Do I Really Want To “Get Milk” Or Other Alternatives? (Posted on May 7, 2014)

Do I Really Want To “Get Milk” Or Other Alternatives?

Posted on May 7, 2014

I’ve been meaning to write this for some time now and just haven’t made the time. That said, I got a little unintentional nudge from a friend this weekend. She sent me an email with a link to a piece about the dangers of soy. Her initial message said “Claire… What kind of milk do you drink? This freaks me out! We are a soy drinking house. Yikes ! Help.”

Let me take a step back. I was born in the 70s. I grew up drinking both powdered milk (awful) and typical milk – usually low fat and mostly skim. That’s what you drank. We were in the beginning stages of “fat is bad” for you. We were also in the processed-food-saves-the-day mindset.

I really never thought about milk. I stopped drinking it as an adult for no good reason. My husband drank it and used it in cereal so we had it in the house. That said, it wasn’t a staple. But between the birth of my daughter and my program at IIN I started to think about it, a lot.

One of the things I learned was how processed low-fat/skim milk really is. John Douillard has a piece on the myths of milk. In it he states:

“The biggest factor regarding calcium absorption is getting adequate amount of Vitamin D3, which we primarily absorb from the sun or supplementation. In the cream portion of milk is a good supply of Vitamin D3, along with the other essential fat soluble vitamins A, E and K. Unfortunately these vitamins are broken down in the pasteurization and homogenization process. As a result, milk is fortified with synthetic Vitamin A, D2 (not Vitamin D3) and calcium.”

Skim milk means that the cream (fat) is “skimmed’ off the milk leaving it without the natural fat that you need to absorb any leftover soluble vitamins. I know, I know, it’s been hammered into your brain that milk is essential, that low-fat/skim milk is best and that without it you won’t get the proper calcium and vitamin D for your bones (picture an elderly person hunched over a cane…). But the truth is the best way to get vitamin D is from direct sunlight. That means sun on skin without anything in-between. This doesn’t mean to frolic in the sun without any protection. It means to keep your frolicking to a minimum but to get 10, 15, 20 minutes of direct sunlight before you put on the hat, the shirt or the sunblock.

And as for calcium, green leafy vegetables, sardines, wild caught salmon, almonds, etc are all GREAT sources of calcium.

If you’re lactose intolerant, you should definitely look at John’s piece linked below. He suggests that for most people the intolerance is to the processing of the milk (pasteurizing and homogenizing) rather than the milk itself. Therefore, you may very well be able to drink raw or VAT pasteurized milk.

So what about other “milk” products like soy, almond, hemp, coconut, etc… Most of these have additives that are not good for you over the long run either. Soy milk is particularly troubling because soy is now known to be an endocrine disruptor. What does that mean? Simply, it can doesn’t allow your endocrine system to act properly, which can lead to things like thyroid disease, early puberty in children, and breast cancer in women. In addition, most of the soy in the US is genetically modified and while it is still unknown whether GMO food creates additional damage to the human body, I’d like to see the evidence that it doesn’t before I over-consume it. And people, soy is in everything from chocolate, to processed food, to most conventionally raised animals that you may consume.

So, what do we drink? I still don’t really drink milk. Sometimes I opt for half and half in my coffee if we have any. My husband typically puts grass-fed butter in his coffee these days and no longer eats cereal. I use coconut milk (the pure stuff with no additives found in bpa-free cans) in cooking or even my coffee. My daughter does drink a local brand of milk that is full fat, not homogenized and only pasteurized once. I disagree with the notion that toddlers should switch to low-fat milk. Milk is not what is causing our kids to be obese. It’s the processed food and sugar we feed them. We get one bottle per week and when it’s gone, it’s gone until we grocery shop again. We thought about going the raw route but it felt kind of overwhelming to get it (even though it’s probably not). We also considered goat milk but it’s just really expensive. So mostly, we drink water.

As for cheese, my daughter does eat organic string cheese. If my husband and I eat any cheese it’s usually organic and raw. My son is already showing signs of intolerance or an allergy to dairy so when I wean him, he will be getting just water (with lots and lots of green leafy vegetables and salmon and a short but good dose of sunshine).

So ultimately, it’s up to you. Just don’t be so quick to assume that because the milk industry has really good ads that you have to drink milk or find a subpar replacement for it. Part of the challenge here is just that, challenging yourself to feel confident enough to think alternatively about how and what you eat. Milk is such a staple in our lives because we are told we have to drink it and because it has been married so nicely to our typical breakfast selection – cereal. When you step back and think about it, it’s all just marketing.

Happy drinking (or not).

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