best for you?
Consuming dairy from grass-fed cows or cows that are raised on pasture are best. This is because their milk tends to have a higher nutrient profile along with more beneficial fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins like K2. Also, keep in mind that cows are not the only animals we consume dairy from. Someone who is unable to digest dairy from a cow may easily be able to digest dairy from a goat. Everyone is different!
Plant-Based Milk Studies
Due to some of this concerning research and health report problems, many people have begun to reside with plant-based milk instead. Are these alternative options really much better?
Is almond milk good for you?
Many people resort to almond milk as an alternative for dairy because it is nutritious, low-calorie and most importantly, dairy-free! Quite a bit of research has been done in this area and studies show that almond milk is good for you due to it being low in calories and sugar and high in vitamin E, vitamin D and calcium. Almond milk is naturally lactose-free and a very easy substitute to use for those who are allergic to lactose.
Is oat milk good for you?
Oat milk is another extremely nutritious alternative to drinking dairy milk. Though this tends to be less popular than almond milk, it actually may be better for you, since it has significantly more protein in each serving than almond milk does. This is especially important for anyone who is vegan or even vegetarian, as it is more difficult to obtain adequate protein levels without eating meat. Oat milk also tends to be a bit more creamy than the other milk alternatives and is naturally sweet and tasty.
*Fun fact: Drinking oat milk is actually better for the planet than drinking almond milk because oats are a more efficient crop that can be grown with significantly less water than almond milk.
Is soy milk good for you?
Soy milk is the highest source of protein of all plant-based milks. It is also low in saturated fat and naturally free of cholesterol, yet still high in calcium and potassium. This is a great option for those who have high blood pressure. However, too much soy could become an issue for those with thyroid disease. A Harvard Study from 2008 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2721724/) found that higher intakes of soy-based foods have caused fertility problems and lower sperm counts. Perhaps the biggest deterrent from soy milk, however, is the issue with it being a very common allergen.
Is rice milk good for you?
Rice milk is the highest in carbohydrates of all the milk options and it is also one of the sweetest options. However, it is a great alternative for those who are allergic to soy or nuts. One thing that people are wary about with this option would be the health factors since it is very high in carbohydrates and low in protein, which is obviously not ideal. It’s also a health risk for children if consumed too often due to its inorganic arsenic levels.
Is coconut milk good for you?
So, the first thing to know about coconut milk is that it can be thick or thin. The thicker the milk, the higher the fat. Coconut milk’s main health benefits are boosting the immune system, heart health and weight loss stimulation. However, if you drink too much coconut milk, you can also experience weight gain due to the high calorie content. It’s a gentle balance!
In short, it is difficult to say whether or not dairy is bad for you because it totally depends on the person! If you can consume dairy without side effects, then studies so far suggest that it may be beneficial to you because of all of the nutrients. If you do not feel well after consuming dairy, then you are probably one of the 75% of lactose intolerant people in our world and if that is the case then yes, go for that extra charge on your latte this morning!
written by Raven
Raven is a student finishing up her last year at UW-Madison. She recently finished studying abroad in Melbourne, Australia, where she’d been able to travel to heaps of surrounding countries. Check out her travel blog for some tips, things to do in places she’s been or personal travel stories!