What's with the deal with dairy?
The reason I transitioned from vegetarian to vegan is because I discovered the truth about the dairy industry and how milk is produced. I only drank organic milk and hoped that the cows were well cared for... deep down I knew it was wrong but the temptation of the milk, cheese and ice-cream was too addictive. I wanted to believe that we needed dairy to live a healthy lifestyle, I wanted to hang on to it as long as I could. The more research I did, the more I found the opposite is true and the less I was able to justify keeping dairy in my diet.
One module on the plant based nutrition course focused on dairy and this was my conclusion:
If we remove ethics for a moment and just look at the health concerns over dairy, there are just too many studies that prove it is as not as healthy as most people think.
Bones - we have always been told that milk is good for our bones. Is it really? A recent study in the journal of paediatrics showed us that milk consumption does not benefit children in the growth of stronger bones. The China Study also showed a correlation between increased dairy consumption and higher risk of hip fractures. Whilst the jury is still out on why this might be (possibly due to the acidic nature of animal produce), do we need to drink milk in order to get calcium to keep our bones strong? My answer is no, we can get plenty of calcium from a well balanced whole food plant based diet. Studies also show that weight bearing exercises help us to grow strong bones. We need to walk more, move more. Some studies also show that a high protein diet can increase calcium excretion through our kidneys so not going over board with protein intake is also prudent.
Lactose - lactose intolerance is very common in some populations - 90% of Chinese people and 74% of African Americans are affected by lactose mal-absorption. Sadly schools and governments are still encouraging these groups of children to drink milk. It's true that some western populations have adapted (through evolution) to tolerate milk and as such this helped that population evolve and survive but that doesn't mean it is a good choice in the UK today where there is an abundance of better food available for the majority of people.
Fit for humans? - milk contains hormones, fat, protein, casein, growth factor IGF-1, oestrogen and many of these have been linked to cancers such as prostate, breast and ovarian cancer. The casein is even linked with medical conditions in children, such as asthma, acne and type 1 diabetes.
We do not need to include dairy products in our diet. Ethics aside, there is very little evidence to support any benefits to consuming dairy and although all mentioned illnesses might not be caused directly by dairy, we can see clear correlations between dairy consumption and these illnesses.
If you're holding back from ditching dairy then I would suggest you just go for it - it was a lot easier than I thought and the difference it has had on my body and health is huge. I don't miss it because I feel so much better. There are plenty of plant based milks out there and if you really miss the cheese, there are some really good plant based cheeses out there.