Many people are confused about whether dairy products are good for you or not. And with good reason; it seems like there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. Depending on your personal nutritional needs, dairy is either a delicious source of calcium or the cause of a lot of distress. On National Milk Day, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of dairy.
Milk and dairy, especially raw and organic milk, includes some important nutrients like protein and calcium. Yes, humans are the only mammals who consume milk as adults, but we’re also the only mammals who ride bicycles. Nobody complains that the lack of cheetahs on mountain bikes makes cycling “unnatural,” and thus unhealthy.
Nobody likes being sick, even if a food is otherwise considered “healthy.” Many people have difficulty digesting lactose, the sugar in milk. Lactose intolerance is very individualized. You might be fine eating Greek yogurt, or making your own fresh yogurt, but a little cheese on your pizza may ruin your night.
Another problem is that the types of protein found in milk, whey and casein, are among the most common food allergies out there. Some people can consume goats milk or sheep milk, even though they can’t tolerate any kind of cow’s milk product. This likely has to do with the fact that the proteins in these milks are smaller, and more like the ones in human breast milk.
There are also a variety of plant milks out there. You’ll have to look at the label closely to know how healthy they really are, and try them to see how your taste buds and body react. In general, always choose “unsweetened” versions of almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, hemp milk, cashew milk, or coconut milk. The label “original” doesn’t actually mean much in terms of how healthy it is. Some of these options are better in certain recipes than others, depending on how thick, sweet or creamy you prefer the dish.
Fresh yogurt is one of the dairy products with the most health benefits, and the fewest digestive issues. In fact, the probiotics in fresh yogurt can actually help some people who have digestive problems. Yogurt is also one of the simplest things you can make at home, especially if you have a yogurt maker. When you make your own yogurt, you know exactly what’s going in it. There are few things in life more simply delicious than fresh yogurt drizzled with a little local honey and sprinkled with some toasted oats or almond slivers.
As with many aspects of nutrition, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to milk and dairy. Listen to your body, do your homework, and be willing to experiment to find what works for you. One great thing is that right now, you have more options than ever before.