Sunday, July 8, 2012

Do we need Dairy?

Mark Bittman, for those unfamiliar, is a New York Times Opinion columnist, Time's magazine food columnist, author of How to Cook Everything, and was, for good reason, recently named one of Greatist's Top 15 Crusaders for Health in the Food Industry

His latest Opinion piece?  We don't need dairy.  This article is sure to spark controversy in our milk-calcium-obsessed culture, but we're humans. We don't need cow's milk.  It's made to make baby cows grow, and so human adults don't need to be drinking or eating it.

In Got Milk?  You Don't Need It, Bittman targets America's beloved milk [and the USDA, which recommends 3 (three?!) cups daily] as...
- a major source of sugar (as much as soda?!)
- harmful to the 50 million people in America who are lactose intolerant
- the source of heartburn.

In the article (read it!), Bittman shares his own story, like so many others', of weaning off his Prevacid medication by simply eliminating dairy from his diet.  This has repeatedly been an effective preventative treatment, but in a country where the heartburn-treating industry makes $50 million annually, doctors, drug companies, and our own government are unlikely to be promoting the dairy-free solution anytime soon.

Forget about "Got Milk?" -->  Better questions to ask include: why is the government heavily promoting the milk of an animal that is not human?  that so many people are intolerant of or allergic to?  that could, and should, be replaced with a sugar-free, hydrating drink like water?


I stopped drinking milk a while ago.  I can't remember exactly when, but it was probably around the time I watched Food, Inc. or Got the facts on Milk? The Milk Documentary.  But I, like Bittman, have noticed links between my dairy intake and acid and inflammation.  I still love my Greek yogurt and continued eating it even when I went paleo, but even that sometimes makes me burp (excuse me!).  Whether or not you've been formally diagnosed, could it hurt to give up dairy for 24 hours, a week, or a month?  No!  We're human.  It may have nutrients, but we don't need cow's milk.  Don't worry; there are plenty of natural, non-dairy sources of calcium out there.  (Diane of Balanced Bites lists calcium sources.) You'll be fine.  (Reminder that I'm NOT a doctor! Just sharing what I believe based on what I've learned and experienced.)  

Go without it.  See how you do.  If you notice improvements in your health, congrats!  Keep it up!  No more Prevacid or antacids!  If not, then do what you like. I'm not your mother.


If you're going to continue drinking milk and eating dairy...

  • Be sure that it's rGBH-free and certified organic.  
  • Consider finding dairy that is fermented (Greek yogurt!) and from grass-fed cows
  • Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms reminds us in his 2012 Real Food Summit "Real Food Defined" presentation that cows are HERBIVORES and should not be eating the things (dead cows, dead chickens, corn, grains) that many industrial farmers still feed them; they should be eating grass.  He advises looking for "grass-finished."  This means that the cows were only fed their nature-given grass, not just fed grass SOME point in their life (as the "grass-fed" label allows--to be fed grains in the end!).  
  • Further, Mark Sisson recommends raw, fermented, full-fat dairy and avoiding non-organic and homogenized dairy at all costs.  Stick to organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free!

This is a reminder to me, just as much as you.  Although I don't drink regular milk, I do consume Greek yogurt, butters, and cheeses.  I try to stick with goat cheese, because it doesn't affect me like others do (and I'm not alone in this; goat dairy and some aged cheeses lead to fewer digestive issues.) .  however, I have not paid as much attention as I KNOW I should to the source of my dairy.

DARE YOU TO... Be aware of the adverse effects of dairy, and if you're lucky enough not to experience them, then make sure you know where your milk is coming from, how the cows were fed and treated, and what else is in your dairy.

Do you consume dairy?  Why or why not?  


  1. Personally, I don't do well consuming dairy yet my husband thrives on it. I don't think we "need" what is essentially breast milk for a baby cow. That said, cheese tastes really really good. :)

  2. SO INTERESTING. I dont consume much dairy at all now that im a mindful eater.

  3. Excellent, excellent post! Being vegan I do not consume dairy =)

  4. This is a really great post and I'm almost dairy free. I don't drink cow's milk or eat cheese or butters. But, like you, I LOVE greek yogurt!

  5. I love cheese. love it. love it. love it. cannot give it up. Unless you can guarantee the loss of my cankles with moo juice, I can't leave it.

  6. This is super interesting. I don't drink much milk at all, except a bit in my coffee, because it always makes me feel bloated and gross. I do consume greek yogurt and cheese (and ice cream!) which seem to be easier on my system - OK, maybe not the ice cream :-) It's funny though because now with kids, it's all about getting them to drink enough milk. That's the message we are given so it's interesting to think about all of this in that context. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I feel like I'm a living example of it being OK to consume dairy, but everyone is different. I grew up drinking no less than 3 glasses of skim milk a day. I have always called myself a dairy queen. Ice cream was my favorite dessert as a kiddo too. I am completely healthy and have never had any issues with it. It also bothers me when folks put out articles comparing milk's sugar content to something like soda. Lactose is not the same as the sugar in soda. Not all sugars are alike, folks! Slightly unrelated, but that's why I can't stand diets that advocate cutting out fruit because it has sugar. It is not the sugar you find in processed foods.

    HOWEVER I understand that dairy doesn't work for everyone. I know plenty of people who have seen digestive issues disappear once they cut out dairy. Why do they have problems and I don't? Because everyone is different.

    I appreciate the fact that YOUR post looks at both sides and doesn't try to tell readers that dairy is bad, bad, bad. I love my cottage cheese and I love my Greek yogurt. I don't drink milk by the glass anymore but that's something that changed when I went to college, hated the dining hall's skim milk, and got used to not drinking it with every meal. I didn't cut it out because it felt like it was bad for me, I just rolled with what was going on in my life when I switched to a new environment. I still consider myself a dairy queen and wouldn't want to cut it out. However, I don't have a reason to! If I start having digestive problems, I'd certainly be open to giving it a go. And I'd keep my fingers crossed that dairy wasn't the culprit!

  8. I really do NOT believe we need dairy. It's completely unnatural for a human to be drinking or eating milk from another animal. Not to mention that milk was designed to take a baby (whether it be a cow, goat etc etc) from a new born to double, sometimes TRIPLE its size. Meaning? pure fat fat fat fat fat.

    if they made dairy free cheese (that tasted GOOD) I would never touch dairy again. until that day though.. EAT ALL THE CHEESE ;) haha

  9. I have gone back and forth on my dairy consumption. I've always had weird reactions to certain dairy but not others. Such as the ability to drink milk, but not able to have pudding or milkshakes. Once I read Skinny Bitch and learned as adults we lose the enzyme to break down milk and how weird it is to drink another animals milk, I cut back a lot and assumed I was lactose intolerant. Recently I became more of a label reader and found it isn't the dairy making me sick, but other things. Specifically a lot of prepackaged dairy has coconut oil or palm oil, both of which I'm allergic to, mystery solved. ugg. Maybe we don't need it anyway?

  10. Funny thing, I struggled with terrible adult acne for years. Big painful, deep, cystic acne. TMI, I know. It was horrible though. After going strict paleo and then re-introducing a little dairy I figured out that dairy was causing it. I can do a little whey protein, a little organic cream or grass fed butter once in a while. But as soon as I start consuming very much, bam. I break out like crazy and get sort of snarfly (I'm sure that's the technical term, lol). It's funny how we can go along and not even realize what foods do to us.

  11. Dairy never seemed to cause acne for me, but I hardly ever drink it now!

    Great tips for those who do keep drinking milk...

  12. I do...but mostly just Greek yogurt. I can't give it up!

  13. Love this post!!!! Dairy is such a hot topic lately so I love that you are covering it! I do some dairy, goat cheese, greek yogurt, and whey after a workout but only because I don't experience any adverse side effects to it! I've given up completely before and then slowly added it back in!


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