Milk drinkers partake in unhealthy habit

by Amy Devito

dairy cowsFor decades, milk has been known as a bone-building mega mogul muscle drink, essential for a balanced diet.

With the influential propagation of magazines and television, milk has maintained its reputation as a fundamental source of nourishment necessary for strong bone structure.

However, milk may not be the superhero supplement it is claimed to be. In fact, some researchers suggest following a dairy-free diet may prove to be a healthier avenue. Though several celebrity icons have endorsed milk by sporting the infamous mustache, perhaps it is time to anatomize what milk is really made of.

A 12-year Harvard study consisting of 78,000 female nurses  published in the American Journal of Public Health stated, “Women consuming greater amounts of calcium from dairy foods had significantly increased risks of hip fractures, while no increase in fracture risk was observed for the same levels of calcium from nondairy sources.”

Additionally, a survey of 34 published studies in 16 different countries conducted at Yale University concluded that countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis, including America, England, Sweden and Finland, were also the highest consumers of dairy products.

Although the primary minerals found in milk are phosphorous and calcium, westernized diets are often full of phosphorous in the form of carbonated beverages and processed foods. Calcium is important, but choosing orange juice, soy or almond milk will satisfy this need just the same.

A dairy-free diet omits milk, butter, cheese, cream and yogurt with alternatives including almond milk, apple, pear or prune puree, cheese alternatives, multi-grain milk, nondairy frozen desserts and oat, rice or soy milk.

When baking, milk may be substituted with water or fruit juice. Ingredients such as oil, soy margarine, shortening and fruit purees can take the place of butter. As concerns often lie in the belief that, without milk, vital nutrients may be forgotten, it’s important to be aware of what supplements must be taken on a consistent basis.

Milk has seven main components, including water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, sugar and fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. Water can be easily replenished elsewhere and, as cow’s milk is only three to four percent protein of which approximately 80 percent is casein and 20 percent is whey, the protein found in milk can also easily be substituted. Both casein and whey are top allergen sources, and, according to the Food Allergy Initiative, dairy allergies are one of the most common food allergies among children.

To obtain better protein sources, increased consumption of beans, nuts, meat, fish and poultry is recommended. Milk is also high in cholesterol and lactose, a sugar present in such high quantities that one glass of milk contains half the sugar serving found in soda.

Milk also contains vitamins B and C, but a considerable amount is eradicated during pasteurization. Better sources of these vitamins are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats and fish. Milk includes vitamins A, D and E , but these are removed with the fat in the production of reduced, low and nonfat milks. Farmers are required to fortify these milks with vitamin A and may choose vitamin D as well. Ironically, high intakes of vitamin A have now been linked to an increased risk for hip fracture.

So, what are the best ways to prevent dairy from appearing in the daily diet? Avoid eating out and emphasize whole foods and home meal preparation – processed foods typically include allergens found in milk.

Now that the truth about dairy has been revealed, there may be no better time to adopt new dairy-free standards and embrace an opportunity for a healthier life.