Walk down a typical dairy aisle in your favourite grocery store and you are likely to see over 30 different kinds of low-fat and non-fat yogurt and other dairy products, yet you’ll be hard pressed to find a plain, whole-milk variety. Why? Since the 1970’s, doctors and dieticians have been promoting a low-fat diet in order to combat weight gain, so naturally food production companies developed low-fat versions of their products. Over time, these low-fat products have almost extinguished the availability of regular items.
In recognition of the low-fat craze, Canada’s Food Guide recommends 2-3 serving of milk and alternatives each day and specifically tells people to choose low fat alternatives, from skim to 2% milk.
How, then, can eating low-fat dairy potentially be leading to weight gain and obesity in Canada?
A Body Built On Milk:
Did you know that dairy is considered a build-up food? Dairy and animal meat are considered concentrated bodybuilding foods because they contain higher amounts of saturated fat. Cow’s milk has three times more protein and four times more calcium than human milk, making is quite suitable for the growth of calves. However, this ratio is too high for humans, causing them to grow up and out if too much dairy is consumed. This is why we often see people losing weight easily once dairy is cut from the diet. And, North American adults typically consume milk and meat in excess. If you follow the Food Guide, people are supposed to eat 2-3 servings of meat (or alternatives) AND 2-3 servings of dairy per day – that’s potentially 6 servings of build-up foods each and every day! It’s no wonder that we are seeing more and more obesity in this country. For athletes and bodybuilders, 4-6 serving of concentrated protein is adequate but for the average Canadian, this recommendation is simply too much.
Health Concerns Related to Build-Up Foods:
When someone eats too many build-up foods, and they are not properly able to excrete the excesses (which is common to most people), health problems related to problems of build-up occur: allergies, skin issues, infections, and weight gain.
Dairy is also an inflammatory food so excess consumption may lead to congestive problems and degenerative diseases. When inflammation occurs, hormones are triggered to hold on tight to fat.
It is very easy for people to develop sensitivities to dairy because daily use of milk or milk products will deplete the enzymes need to break down dairy proteins. Dairy is actually the number one food allergen and most people don’t even realize it. Nearly half the world’s population is lactose intolerant and dairy proteins lactalbumin and milk casein are those of which most people are intolerant. Dairy allergy manifests through hyperactivity, eczema, aches and pains, mucous production, concentration and memory problems, and other inflammatory conditions.
Women are especially affected by congestive problems associated with dairy consumption: the mucous that is created to protect the body against dairy proteins and the hormones given to dairy cattle to stimulate milk production interfere with reproductive health, often preventing normal conception.
Sweet, Sweet Milk:
Milk is our very first exposure to sweet food, which may be why so many people accept and consume sugar and sweets. We all know that excess sugar can lead to weight gain and obesity.
Fat Content Controversy:
Milk naturally contains fat but is the fat found in dairy bad for you? First of all, in studies examining the effects of dietary fat – oils, nuts, dairy, meat – on weight gain, many have shown that dietary fat cannot be proven to increase risk of weight gain. In fact, some healthy fat is absolutely necessary for a healthy body and actually helps promote weight loss!
Too much dairy fat, though, is not good and may lead to increased cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels. People who consume commercial homogenized milk show an increase risk of cardiovascular disease, presumably because the healthy fats have been removed. Short chain fatty acids found in natural dairy are metabolized quickly and don’t cause much trouble. It’s when these SCFAs are mixed with processed carbohydrates that they become a dangerous combination and influence how dietary fat affects blood lipids. So, bread with butter or milk with cereal is actually a very harmful combination and cause dairy fat to play havoc with health.
Dairy Over Time:
Our ancestor’s, who drank milk straight from the cow, without processing or heating, did not experience the health issues North Americans do today. One major difference between the milk our ancestors drank and the milk that we drink today is in how the cattle were treated and fed. The contents of beneficial fatty acids in dairy vary greatly, largely as a function of dairy cow feed. Today’s dairy cows are kept indoors and fed a constant ratio of fodders based on conserved or dry forage, grains, soy and added micronutrients to help stimulate milk production. Natural, season-based dairy cattle are allowed to graze on fresh, growing green fodder and are allowed to produce milk naturally. Commercially raised dairy cows tend to show lowered fatty acids in their milk, fatty acids that are needed for health; correlations show that a reduction in these fatty acids leads to an increase in weight. Feedlot raised cattle are also given prescription medicines and artificial stimulants. And, by heating, treating and diluting milk, vitamins are lost. Homogenization then converts milk fat into small globules so it doesn’t separate as it normally would if raw and fresh, which interferes with the body’s ability to digest and utilize the fat.
What About Alternatives?
The Food Guide recommends soy products in place of dairy if you don’t drink milk. The problem here is that soy is highly processed and the products most North Americans have access to are made from GMO soybeans. Abundant health issues arise from consuming this wrong type of soy, including hormonal imbalances and reproductive impairment.
But Milk Gives Us Calcium!
Experts say milk is an excellent source of calcium when in fact actual calcium utilization from milk is not good. And, the ratio of calcium to phosphorus is 1.27:1 in cow’s milk and should ideally be 2:1 or higher because phosphorus can combine with calcium in the digestive tract and prevent calcium’s absorption. Adults can adequately get calcium from natural foods like beans and nuts; greens like broccoli, collards, kale, mustard, turnip tops, parsley, watercress and dandelion; sea vegetables; sesame seeds; canned salmon with bones; and bone broth. Because dairy consumption creates an acidic state in the body, the extra acid can actually eat up calcium from the bones.
The Guide also states that people should drink milk to get adequate vitamin D. More healthy alternatives to milk, especially if you’re intolerant, include getting outside for 20 minutes per day in the sunshine, light therapy, a walk in the park or vitamin D-rich foods like liver, fish and egg yolks are also great.
What to Eat Instead
Butter includes butyric acid, vitamin A and vitamin D; the high concentration of SCFA is the fuel of choice for most of the cells of the large intestine and helps keep digestive system on track. A little organic, unsalted butter is good for you digestive health. Cheese should be avoided or at least minimized due to its high fat content; it is also high in unhealthy saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Choose goat’s or sheep’s cheese over cow’s cheese., and substitute goat’s, nut or non-GMO soy in place of cow milk.
Cultured milk products (kefir and yogurt) that get predigested by friendly bacteria are the best choices if you are able to eat dairy. The acidophilus in yogurt helps reimplant normal colon bacteria, which is needed to produce B vitamins. Yogurt is great after antibiotic treatment to replenish gut bacteria that are killed off. The bacteria in kefir and yogurt product lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose. Choose live cultures without added sugars, preservatives or thickeners. Look for the words “active yogurt cultures”, “living yogurt cultures”, or “contains active cultures” on kefir and yogurt. Plain yogurt or kefir is the healthiest and most digestible form. Fresh, raw, unpasteurized milk from healthy cows or goats in small amounts are great, especially for young children. Choose unsweetened with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. You can also find some delicious yogurt varieties made with coconut milk or almond milk, too.
Whether you can tolerate dairy or not, most people do find that they feel more energetic and healthier once they completely cut dairy from their diet. Weight loss typically occurs when people eliminate dairy and opt for more nutritious and tolerable alternatives.