For a while now I have been torn about dairy – I am swayed by the argument that we are the only mammal to drink another mammal’s milk and that surely can’t be good for us. Dairy consumption has been associated with a wide range of health complaints and in particular is not recommended for anyone with any hormonal imbalances such as PCOS. Then on the other hand it is a source of vitamin D, B12, zinc and calcium. For me the dilemma really boils down to the fact that life without cheese is unimaginable and I simply cannot accept that cheese and I should part ways. So I have found a compromise and decided to only have my dairy in cheese form so I am least cutting back. So why am I cutting back…?
One of the main reasons people drink milk is for calcium. However, milk really is not the best source of calcium and ironically we may be depleting our body of calcium stores by drinking it. In order to absorb calcium the body needs comparable amounts of magnesium (milk contains very little magnesium). Therefore, if we do not have sufficient magnesium we cannot absorb the calcium and the excess calcium is utilised by our bodies in injurious ways.
Further, dairy products create an acidic environment in the body which is never a good thing (in fact – our Western diets are overly acidic in general and this has been linked to a wide range of health complaints so we should be doing everything we can to alkanise the body). The acidity triggers a release of calcium from the bones in order to balance the blood pH. This can cause a 50% loss of calcium in our urine causing calcium deficiency, despite milk being renowned as a good source of calcium! This is likely to be why countries who consume the most dairy have the highest rates of osteoporosis. Amazingly the correlation between animal protein and fracture rates is as strong as the correlation between smoking and lung cancer!
So where should we be getting our calcium? Green vegetables such as kale and broccoli have about as much or more calcium than milk by the cup. Also greens, unlike milk, have the added benefit of vitamin K, also necessary for strong bones. Sesame is also very high in calcium so a sprinkling of sesame seeds over porridge or salads is a great source. The link between dairy and calcium deficiency is just one small area of the potential adverse effects of a diet high in dairy but the rest will have to be for another post!
The link between dairy and calcium deficiency is just one small area of the potential adverse effects of a diet high in dairy but the rest will have to be for another post!