Milkin' it, For All Its Worth

Almond, coconut, cashew, hemp, soya, rice, oat, flax, and of course dairy. All types of milk, but which one(s) promote health and which promote health problems. Definitely something to take a look at.

I grew up on a farm. We grew our own veggies, raised our own beef and my dad hunted so we also had venison. And each week mom bought milk fresh either from our cousins' or the neighbour's farm where Mrs. Shepel did the milking by hand. I remember skimming the cream off into a mason jar and my sister and I taking turns shaking to make butter.

Back then when you heard the word “milk” it was natural to assume the dairy variety. That being said, plant-based milk substitutes have actually been around and consumed globally for thousands of years. The Chinese first wrote about soy milk back in 1365. Coconut milk has been used in India and almond milk was introduced into Europe by way of the Middle East over 1000 years ago. Rice, other nut milks, hemp, flax and most recently oat milk appeared more recently now providing seemingly endless choices. And with 54 percent of Canadians reporting they are open to choosing a plant-based alternative if one was available, it's not surprising. More and more people are moving away from dairy in recent years, myself included. There are many reasons for this shift, health being a big one.

Dairy causes bloat. Healthline online reports a minimum 75 percent - whereas Dr. James Loomis, MD at Barnard Medical Centre says almost none - of the population are unable to digest lactose causing bloating, leaky gut, diarrhea, constipation, IBS. Loomis says only those with a mutated gene are able to digest it properly and avoid symptoms. Add to the list headaches, acne, increased risk of heart disease and cancer and the fact that milk today is not the same quality it was when our parents were kids. Or even when we were kids.

The milk my mom bought from our cousins and neighbour came from cows who lived out in the pasture, feeding on grass, alfalfa, some oats (bribery to get them to come in for a milking) during the summer and munched on hay and silage (green matter sometimes combined with corn husks and apples then fermented for feed) in winter.

This sort of diet makes up only 50 percent of what dairy cows are chowing down on now. Today, the other half, according to the Alberta Milk website, is a combination of grains like canola, corn, soybean mixed with vegetable oil and tallow (animal fat). If you know anything at all about grains, you'll know they are one of the highest GMO crops. And an FYI, vegetable oils are not made from vegetables. They are made from grains. So, along with the inability to digest lactose, your body also has to deal with the onslaught of GMO grains that come with their own list of issues. You are what you eat, but you are also what your food eats.

“But my doctor says I need to drink milk for the calcium...” According to Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, there is currently no research supporting dairy for bone health. Levin shared that in a study of 70,000 women over an 18 year period, those who drank milk received no more protection from fractures than those who didn't. If you are concerned about calcium, add in seeds, nuts, sardines, canned salmon, and leafy greens daily.

As well, Loomis and registered dietician, Maggie Neola, R.D., recommend choosing dairy free options to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and cancer. It's no wonder alternatives to milk are so popular. So many options to choose from, how do you know which one to use?

Most people generally let their palette decide. If it doesn't taste good, you're not going to drink it, so taste is important. Quality should also be a priority. Like dairy, soy can also cause bloating, upset stomach, diarrhea, etc. Soy does have a good amount of protein, but the fact that it's highly processed, low quality and causes side effects makes it a no for me. Oat milk has become very popular and has a nice creamy flavour. It is a grain so choosing organic and non-GMO is best. Oat milk is also very high in carbohydrates, so adding some protein and healthy fat with it in your morning smoothie is a must to stay balanced.

My personal favs are almond and coconut milk and I buy organic whenever possible. I also choose unsweetened almond milk and 100 percent pure coconut milk with no additives. Either can be used in smoothies, baking, sauces, in coffee, and are both delicious as well as healthy.


Bottom line is, the structure of milk (and dairy products) is designed to grow a baby calf into a big cow. Quickly. And then even cows stop drinking it. Experts have assured us we're not risking bone health by abstaining but we are lowering the risk of cancer, fibroids, and type 2 diabetes. I'm not saying you can't enjoy that ice cream once in a while, but with so many delicious, healthier options available, it's time to say mooooove over milk.




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