What’s the deal with dairy?
When you ask most vegans what was the last animal product they had eaten before going fully plant-based, I can assure you the answer will always be some sort of dairy derivative whether it be milk or cheese.
Personally, Italian food was tough to let go because I thoroughly enjoyed parmesan and mozzarella cheese drowning my pasta. There is a scientific reason as to why dairy is the last thing many of us tend to give up before going on the vegan path which I will explain later.
Historical and moral truth about dairy
Before getting into the nutritional aspect of questioning the need for dairy, I want to briefly discuss it’s history and how it’s produced.
Dairy really is an odd food to eat. We’ve only been consuming dairy for 7,500 years. This is a relatively short period of time considering the fact that people have been around for over 200,000 years. Approximately 65% of the world is lactose intolerant. We can’t really say that dairy has always been a part of the human experience since most people can’t even consume the product without having stomach issues in the first place.
Human babies only wean for about 6-9 months typically. The mother then stops producing milk for her infant. This is nature letting us know that the child has had enough dairy. Yet we continue to serve our children milk from a completely different species all together after the weaning phase is complete.
Human milk belongs to human babies. I would guess cow milk belongs to a cow babies? According to the media and the norms of society, cow milk also belongs to human babies and adults.
Harm caused by dairy
Kevin Smith, famed filmmaker and all around good guy, went through a massive medical procedure in which he had a 40% chance of surviving. His left anterior descending artery had 100% blockage. He said one of the reasons he had to go under the knife was contributed to his consumption of almost 2 gallons of milk per day. That’s an odd thing to hear considering we’ve been told how great milk is for us since we were children. Apparently too much of it literally blocks your arteries. Yet this is never spoken about in the media or rarely mentioned by our health care providers.
How milk is produced
The process of extracting dairy from a cow is fairly brutal. For a cow to produce milk, she has to be pregnant. Dairy farmers certainly don’t wait around for the cow to have sex with a bull. They use what is essentially a rape gun to get the cow impregnated. Shortly after that, they commit theft and strip the calf away from their mother. If you read my post on why I am boycotting Ben and Jerry’s vegan ice cream, I break down the moral epidemic involved in the dairy industry. Go ahead and check out that article to get an idea of what goes on behind dairy farms but suffice is to say, farming practices are downright terrible.
Morally, nutritionally, and even environmentally, dairy comes with a ton of baggage. Yet many of us simply cannot stop consuming it. I am going to break down the reasons why dairy is bad for you so you can understand what the true ramifications are every time you drink a glass of milk or eat a piece of sharp cheddar.
Dairy is overrated
In life, somethings can be true but dishonest. For example, suppose I offered your friend a job. I could go around telling people how benevolent I am for being a job creator. However, the wage I offered your friend was $2.00 an hour. Am I being truthful when I say I offered your friend a career? Sure. Is a job paying $2.00 an hour really considered a job with todays cost of living? Absolutely not. This is me being truthful but dishonest.
Check out this insane infographic from Midwest Dairy that is truthful yet dishonest.
All of the statements displayed are certainly true. But are they being dishonest? My opinion would be yes. Their whole basis for this infographic is to convey how wonderful dairy and cheese is.
Let’s look at each point they make and decide for our selves if dairy deserves to be held up on such a high pedestal.
“ It takes 3 cups of cooked broccoli to equal the calcium in 1 cup of milk”
Here is a nutritional label for broccoli:
Here is a nutritional label for 1 cup of milk:
With 3 cups of broccoli you are getting:
- .9 grams of fat ( about 3% of your daily need)
- 9 grams of protein
- 2 grams of fiber (30% of your daily need)
- 405% of your daily need of vitamin C
- 12% of your daily iron need
- 33% of your daily vitamin A need
- 91 calories
- 0 grams of cholesterol
With 1 cup of milk you are getting:
- 8 grams of protein
- 5 grams of total fat
- 3 grams of saturated fat
- 20 mg of cholesterol
- 11 grams of sugar
- 0 fiber
- 1% of vitamin A
- 0% of vitamin C
- 0% of iron
Does the milk give you more calcium? Sure. But at what cost? There is zero fiber. You do however get plenty of cholesterol, sugar, and saturated fat in exchange some calcium (which you can easily get from a better source like almond milk without all the baggage).
Broccoli is essentially a multivitamin when you look at these statistics. Surprisingly, it has even more protein than milk and a third of your daily fiber requirement.
Just looking at these nutritional labels alone, there is no comparison between broccoli and milk.
“An 8-ounce serving of low-fat plan yogurt contains 490 milligrams of potassium; about the same as a banana”
Here is a nutritional label for 1 banana:
Here is a nutritional label for 1 cup of low fat yogurt:
With 1 medium size banana you are getting:
- .04 grams of fat
- virtually no saturated fat
- 0 cholesterol
- 422 mg of potassium
- 1 grams of fiber which is 12% of your daily need
- 17% of vitamin C
With 1 container of low fat yogurt you are getting:
- 2.5 grams of saturated fat
- 15 mg of cholesterol
- 172 mg of sodium
- 531 mg of potassium
- 0 grams of fiber
Here is another example of truth but dishonesty. A banana gives you virtually the same amount of potassium as low-fat yogurt but without all the added sodium or cholesterol.
Americans are so caught up with this protein craze where they don’t think they are getting enough of it. That is simply untrue. The FDA recommends 50 grams per day which is easily attainable. The harder element to consume each day is actually fiber. The daily need stands at 25 grams. A single banana knocks off over 10% of your daily requirement where as fatty yogurt leaves you stuck at 0%. According to Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, the average adult only consumes 15 grams per day.
“An ounce of hard cheese (like cheddar) contains 8 grams of protein; an egg contains 6 grams”
This line requires no graphics. As mentioned previously, protein is not an issue especially in a plant-based diet. Comparing cholesterol ridden eggs with cholesterol ridden cheese is similar to comparing cyanide with anthrax – they both suck for your health.
Dairy products may have SOME reasonably good macro or micro nutrients and no one is denying that. The issue is all the unnecessary fat, cholesterol, and sodium that accompanies these foods.There are more optimal plant-based sources out there that can give you your necessary protein and micronutrients without any of the artery clogging properties.
Cholesterol and Saturated Fats: Why they are bad
Let’s talk about cholesterol first. Here is a good article on cholesterol. To summarize, it is a fat-like substance found in your cells. Your body can produce it naturally but it is also found in food, mainly animal products.
When you expose yourself to too much of the bad kind of cholesterol, a buildup takes place in your arteries which can lead to heart disease.
Do you need cholesterol? Yes. It is an important bodily function. Do you need to eat steaks to get your required cholesterol? No. Your body is able to naturally produce it. That glass of milk or slice of cheese simply isn’t necessary. Vegans in particular have lower cholesterol compared to the rest of the population because rarely does any of the food in a plant-based diet have cholesterol in it.
The difference between saturated and unsaturated fat has to do with the chemical makeup of these macronutrients. Generally, saturated fat is what’s found in animal protein. The biggest concern with saturated fat is it’s connection to heart disease.
The Oxford Vegetarian study compared 6,000 vegans and vegetarians with 5,000 meat eaters. After over a decade of following up on the subjects, they found that meat and cheese had a strong link to death associated with heart disease. They also concluded that dietary fiber was linked to lower levels of cholesterol.
A Cochrane Review concluded that reducing animal fat intake (as found in dairy products) was linked to the reduction in risk for heart attacks and strokes by a substantial margin.
I am no nutritionist. Let’s be clear on that. But when you look at the available information, any layman or laywoman can summarize the following:, animal fats and cholesterol = bad news for your help. The more you eat it, the higher chance you have of clogging up your arteries which decreases your blood flow. Heart attacks and strokes are essentially the result of poor blood flow.
Remember how I mentioned that dairy was one of the last animal products I gave up before going fully plant based? There is a reason why this is common among many vegans. Casomorphin is an opioid compound that is formed in our stomachs. It is derived from dairy products like milk and cheese. Is it as addictive of heroin? Obviously not. But it is strong enough where the difficulty to truly quit dairy products takes weeks and sometimes months. It took me about a year to get over dairy. From first hand experience, this substance was sufficiently addictive to where I had a tough time quitting cheese.
Unfortunately the addictive aspect of cheese is never advertised. Cigarettes and alcohol come with label warnings. There’s even a collective effort from the general public to help those who are addicted to drugs and booze. But when it comes to dairy, another substance that kills countless people per year, zero public outcry is heard. The media, lobbyists, and the animal agricultural industry have played us for fools. This addictive substance that not only harms the sentient creatures who produce is also clinically damaging to our health yet no one bats an eye or even discusses the truth behind dairy.
It is truly odd to be told ever since being a child that milk and diary is good for you. As demonstrated in this article, this fatty and addictive substance comes with enough baggage to cause serious harm to you. From the high levels of sodium to the cholesterol and saturated fat, milk is one of the more unhealthier foods that has somehow become a staple in the Western diet.
Let’s do the animal kingdom, our bodies, and the environment a favor by trying out plant-based milks instead like soy or almond milk. You get many of the benefits that dairy milk has without the harm.
If you liked this article and are considering going vegan, check out my Vegan Guide for Beginners.