Got Milk? Why?
We have all grown up watching the got milk commercials. Why do we drink milk, because we're told we need it for strong bones. I grew up with dairy, so I lived by the hype. I ate an average of about 3 bowls of cereal per day along with milk, so I definitely got my share. I remember being in elementary school and having chocolate milk every Friday and usually being the first to trade a sandwich for someone else's chocolate milk.
The got milk commercials would sometimes make me laugh and at times I wish I could be the innocent child watching got milk commercials without seeing the agenda behind them. At the end of the day; however, I'm far from the innocent child and I won't believe something's healthy just because someone says it is, I need proof.
The standard health claims are that milk is essential to building strong bones and that not getting enough milk is linked to bone fractures and bone mineral depletion leading to osteoporosis. I wanted to check some of the additional health claims out for myself, so who better than the ones stressing the importance of milk.
Prevent debilitating bone fracture: The Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that adults who drink 4 glasses of milk per day are 72% less likely to have bone fractures based on a study of 930 men and women.
Reduce risk of Type-2 Diabetes: A study done by the Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that teens who drink milk are 43% less likely to suffer from type-2 diabetes.
Kids need milk: A 2006 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics stated the importance of kids consuming 3 servings of low-fat dairy per day to prevent fractures and osteoporosis later in life.
Calcium and Vitamin D supplements fail: The New England Journal of Medicine released a study stating that supplements can't make up for not drinking enough milk.
Weight Control: A 2005 study by Obesity Research suggested that those who consumed 3 or 4 servings of dairy per day burned more fat than those who didn't (no information on how much or how many studied).
So What's the Problem?
Before I debate claims, I want to state that I am not opposed to drinking milk, I grew up on it, but there are definite problems with our commonly consumed commercial milk.
The problem with all these health claims is it raises the question for many "how can I include more dairy in my diet?" The question that should be raised is "who's sponsoring these studies?" The dairy industry isn't exactly going to warn people of potential dangers associated with milk. Enough money could have a study suggesting the health benefits of anything.
I'll start with this, the milk consumed today is far different from the milk consumed in the past. For starters, most (not all) cows are shoved into crowded facilities and eat corn and grain to fatten them up. Cows are only supposed to eat grass, which give them vitally important nutrients to sustain health. These cows can barely move (no exercise), and don't get out in the sunshine (no vitamin D).
Bovine somatotropin is the hormone cows produce to regulate the production of milk. An artificial form of this hormone called rBGH is used to make the cows produce more milk. Ultimately these cows are malnourished and over-milked, making it pretty much impossible for them to produce a product beneficial for human health.
After milk is produced, it's pasteurized to kill off harmful bacteria, such as e coli and salmonella. Many argue, the pasteurization helps to prolong shelf life as well. After pasteurization, you're left with a dead product, void of enzymes necessary to digest milk, which is why so many people are lactose intolerant.
The dairy industry stresses the importance of drinking milk that is low-fat or fat-free, but doing so makes the product even more nutrient void and since people have such a fear of saturated fat, they avoid whole milk like the plague. To make low fat or fat-free milk, the fat has to be unnaturally separated from the milk and the fat is used to make butter and other dairy products. Ultimately whole milk equals less profit.
Kids are the biggest target of the dairy industry, I remember chocolate milk being a rare treat when I was younger, now since kids don't get enough milk, they have chocolate and strawberry artificially flavored milk available in the cafeteria for breakfast and lunch. Plain white milk has sugar on its own and the sugar in flavored milk is double what's put in soda.
If you're going to use flavored milk because kids don't drink enough, you might as well give them soda so they get enough water. The updated food pyramid recommends kids get a cup and a half of fruit, 2 and a half cups of vegetables and 3 cups of milk, implying that chocolate milk is healthier than the broccoli you want them to eat.
There are many alternatives to the milk that poses more threat than anything. For cow's milk, the best milk for you can pose the greatest threat to you. Most of the milk sold in grocery stores would cause widespread illness if it wasn't pasteurized, but you take grass-fed cattle who are able to graze about freely and aren't given synthetic milk hormones and the product's much different.
Raw milk has natural nutrients and enzymes that are essential for the proper digestion of milk. When cows are raised under normal conditions as they were intended, they don't produce as much milk, but you have quality instead of quantity. They're in more sterile conditions and don't need antibiotics to keep them alive.
The next best thing to raw is organic milk, preferably in glass bottles. If you're going to drink milk, you can't be afraid of the fat. Fat is an important energy source, the body just needs it from the right places. It's important to realize that the body stores excess as fat, rather it's from fat, carbohydrates, or protein.
If you're trying to avoid dairy, I recommend almond or coconut milk. I don't recommend soy milk, because I don't consider soy to be healthy (I'll spare those details for now). Coconut milk is one of the best things you can have for your body, especially from a fresh coconut. Coconut milk is loaded with potassium, phosphorous, and other vital nutrients. It has healthy fat as well.
Almond milk has many beneficial nutrients as well and as with coconut milk, it can be made at home. When making almond milk, it's best to take fresh raw almonds and let them soak in water for at least 8 hours, drain the water and add it to a good blender along with pure water. After it's well blended, it can be strained through a nut bag, or cheese cloth and you have fresh almond milk.
When it comes to milk or anything else, we as consumers have choices and my intentions aren't to tell people to stop drinking milk, but to help people make more informed decisions on drinking milk. Many of the claims of commercial milk should have people asking questions instead of pouring another cup.