Beyond the Dairy Aisle

To consume dairy, or not to consume dairy is a fiercely debated topic. Of all the food groups, few elicit as much controversy as dairy.

In regards to human health, dairy foods bring up any number of concerns. Yes, cows milk is high in calcium, but whether a diet high in dairy calcium protects you against osteoporosis or any other disease is a matter of considerable debate. (Calcium isn’t the only nutrient that counts. There is no hierarchy of essential nutrients, but if you listen to dairy defenders, the dairy industry, dairy processors, physicians and government officials they will have you think dairy is the almighty king. In the intricate nutrient dance that our bodies go through 24 hours a day, every nutrient is as vital as the next.) Here’s the deal: dairy is primarily an inflammatory food because many people are allergic or sensitive to it resulting in problems such as gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea, acne; and allergic responses such as a runny nose, asthma, skin rashes and irritability. With dairy you might not be able to break down lactose (milk sugar), you could be sensitive to casein (milk protein), or you might be straight up allergic. People who are lactose intolerant don’t produce the lactase enzyme, which is required to break down lactose, the sugar found in milk, causing digestive issues whenever they consume dairy products. People who do produce the lactase enzyme but still react poorly to milk are responding to the protein found in milk, casein. The reason why dairy is an inflammatory food is because it is acid forming. Our bodies like to maintain a neutral pH balance: not too much acidity, not too much alkalinity. Milk, like most animal products, is an acid forming food, meaning whenever you consume dairy, your body must compensate for the increased acidity in order to restore a neutral pH balance. It does this by pulling form the alkaline “reserves” it keeps on hand in the form of calcium, magnesium and potassium, that are stored in your bones. Pulling from these reserves weakens your bones, leaving them more susceptible to fractures and breaks, meaning milk might not be such a great preventative tool against osteoporosis as we’re told.

So why are so many people still slurping their latte from the coffee shop or pouring milk on their morning cereal? Probably because they are not aware of the problems the cow’s milk is causing them.

That being said you can still enjoy a latte or a milk-like liquid on your morning granola with theses equally delicious alternatives to cow’s milk:

Almond milk                  Brown rice milk

Coconut milk                 Goat’s milk

Hemp milk                     Quinoa milk

Oat milk

Are you worried about losing the calcium if you say goodbye to cow’s milk? Not to fret here’s a list of calcium-rich foods:


Collard greens, kale, spinach, broccoli, and turnip greens


Navy beans and white beans

Salmon and sardines

Sesame seeds and tahini

Now I’m not saying everyone has a problem with diary. In fact, an estimated third of the world can still tolerate dairy due to an awesome adaptation thing that happened a long time ago. Does this mean we should continue to consume it? That is up to you.

In Go Wild, John J. Ratey and Richard Manning have the following to say about this divisive topic:

“To begin with, dairy is one of the most outstanding- if not the outstanding- exceptions to the rule that basic human design has not changed in fifty thousand years. The fact is, about a third of humanity has evolved the ability to digest lactose, the sugar in milk, as adults. All children make the enzyme lactase (the gene product that digest lactose) for the obvious reason that baby mammals have to digest milk to survive. But in deep evolutionary time, all adults lost that ability as we matured, which was not a problem in our ancestral homeland in Africa, near the equator, with ample sunlight. But as humans migrated north, winters brought shorter days, less sun and vitamin D deficiency, which was a serious problem. (It still is a serious problem.) We get vitamin D from the sun, but also from milk.

In evolution, necessity does indeed mother invention, and it was in Eurasia that a mutation occurred that allowed adults to digest lactose. To this day, that ability tracks in populations with roots in Eurasia, the third of us who can tolerate lactose into adulthood.

…Do what works for you”. Go Wild, John J. Ratey M.D and Richard Manning, 89-90.

Other recommendations for dairy:

If you eat dairy go for sheep or goat’s products. (They are generally easier to digest because their molecules are smaller than cows). Just remember if you drink goat’s milks, do so in moderation, because it can cause some of the same problems that cow’s milk does, although there is less of the problematic casein protein in goat’s milk, making it easier to digest.

When purchasing yogurt make sure it says “contains live active cultures” on the packaging, otherwise it’s not the real thing.

Yogurt and kefir are different because they are fermented (when properly prepared), so they are much easier for us to digest and we are able to reap the benefits.

Skip 0% fat versions and anything with sugar. If you absolutely don’t like plain yogurt, try sweetening it with honey or maple syrup, and sprinkle some cinnamon on it.

Here’s the thing about full-fat dairy and why it rules: full-fat versions contain less lactose (one of the big problems) and therefore less sugar, since lactose is sugar. Full-fat versions are therefore less inflammatory than non-fat or low-fat versions. Also, your body needs fat to absorb vital nutrients. (Remember that blog on “Why Fats are Good for Us?!”)

If you eat cheese, choose white versions, as orange cheeses contain harmful dyes.

If you’re not sure you can tolerate dairy, try eliminating it and then re-introducing it.

If you know you can’t tolerate dairy, please stay away from it.

From: accessed June 9, 2015

accessed June 9, 2015

Like with everything else moderation and balance is key. Add some variety to your diet and remember diversifying is important for optimal health :).

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