Milk: Does It Really Do a Body Good?
For years, I have been advising my patients that milk may not be as beneficial as the commercials say it is. Finally, it seems like the public and mainstream media are beginning to take notice. The Wall Street Journal recently published an engaging story documenting the surge in demand for milk alternatives: Almond Breeze, Silk Pure Almond Spark Fight in Dairy Case – WSJ.com (the cute pictures of the little kid’s facial expressions are alone worth your click).
More harm than good
Milk can have many drawbacks, including:
- Allergic reactions, tummy issues and skin flare-ups can be caused by dairy.
- Antibiotics and hormones are found in milk if it is not organic.
- Digestion and absorption of milk protein is impaired because its molecular structure is altered by the pasteurization and homogenization processes.
Also, lactose intolerance is more prevalent than you might realize. Did you know that up to 75% of adults worldwide show decrease in lactase activity (enzyme required to metabolize lactose) during adulthood? Decreased lactase activity can range from as little as 5% in northern Europe to 71% for Sicily and more than 90% in some African and Asian countries (see Journal of American Diet Association). Another words, if you are of Italian descent, your ability to metabolize dairy as an adult could be only 30% of what it was in your childhood!
The “strong bones” myth
Contrary to popular belief, the calcium in dairy milk is not as beneficial as you have been led to believe. Since dairy causes acidity when ingested, your body has to actually pull calcium from the bones to neutralize the acid. Therefore, even though you are consuming calcium, it is not actually helping your bones. You can get better absorbable calcium from non-dairy milks, cruciferous vegetables, nuts and if necessary, high quality calcium supplements such as OsteoForce.
Which alternative is best?
Almond is the best choice, in my professional opinion. It is low in sugar and calories, has a great taste and is very hypoallergenic (unless of course you are allergic to the almonds themselves). A cup of almond milk has about 40-60 calories, compared with 90 calories for soymilk and 130 calories 2% milk. In addition, soy contains estrogen-like chemicals (phytoestrogens) and overexposure to estrogen has been linked with increased risk of breast cancer. Rice, hemp and coconut milks are good options as well but they are higher in calories and their flavors may not always suit eveone’s tastebuds.
The milky way or the highway
The dairy industry, which has been in a slow and steady decline for decades now, hasn’t overlooked the trend either. It’s no wonder dairy farmers are lobbying the FDA for a crackdown on the use of the word “milk” on dairy alternatives. Needless to say, I think we are reaching a tipping point – I’m happy to see dairy alternatives taking off and the market becoming more crowded with numerous choices, much like the dairy section in your local supermarket.