Half way through college something terrible started happening; I frequently had an upset stomach and my formerly iron clad digestive system started to interfere with my life on daily basis. A few friends suggested that I go dairy-free. ”No, I’m not lactose intolerant!” I would say. But after a year of struggling with my digestive system, I cut out diary products and started to feel 100% better. As a newly lactose intolerant person (approx 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant) I discovered a plethora of dairy alternatives. But why are there so many alternatives if dairy is supposedly so healthy for us?
Well it turns out that diary products actually aren’t as healthy for us as we tend to think they are. According to practicing physician and NY Times best-selling author, Mark Hyman, MD, countries that consume the least amount of dairy, like those in Asia and Africa also have the lowest rates of osteoporosis. In this article, Dr Hyman reviews findings from the USDA when they looked into the claims made in “milk moustache” ads. The panel of scientists found that milk doesn’t benefit sports performance, there’s no evidence that dairy is good for your bones or prevents osteoporosis — in fact, the animal protein it contains may help cause bone loss, dairy is linked to prostate cancer, it’s full of saturated fat and is linked to heart disease, dairy causes digestive problems for the 75 percent of people with lactose intolerance, and that dairy aggravates irritable bowel syndrome.
Dairy-Free is Kind
Aside from the fact that diary is not healthy for us, the industry is also cruel to animals. Factory farm cows are artificially inseminated every year so that they are always either pregnant or ready to nurse. Once they are lactating, the cows are injected with Bovine Growth Horomone (BGH). BGH causes mastitis, a painful inflammatory infection of the udder. Milk from cows with mastitis is in lower quality because the infection alters the amount of calcium in the milk. This pic from Wikipedia says it all…
Milk from a cow with mastitis vs. milk from a healthy cow
Dairy cows often have their calves taken away from then within one day of birth. The male calves are often put in cramped crates and killed within a few months to be used for veal, while female calves often become dairy cows like their mothers. PETA references an industry study which reports “that by the time they are killed, nearly 40 percent of dairy cows are lame because of the intensive confinement, the filth, and the strain of being almost constantly pregnant and giving milk.” Like many others, the suffering of these innocent animals really burdens me, and I am so glad that I became more aware.
As I mentioned earlier, milk alternatives are plentiful. Soy, almond, coconut, and rice milk are my favorites. In my opinion, they do not taste much different than skim milk. Which non-dairy milk alternative is best for you depends upon your personal taste, calorie preference and whether or not you have a nut allergy.
Comparing Milk Alternatives ( 1 cup):
Soy: 90 calories, 6 grams of protein
Almond: 60 calories, 1 gram of protein
Coconut: 80 calories, 1 gram of protein
Rice: 120 calories, 1 gram of protein
* One cup of whole milk is 149 calories and 8 grams of protein.
Lastly, although I have mostly talked about milk, I have also cut out cheese and other diary foods like ice cream. I miss cheese the most and haven’t really taken to cheese alternatives, however my sinuses feel a lot better than they did in my cheese eating days. For baking, coconut products are the best replacements and coconut ice cream is also great!