Some of my friends have jokingly(?) referred to me as the "dairy police" because when they express certain symptoms to me, my first question is often, "Do you consume dairy?" Then, more often then not, I advise them to cut it from their diet. This doesn't always sit well with people. It can also be confusing when we are used to being told that dairy is an essential part of a human diet. If you take a look at the USDA Food Pyramid Guide, it was once recommended to have 2-3 servings of dairy per day.
In 2005, the Food Pyramid was changed to MyPyramid. MyPyramid was said to have been confusing to look at and just too abstract.
The USDA guidelines have received a lot of critique over the years, for many reasons, one of which being that the dairy section was dispensable. Another one being that the sections were too general and did not give recommendations on healthy choices for each group.
In 2011, My Pyramid became MyPlate and dairy was now recommended as a side.
When it comes to USDA recommendations on what people should eat, it is so important to keep in mind who is behind these charts and recommendations. There is a lot of money in the dairy industry, and with money comes influence. Simply, there is a lot of money influencing what these guidelines say, and not a lot of interest in health.
Now that we got that out of the way, let's get 5 reasons why you may consider removing dairy from your diet and how you can still obtain all those essential nutrients!
1. Digestive Upset. It has been estimated that 75% of the world's population are lactose intolerant. You may not even realize that you are affected, but think about those times you feel bloating or abdominal pain or discomfort 30 min - 2 hours after eating. SO many people think this is normal, but it is certainly not! It could your body's reaction to lactose. Common problems people experience when consuming dairy include bloating, gas, IBS, nausea and chronic constipation.
2. Saturated fats and Cholesterol. Milk and other dairy products are a top source of saturated fat in the US. Saturated fat contributes to heart disease, type II diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. All milk products (and animal products in general) contain cholesterol. Low-fat options are no better. In order for a milk product to become "low-fat," it has to go through major processing.
3. Antibiotics and hormones. Factory farms focus on efficiency and how fast they can raise and animal and send it to market. Because of this, the animals live in crowded conditions which increases their stress and poor hygiene. There is an increase in bacteria in these concentrated areas, leading to infections. The cows are then given antibiotics in mass quantities. Studies have shown that these antibiotics are ending up in conventional dairy products. Another cause of infection in cows is the use of a genetically engineered synthetic hormone called rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone). This hormone is used to increase milk production levels by stimulating IGF-1 (insulin growth factor), which leads to higher levels of IGF-1 in milk products.
4. Increase in insulin levels. IGF-1 raises insulin levels. Therefore, dairy is not recommended for people with diabetes, poly-cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and other metabolic disorders. Lactose, which is the sugar in milk, when combined with the casein and whey proteins found in dairy, are also responsible for increased insulin levels. According to one study, dairy can illicit more of an insulin response for some people than white bread.
5. Inflammation. Dairy is one of the the most inflammatory foods. A large part of the population struggle with chronic inflammation and experience digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea as well as other symptoms such as acne, joint pain, headaches and arthritis.
Milk does contain important nutrients such as calcium and Vitamin D. When asked why dairy is important for the human diet, the answer is almost always "Calcium!" Well, don't worry - here is a list of 15 non-dairy sources of calcium.
2. Greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens
4. White beans
8. Enriched rice, almond, hemp and coconut milks
9. Chia seeds
12. Sweet potato
13. Butternut squash
15. Sesame Seeds
Many of these contain Vitamin D as well. The easiest source of Vitamin D is sunlight, so if you find you are deficient, it is recommended to try a Vitamin D supplement.
So there you have it. If you were on the fence about removing dairy from your diet or just wondering if you need it, I hope this helps! Note that while not everyone will experience problems with dairy, it may be worth looking into if you experience some weird symptoms and have seemingly tried everything else.
Remember - your health starts in the gut, and you literally are what you eat!