Got Milk? The good people of America have been bombarded with this slogan for years, which is accompanied by celebrities with the now iconic milk moustache on billboards, TV commercials and magazine advertisements. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through its food dietary guidelines, says that everyone should get 2-3 servings of dairy every day. According to the USDA, the intake of dairy products is “linked to improved bone health, and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Intake of dairy products is also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and with lower blood pressure in adults.” Hmmm—I suppose there’s nothing bad about dairy and milk then? I’m sure the multi-billion dollar dairy industry would let us know that drinking milk can actually come with some serious side-effects.
The truth of the matter is that too much dairy is actually toxic to the body. According to Amy Lanou, Ph.D., the nutrition director of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), “Besides prostate cancer, milk has been linked to asthma, anemia, allergies, juvenile-onset diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and ovarian and breast cancer.” Lovely. On top of that, Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), a naturally occurring hormone produced by milk cows has been shown to significantly elevate hormone levels in people, creating a host of growth problems. Even worse is the presence of artificial hormones in milk. Recombinant BGH (rBGH) is an unnaturally occurring, genetically engineered hormone produced by Monsanto Company. Sold under the brand name “Posilac,” it is injected into cows to boost milk output in the short term. rBGH increases the rates of 16 different harmful medical conditions in cows, and there is substantial scientific evidence that it may increase antibiotic resistance and cancer rates in humans.
And I haven’t even talked about the effect of mega-dairy farms on the environment, or their treatment of cows. Cows in the wild (i.e. the outdoors) have an average life span of 20 years. The average cow inside a factory farm lives for about 5 before they inevitably become a Big Mac. This probably has something to do with the fact that they spend most of their lives standing up, feeding on an unnatural diet and churning out as much milk as they possibly can. There’s also a common practice of de-horning—cutting a cow’s horns off without anesthesia. On top of this, dairy farms produce almost a billion tons of manure each year, and most of that goes straight into our waterways. In fact, a single factory cow emits more harmful gasses over it’s lifetime than a mid size car. Furthermore, manure generates 65 per cent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2.
So now that we’ve established that buying and drinking milk is harmful in more ways then one, let’s look at some of the alternatives:
1. Almond Milk
Almond milk has been touted as a healthier alternative to milk and soymilk. It contains fewer calories than soy (90 calories in 8 oz.), no saturated fat or cholesterol, about 25% of your daily vitamin D, and almost half of your vitamin E. Furthermore, it’s also been recognized for preventing heart disease.
2. Rice Milk
Rice milk is processed from brown rice and typically contains rice syrup, evaporated cane juice or another natural sweetener. It is usually fortified with calcium or vitamin D. It is generally very sweet, and pretty watery. The main drawback of rice milk is that it is mainly just a source of carbohydrates—it is a good dairy substitute for cooking, but shouldn’t be used as a replacement for nutrients.
3. Hemp Milk
Hemp milk is new to the market and is made from seeds grown in Canada, where growing hemp is legal. It is a good source of omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids, calcium, and phosphorous, and is commonly fortified with other vitamins and minerals.A good alternative for anyone with soya and nut allergies, hemp milk is also cholesterol and lactose free, low in saturated fats and rich in healthy omega fatty acids. Like other plant milks though, it lacks calcium and isn’t as widely available as soya, rice and goat’s milk.
4. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is rich in lauric acid, a heart-healthy saturated fat that improves HDL (good) cholesterol. It also has minimal starch content, is soya-free, gluten-free, cholesterol-free and nut-free while its fat content is considered to a ‘good fat’, easily metabolized by the body and quickly turned into energy rather than being stored as fat. It’s a great alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to animal milk.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Booth/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0