I’m a dairy lover. I mean, not the nut milk kind, the real kind. I have no problems at all with a reasonable amount of full-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese in my diet.
Wow. Some of you are probably going to hit the ‘unfollow’ button now I’ve got that little number off my chest, BUT you know I’m not one for trends. In this post, I want to give you the ‘upside’ on real, animal-based dairy – are dairy products good for you and what might be a better dairy milk alternative. I also want to provide you with some ‘detective skills’ to determine if you can or can not truly tolerate dairy. And then, I want to give you some options you could consider ‘beyond the cow’ if dairy is proving to be problematic for you.
Please, let’s challenge ourselves to keep the conversation around this positive, given its perhaps the most controversial topic in the nutrition world today.
First, some pros for dairy:
- It’s a great source of calcium. Over 60% of Australians over the age of 50 have poor bone health. Getting enough calcium will help reduce this epidemic. K2 is another important ingredient for bone health – this is found in butter and cheese. Eat your breakfast on the porch in the sun? Well, you’ve got the whole recipe for beautiful bones thanks to the vitamin D you’ll absorb through your skin. (Note: For those converted nut milk drinkers, buy the best quality nut milk you can afford. Higher quality brands may have up to 300mg of calcium per serve, which is similar to the amount in dairy. The cheap stuff? It’s basically expensive, cloudy water. For more on bone health, see this post)
- It’s a source of protein that isn’t meat. This is a plus for the vegetarians out there. When I’m working with vegetarians, I want to minimise exclusions other than meat. A varied diet reduces our chances of nutrient deficiencies. Plus, it’s more interesting. Fancy being a vegetarian who didn’t eat dairy or soy? You’d have to be pretty devoted to legumes! On another note, having some non-meat meals for everyone, vegetarian or not, has health and environmental benefits.
- It provides us with options for snacks that are refined sugar-free. This is particularly important for kids who tend to require smaller meals more frequently. Some natural yoghurt sweetened with whole fruit or some full-fat cheese with some vegetable sticks or even some plain crackers is far better than most of the ‘stuff’ out there labelled as ‘snack food.’
- Yoghurt, in particular, is a great source of probiotics or good bacteria. Whilst fermented vegetables like kraut have seen a resurgence in recent times, it’s just not everyone’s cup of tea. Yoghurt is an easy, cheap, daily ‘probiotic.’
- Umm, it tastes damn delicious!
Now, let’s look at some of the genuine signs and symptoms that you may have an issue with dairy:
- You run to the bathroom straight after eating it. Could be lactose. Could simply be an issue with the ‘richness’ of the dairy selected. Maybe try one with a lower fat content before dismissing it altogether? Natural yoghurt, for example, is not as fatty as Greek in general.
- You are consistently congested through the sinus area and/or you suffer a lot of hayfever and/or you get headaches on a regular basis that feel like ‘pressure’ in the head and/or you have asthma. Whilst the asthma foundation continually denies the link between asthma or congestion in general with milk, I have seen countless cases where minimising cow’s dairy in the diet provides relief from the before mentioned symptoms.
- On the contrary, to point 1 above, you suffer from constipation. Could be casein, another type of protein in dairy.
In relation to the above, please work with a professional to determine if your symptom/s are linked to dairy as all of the above could be a response to something entirely different. It’s always better to get professional help, otherwise you run the risk of basically eliminating everything!
Moving on, maybe you’ve done the detective work and/or seen someone to confirm that dairy is indeed an issue. Maybe, you don’t have to dismiss it altogether? Perhaps, skipping out the cow’s milk products will see an improvement in your health, but before jumping on the nut milk bandwagon, did you ever think about dairy from a goat?
Here are some interesting facts about goat milk products:
- A 2010 study revealed that milk from a goat is actually higher in calcium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium than milk from a cow. So, switching to goat’s milk will not compromise your calcium intake, it might actually increase it.
- The structure and type of fat from goat milk is very different from cow’s milk. There are more fat globules, but they have a much smaller diameter. This makes it easier to digest. Goat milk also contains a higher proportion of short and medium chain fatty acids than cow’s dairy, as well as more medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). These fatty acids have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties and also aid nutrient absorption. Furthermore, they have proven anti-inflammatory effects particularly in conditions that include irritable bowel disease and atherosclerosis (plaque in the arteries).
- Specifically, the conjugated linoleic acid in goats milk has anti-allergenic properties.
- The form of casein protein in goats milk differs from the form in cow’s milk, making it gentler and easier to digest.
- There is more taurine in goat’s dairy. Interestingly, taurine assists with the formation of bile salts, which again help us to digest fat and fat-soluble vitamins. This is another reason why goat milk may be more tolerable.
I could seriously go on and on about reasons to consider goat’s dairy, as I have found this research into other dairy milks really fascinating. Two relatively easy reading research papers discussing the benefits of goats dairy can be found here and here for those of you who are interested. Both also discuss the anti carcinogenic properties of goat milk – wowzer, how cool is that?
In a nutshell, those who may benefit from considering goat’s milk over dairy from a cow include:
- New Mum’s when weaning bubs off the breast as its more digestible than cow’s milk and closer to human breast milk in its composition.
- People suffering from irritable bowel (IBS) like symptoms including constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and gas.
- Those suffering from allergies, hayfever or asthma.
- Those wanting to improve their cardiovascular health, particularly anyone who is at high risk of stroke due to a high calcium score (i.e. plaque built up in the arteries).
- Honestly anyone. Even for those of us who do tolerate cow’s dairy, variety provides us with a wider nutrient intake so why not switcharoo from time to time?
It’s common for goat or sheep dairy (a topic for a future post) to come up as a recommended protein for my Metabolic Balancers. It might seem a little strange but, honestly, is getting milk from a goat any weirder than drinking it from a cow? It’s pretty common in European countries, it’s just a bit of a brain twist for us Aussies.
You will find both goat milk and goat yoghurt in your supermarket. Some feta cheeses are made from goat’s milk or a combination of goat and sheep. Many delis and IGAs provide a wide variety of speciality goat’s cheeses and even ALDI has a beautiful goat’s cheese log.