Dairy products fluctuate from the good food list to the bad food list every decade or so. It can be really hard to figure out whether you should be eating dairy products or not. Dairy products are any products that come from cows. Most of the time when we are talking about dairy products we are talking about milk based products and milk itself.
We do know that milk is a very good source of calcium and protein. We also know that it is rich in lactose which can cause upset for some people and that the protein in milk is large and hard to digest for many people.
A few studies have looked at dairy products and their value in our diets and frankly even the study results are at each end of the spectrum. Some of the results hail dairy products as an important part of any well balanced diet while other studies have found that milk and milk products are just bad and should be avoided.
It can be a mass of confusion trying to figure out if dairy products should be consumed or not. The list of pros and cons below will at least give you enough information so that you can make an informed decision for yourself.
List of Pros of Dairy Products
1. Dairy Products Are Rich in Nutrients
Dairy products not only contain a high density of calcium but they also contain potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and other good for you nutrients. In addition to being chock full of nutrition dairy products also have all the nutrients in the perfect synergy. In other words you can take supplements for these nutrients but it will likely not be in the perfect harmony that dairy products can provide you.
2. High In Protein
Dairy products are also high in protein which can help to curb your appetite when you are dieting. A glass of milk can help to quench your hunger for up to 4 hours.
3. Bone Health
It can be very hard to get the amount of calcium that your bones need from other food sources. You would have to eat 4 cups of broccoli or 10 cups of spinach to get the same amount of calcium that you get from one glass of low fat milk. As a matter of fact one expert states “Calcium and bone health is one of the few things that would be evaluated as grade-A level evidence in nutrition, which means that there are multiple meta-analyses showing benefits to bone from calcium,” says nutrition scientist Connie Weaver, director of the Women’s Global Health Institute at Purdue University in Indiana. In other words milk and dairy products are very hard to beat when it comes to your bone health especially for women. Some studies have shown that calcium supplements are just not absorbed the same way as calcium that is absorbed from foods.
List of Cons of Dairy Products
1. Prostrate Cancer
There seems to be a link between drinking milk and prostate cancer according to recent studies. While the evidence is still being evaluated to correlate the connection there are some health care professionals and nutritionists that advice against over doing it with milk and other dairy products. The theory is that IGF1 a hormone given to cows can increase the levels that are already in our blood and contribute to cancer growing cells.
2. Upset Stomach
The estimates of the number of people that are lactose intolerant in the US alone are staggering. Some estimates run as 90% of the population suffer from some sort of lactose intolerance. The problem is huge and may affect you. The problem is that when someone is lactose intolerant it can cause diarrhea which of course means that all the nutrients that dairy has to offer is literally flushed through the body, so dairy becomes wasted calories AND you get a stomach ache to boot.
3. Ethical Treatment of Animals
For some people what effect that dairy has on their body is of little concern because they are more concerned with how cows are treated. Unfortunately the mistreatment of animals that are used for milking is notorious. Many of these cows are never allowed to roam. They are force fed, injected with antibiotics and growth hormones and left to stand hooked up to a milking machine all day. Many opponents of the dairy industry call for boycotts on dairy products to free up some of the stress put on these animals.
4. Hormones and Other Chemicals
As mentioned above most of the dairy farms do not really concern themselves with the wellbeing of the animals it all comes down to profit but when a cow is not allowed to roam and is hooked up to a machine a large part of the day they stand in their own feces and are exposed to many diseases. The answer has historically been to shoot the cows up with antibiotics and growth hormones to ensure they can produce. Those hormones and antibiotics cross over into the milk that is used to create other dairy products. Humans consume the products and drink the milk and are then exposed to the antibiotics and other chemicals in that have been given to the cow.
5. High Calories
Dairy products are typically froth with high calories. Even in 1% fat milk the calorie content is rather high when compared to other foods. Three glasses of 1% fat milk everyday adds up to roughly 400 calories. Dairy can be detrimental if you are dieting and trying to lose weight. You may be eating or drinking more calories than you think if you are choosing dairy products.
6. Not As Important to Bones as Once Thought
A doctor made a very valid point when he said that there are many countries around the world that do not really use dairy products as we know them from cows and there is no higher report of any of the bone density diseases, higher rate of bone fractures or breaks and any other indication that cutting dairy out has affected their ability to live long lives. He was basing his thoughts on Asian culture where dairy is very rare.
7. Inhibit the Absorption of Iron in Children
Dairy products have been shown to inhibit the uptake of iron (an essential nutrient for blood production) in young children >5 years of age. As a matter of fact a rather famous child care expert from the 60’s and 70’s, Dr. Spock strongly warned mothers not to give very young children milk because it could cause blood loss in the bowel that would be exaggerated by the bodies inability to absorb iron because of the milk resulting in fatigue of the child and an inadequate number of red blood cells which could be misconstrued as anemia.
The debate will very likely rage on. While many people have moved toward organic milk to offset the risk of chemicals, hormones and antibiotics that are often found in traditional dairy products there are just as many people that cannot yet afford the organic options which are in many cases much more costly.
Organic dairy does set aside fears of hormone and antibiotic exposure but it does not relegate dairy products any less likely to cause a reaction if you are lactose intolerant. For many people that are lactose intolerant they have moved toward almond milk, soy milk and other substitutes.
Is milk and dairy good or bad for you? The jury is still out on the answer. In all likelihood milk and dairy like everything else is good for you in moderation.
The battle is not only is dairy good or bad for you but there are other sub debates as well like raw VS pasteurized and organic VS traditional. A lot of dairy proponents say that raw milk products are richer in nutrients and that pasteurized milk products have many of the nutrients “cooked out” in the process. Opponents to raw milk products (which are not allowed to be sold in supermarkets) carries far too much risk for the spread of disease. Even the proponents of raw milk products admit that the risk of disease is higher with raw milk products but no higher they say than with any raw food.
Of course the debate about dairy does not end there either. There is an entire sector that would like to see all dairy products come from organic sources while other consumers feel that the additional cost of creating organic dairy products is too high for it to be practical.
Some people simply feel that cow milk products (dairy) are really only good for baby cows that the milk from a cow is not really compatible with our bodies dynamics and that we sort of forced our bodies to adapt to cow milk but it is unnatural for us. The sheer number of lactose intolerant people only bolster this factions ideas about dairy products.
Animal right activists would like to see the end of dairy products all together not for dietary concerns but for the ethical concerns of trapping an animal and using it solely to provide milk without any real life for the animal.
In all likelihood the debate will rage on for years to come. Each time the subject is researched more information will be shared that will likely contradict the previous information that came from the last study. Your approach to eating dairy really depends on your own common sense. Everything is moderation including dairy products is always best.