The health effects of dairy are a controversial subject among many doctors and nutritionists. While we nearly every species in the animal kingdom depends on dairy in one form or another in the first few years of life, the question of whether dairy is healthy for adults is more difficult to answer.
All dairy products are made up of a combination of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. However, dairy products can vary widely in their health effects; full-fat raw milk is processed very differently in the body than highly-processed, sugar-laden yogurts. While the USDA food pyramid recommends 2-3 servings of milk products a day, many health professionals suggest that’s a mistake, and that many of the dairy products we consume are quietly reeking havoc on our bodies from the inside out.
Most of us grew up thinking the milk, cheese, yogurt, dips, and spreads our parents fed us were “healthy.” We’ve been led to believe that dairy is the greatest thing since sliced bread, providing essential nutrients for our bones and overall health. But the latest medical research has produced some counterintuitive findings about how much dairy is actually good for us. Let’s take a closer look.
Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about calcium and dairy:
- The US suggests 500 milligrams more in daily calcium intake than the World Health Organization recommends…Yet somehow, the US also has the highest hip fracture rate in the world.
- In an Australian study comparing 105 vegan Buddhist nuns and 105 people who consume dairy on a regular basis, there was no difference found in bone density.
- High dairy consumption (3+ servings daily) has been linked to an increased rate of prostate cancer;
- decreased semen quality in men; and
- breast cancer in women.
- Dairy is a major source of saturated fat, which increases the risk of heart disease.
- There are many plant sources of calcium, including navy beans and kale. (Check out the article in the recent Spirituality & Health issue for more plant-based calcium options.)
- Vitamin K may be just as important as calcium for bone health. Good sources of vitamin K include brussels sprouts, broccoli, and many more which you can read about in the article.
- Keeping your blood alkaline will help prevent your body from sucking calcium out of the bones. Nearly all produce can have an alkalizing effect in the body.
- If the taste and texture are what you’re after, there are lots of delicious alternatives! Consider nutritional yeast mac and “cheese” or tofu ricotta. Grab the latest issue of Spirituality & Health for more cheese alternative ideas!
Does this make you second guess your dairy intake? For more information about how much dairy you should consume and how to get calcium from healthier sources, check out the May-June edition of Spirituality & Health, on newsstands now! The article Move Over Milk, by Alicia Bowman, provides some great ideas for how you can reduce dairy intake without going completely vegan. (And if you are vegan, then all the more power to you!)
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