Ditching Dairy: Going Nuts Instead!

You know, it seems these days that almost nothing escapes being a hot-button issue. Especially in Health & Wellness Land. No matter what you do, someone out there has got a loud opinion about it.

So here’s the scoop: we’ve stopped buying cows’ milk. Cue the dramatic music.

No, we’re not going vegan. Not that there’s anything wrong with going vegan, of course, but that’s not what’s behind our move away from this one particular dairy product. I’ll get to all of it, including why I’m feeling irritated. Let me start again.

I’ve noticed an influx of interesting infographics on social media lately, which is admittedly how this topic first caught my attention. Here’s one of them:

info with border
Credit: LiveLoveFruit.com

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe every single thing that shows up in an infographic; anyone with a computer and some opinions can make one. This one, though, raises some really great points. And so far, in my research into this, it’s spot on.

Posts like this got my wheels turning, especially ones that mention pus and blood content, and other contaminants, in our milk. Yes, I said pus and blood. Despite milk being pasteurized, it’s unsettling. We don’t like to think about this yucky stuff, but it’s fact. Don’t think so? Here’s some info from a great article about cows’ milk:

“Regulators have put limits in place for somatic (body) cell counts (SCC), which are predominantly neutrophils (pus cells). In the USA, the maximum allowed SCC level is currently 750,000 per milliliter (mL), whereas in the Europe, Canada and Switzerland, it’s 400,000. A SCC level of 200,000 or less reflects dairy herds more or less free of mastitis [udder infections]. Bearing in mind that about 90% of the SCC is represented by pus cells, the US and EU limits equate to 675 million or 360 million pus cells per litre of milk, respectively.”

So we’ve got that ick factor, plus it is kind of weird that we’re drinking the mother’s milk of a different species (something I never considered before, probably because we humans tend to forget that cows don’t give milk solely to sustain our self-centered species). Then you throw in the other contaminants that get in cows’ milk, like hormones and antibiotics, plus pesticide residue from their feed (especially if they’re fed GMO crops, which most are), and that equals way more in your milk than meets the eye.

Dairy farming in this country is often way less humane than we like to think, and that also bothers me. Not every dairy farm is guilty, of course, but many are. All you’ve got to do is Google the topic, and you see pictures of bloated udders, mistreated cows, and plenty of other things you can’t unsee. But even if you refuse to believe that cruelty exists, overworking is a fact, and is its own form of unnatural mistreatment. The more milk cows are forced to produce, the more they experience udder infections (mastitis) and have to be treated with antibiotics. The animal rights issue is a whole Pandora’s box in itself, so before the lid blows off, let’s move on.

Screenshot 2016-01-22 14.53.25
Credit: One Green Planet

Another great reason to get away from milk is that, plain and simple, it’s really not healthy for us! But you’d never know that, considering that the USDA has backed the dairy industry for decades and spent millions advertising dairy (and meat’s) virtues, plus mandating milk in schools. (Not to mention the massive government subsidies that are a relic from the Depression Era.) As such, our country’s nutritional guidelines have been dictated more by politics than by what’s actually good for us. And our good buddies at Monsanto have their hands in the cookie jar too, as the creators of the hormones that allow cows to produce more milk than they would naturally. (On that note, you’ve probably noticed dairy products with labels like, “Not from cows treated with rBGH or rBST”, because consumers voiced their right to a choice in the matter – though of course Monsanto tried to cry foul and “discriminatory against their product”. The compromise to make Monsanto happy was the FDA’s claim of “no significant difference” between treated and untreated milk, which also appears on packages, so that Monsanto can feel the warm and fuzzies.)

I digress. Back to how milk really isn’t good for us. It’s quite disturbing, really, especially since it’s toted as a “healthy” drink, and we’re “supposed” to be taking in three daily servings of dairy! This eye-opening list is courtesy of the Alliance for Natural Health:

  • Milk doesn’t prevent osteoporosis  – countries with the lowest consumption of dairy products and calcium (Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis and associated fracture risk.  Around 32% or less of calcium from cow’s milk is absorbed, compared to 40-64% from plant foods. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, dairy consumption may increase your risk of fractures by 50%.
  • Dairy intake is linked to prostate cancer.
  • Dairy intake is also linked to breast cancer due to the high levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and estrogens.  Not only do the estrogens increase the risk of breast cancer, but they also stimulate IGF-1 expression, forming a vicious circle.  Cows’ milk can also contain added bovine growth hormone [rBST & rGBH] and estrogens used to encourage rapid growth for commercial reasons.
  • Even modest dairy intake causes digestive problems for the 75% of the world who are lactase deficient, and those digestive problems drive chronic inflammation that is central to today’s chronic disease epidemic.
  • Milk aggravates irritable bowel syndrome, yet is often included as a key ingredient in ‘medical foods’ offered to those with IBS, Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
  • Milk consumption has been linked in epidemiological studies to ovarian cancers, an increased risk of autoimmune diseases, Type 1 diabetes, MS, obesity, and heart disease.

Sounds like fun, right? I can personally attest that dairy hasn’t been so great to me, especially as a kid. I was lactose intolerant, so I lacked enough of the digestive enzyme lactase. So, I took Lactaid-brand enzymes in order to eat it. I outgrew it as I aged, but I wonder if perhaps my body was on to something back then.

Now, if you recall at the very beginning of this post, I mentioned that I was feeling irritated. The reason for that is because, in our effort to make a better choice, we’ve switched to almond milk, which should’ve been all well and good, yes? Well, not quite. Two things cropped up that left me feeling prickly:

A) When we originally switched, we were pleased using Almond Breeze Original, which contains carrageenan (a natural, seaweed-derived ingredient, used as a thickener/mixing agent). But while researching for this post, I found info that recommends avoiding carrageenan in your cows’ milk alternative. Turns out, it can cause gastrointestinal inflammation and discomfort, which can lead to ulcers and even increase the risk of certain cancers. Can’t win for losing, right?! Because of consumers’ uproar, many companies responded. For example, Almond Breeze has removed it from all of their unsweetened versions, and Silk has removed it from the majority of products. We’ll be avoiding carrageenan going forward, just to be safe. So, now we’ve been happily using Silk Almond Original, and loving it.

B) Also while doing this research, I stumbled on some definite haters. One obnoxiously offensive “news” article in particular accuses almond milk drinkers of being trendy idiots, blindly buying a product that isn’t worth it. Why? They accuse us of falsely thinking we’re getting the “liquid equivalent” of the benefits of eating almonds. That’s not even close to true. When I want the nutritional benefits of eating almonds, I’ll eat almonds, thanks.

Screenshot 2016-01-24 22.18.08
The obnoxious article I found, which is totally chuckle-worthy! 

What sensible almond milk drinkers are looking for is a better alternative to drinking cows’ milk, myself included. It’s better for us, it’s better for cows, and it’s actually tastier than skim milk, in my opinion. It’s got a slightly thicker consistency too, so my husband loves it because it feels closer to 2% milk (his favorite). The offensive article writer also made a point to prove that a half-gallon of almond milk probably only contains X amount of actual almonds. Well done, Sherlock! If I want 8 cups of almonds, I’ll buy almond butter, not almond milk! It’s very frustrating that people can’t just applaud an effort to consume a better alternative, instead of attacking and belittling. But, in the health game, you’ve got to do what’s right for you, and block out the negativity.

And when you look at the stats, you can see that plenty of people are doing what’s best for them – dairy alternatives are steadily gaining ground as our country awakens and sees what’s behind the curtain of our food industry. As we move through 2016, I’d expect to see dairy alternatives surpass 25-30% of the market share, if not more.

almondmilk.jpg

Before I move on, I want to mention that the numbers above only reflect milk purchased. Many people make almond milk at home, which seems pretty easy, and that of course gives full ingredient control too. (On that note, I do wish Silk products were organic, but they at least bear the Non-GMO Project butterfly.) I know, I know, call me lazy, but right now, I am okay buying almond milk. One day, I’ll switch to making it. However, for any of my readers out there, I certainly don’t want to discourage you if you’d rather make your own instead of buying – go for it! In fact, here is one recipe to get you started.

So, how does it stack up? Depending which variety of milk you usually drink, the difference can be drastic. Let’s compare several varieties of cows’ milk to almond milk:

Screenshot 2016-01-24 22.00.18

As you can see, in almost every category, it meets or betters what you get from cows’ milk. In particular, it’s better in three very important categories: saturated fat, cholesterol, and sugar content. Keep in mind that I’m showing you Original – for the Unsweetened Original, one serving has a mere 30 calories and an amazing 0g sugar.

The nay-sayers will claim that you have to drink milk, because gee, how will you ever get your calcium and protein otherwise? Please. Contrary to what they taught us in “health” class, milk is far from the only source of calcium. (Not to mention that one serving of almond milk offers more calcium than one serving of cows’ milk.) Ditto for protein – I get my protein from a zillion other sources, both plant and meat-based, so I can easily make up the 8g difference I’m losing.

Calciuminfographicsmall

To truly be fair, there are plenty of other options out there for avoiding cows’ milk. I don’t want to present this as if almond milk is the only alternative! This was just our choice. Beware though, that soy milk is hotly contested in itself, because soy mimics estrogen, and has been linked to cancer risk. My personal choice is to try to avoid anything containing soy when I can, which kills me because I adore edamame (young soy beans). Rice milk also runs into some issues because so many sources of rice are contaminated with arsenic. Sigh. Makes your head spin, doesn’t it?

milk alternatives.jpg

Milk was most definitely the bulk of our dairy consumption, so getting rid of it was a huge first step, and actually super easy! The fact that almond milk subs perfectly for cows’ milk in all our recipes has made it an effortless transition. Plus, it tastes amazing over cereal (we’re cereal-obsessed). The other forms of dairy we use (cheese, Greek yogurt, and sour cream) will be tougher. I love the plethora of good bacteria I get from my yogurt, so I’d be hard-pressed to get rid of that, and quite honestly, I love all cheese. However, I’m already working to scale back my cheese usage. Small steps.

I hope that this post helps you consider your options even just a little, and makes you realize that you don’t necessarily have to stick to the old habits that you’ve no doubt been raised with. Change isn’t always easy, but it’s never too late to try a new, healthier path.

Wishing you healthier, happier days!


For more info, here are just a few resources for further reading:

{Main photo credit: unrefinedkitchen.com}

 

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11 thoughts on “Ditching Dairy: Going Nuts Instead!

    1. I agree, but can I share my little secret? Price compare, and keep track! I have a couple regular grocery stores near me (including Walmart and Aldi) that also sell some organic produce and other items, plus I’m lucky to have Whole Foods and a smaller organic chain like WF (but with cheaper produce prices). I actually have noted the regular prices of most items I buy frequently in a little document I created in the app Evernote. I know it sounds extreme, but it’s super handy to know where I get the best price for each item. It also helps me know if a store’s sale price is a better bet than my other available prices (and if it is, I stock up). Even Whole Foods and my other organic chain run awesome sales – I’ve scored organic items for less than conventional items that way! It’s a little bit of work up front to create your document, but once it’s set up, it’s easy from there. And it saves me money each week! I actually plan to release a blog post with my buying tips in the near future. 😉

      In terms of the cows’ milk alternatives, if you’re okay buying Silk or Almond Breeze, you don’t have to go to a health food store to find it. At this point, I bet any grocer is carrying one or either of those brands due to demand. My best price when not on sale is at Walmart for $2.99/half gallon. However, I recently found it on sale at Publix for 2 for $5, then had a $1 Off manufacturer’s coupon, so I got them at 2 for $4. I also still went ahead and bought a second pair at 2 for $5. Since they’re not dairy, they do not expire for a while. We’ll definitely use through them well before that. Hopefully between now and the time our stash runs lows, there might be another sale! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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