A good source of calcium and vitamin D, cow’s milk and milk products are a major part of the Western diet. So much so that milk, cheese, and yogurt are given their own section on the United States Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid. At the same time, as many as one-quarter of Americans have at least a mild dairy intolerance.
In excess, milk can in fact contribute to common health problems. Does this mean everyone should start a milk free diet? Maybe not, but being aware of the effects of drinking cow’s milk on the body and the different options available with milk alternatives is not a bad idea.
Pros and Cons of Drinking Cow’s Milk
There are many benefits of drinking milk and enjoying dairy products. One glass of milk supplies eight grams of protein as well as one-third of the daily recommended requirement for both calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is required for healthy bones, teeth, and gums as well as for maintaining a normal heartbeat and efficient nerve impulse transmission. Vitamin D is essential for growth, making it a very important nutrient for growing children. It is also used by the body to absorb calcium, making vitamin D enrichment of cow’s milk a great idea.
There are many health benefits of a milk free diet as well. Consuming too much milk, cheese, butter, and ice-cream can lead to poor digestion, allergic reactions such as skin rashes, and mucous build-up. For individuals who have a dairy intolerance, drinking cow’s milk can have a negative effect on the respiratory, digestive, and immune systems. Also, for young children, excess cow’s milk can lead to a loss of blood from the intestinal tract and the inhibition of iron absorption.
Often, switching to a temporary milk free diet will improve energy levels, reduce the occurrences of colds and minor infections, and reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies.
Why Go on a Milk Free Diet?
Why switch to milk alternatives? Aside from a dairy intolerance, the following are good reasons to try a milk free diet, at least for a period of time:
to check for a dairy allergy; if allergy symptoms disappear when milk products are eliminated from the diet, than a milk allergy may exist
to clear up congestion and mucous build-up naturally
to relieve digestive problems such as constipation, gas, and bloating
because of a personal choice to eat a vegetarian diet and avoid all animal products
Drinking Milk Alternatives
Many people grow up drinking cow’s milk so the thought of switching to soy or rice milk is not necessarily intriguing. It does take time to get used to plant-based milk products, but they can be enjoyable. What are the different milk alternatives?
Soy milk is a great choice for vegetarians when it is fortified with vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium.
Rice milk is made from brown rice; it is light and sweet.
Oat milk is rich in nutrients, but it does take time to enjoy the flavor of drinking milk made from oats; try mixing with chocolate syrup or make into a banana and honey smoothie
Hemp milk, made from hemp seeds, is packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and omega fatty acids
Whether by choice or necessity, there are many advantages to trying a milk free diet. Enjoy drinking cow’s milk in moderation if it’s right for you, but there is no reason not to embrace the health benefits of choosing milk alternatives.