It seems that most people believe that drinking milk and eating milk products is the only way to get enough calcium. However, did you know that many other foods also contain rich sources of this bone building mineral without all the side effects and harmful animal practices? That’s why in this blog, you will discover how to get enough calcium without eating dairy.
What is Dairy?
Dairy products are very popular in our world today and as a result are mass produced. Dairy is any food made from the milk, which is produced by the mammary glands of a lactating animal. Cows are the main producers of dairy consumed around the world; however, people also take milk from goats and sheep.
Milk is used to produce cheese, butter, cream and yogurt all of which are popular ingredients in desserts.
The producers of dairy products do a great job in their marketing campaigns to convince people that dairy is a good source of calcium. They go so far as to show cute animals basking in the sun and grazing on grass, and on some commercials even dancing and singing cows, to try and make people think that the animals who these companies are brutally exploiting are living a good life.
Sure, there might be some small farmer’s who absolutely love their animals and treat them with great respect. However, due to the large demand for dairy from consumers this isn’t even possible in large scale factory farms.
The problem is that, despite what dairy producers want you to believe, this popular drink isn’t good for our human body and vast research exists to prove it and the behind the scenes images of what really goes on in some of these farms are something right out of a horror movie.
What’s Really In Milk?
To sell vast amount of dairy products producers have spent millions of dollars to claim the health benefits of milk. Unfortunately, much research proves these claims to be untrue.
The sad part is that the government is in partnership with this industry. This results in dairy products being pushed on the public as healthy food choices making it readily available in schools and as a recommendation on food guides.
The sad part about this is that the government, in my opinion, is very much at fault for much of the health problems in humans and suffering of millions of animals.
Some of the facts about dairy these producers highlight to try and show the benefits of dairy include:
- Milk contains vitamin A and D. This is true, although only in full fat versions of milk. Once the fat has been removed to make a low-fat version then vitamin D must be added back into the milk. Because so many people are looking for weight loss, and milk is often thought of as a good drink for weight loss, people are drinking the low fat options are not even getting these vitamins from milk.
- Milk contains about 300 mg of calcium per cup. This is also true; however, did you know you can get as much, even more bioavailable, calcium in many plant-based options. For example one cup of turnips or collard greens contain over 10% of the RDA of calcium and both also contain fibre and other vitamins and minerals.
- Milk contains proteins like casein and whey. This is true and why so many people who are trying to eat high protein diets turn to dairy products like these. The problem is there are major side effects of eating these protein sources such as cancer.
What these producers don’t tell tell consumers, and to give them the benefit of the doubt maybe they don’t even know, is research shows that there are adverse long-term health effects of milk and milk protein consumption.
Some of these adverse effects include:
- All humans are born with an intolerance to lactose. Some just seem to have more of a sensitivity to dairy than others. The problem with drinking milk with an intolerance is that this can cause all kinds of stomach distress and upset as well as other issues.
- Research has been shown that dairy products cause inflammation in the body. This inflammation is the result of the human body bot being able to properly digest or use the sugars and proteins in the milk of animals. This inflammation causes chronic acne and other health problems.
- The risk of cancer increases with dairy consumption. It seems that animal-based foods, like dairy, cause the human body to produce more IGF-1, which is a hormone that manages the rates at which human cells grow, reproducing themselves while discarding old cells. When the body produces more of this hormone it stimulates the development of cancer cells. Certain cancers that depend on hormones, such as breast, ovarian and uterine, may stem from milk that has been produced by pregnant cows. In the book The China Study, Dr. T. Colin Campbell concluded that “casein has been shown to experimentally promote cancer and increase blood cholesterol and atherosclerotic plaque” leading to heart disease.
- Milk is often contaminated with bacteria. Bacteria such as salmonella have been found in animal based products such as dairy and eggs. Bacteria contamination has been shown to come from the addition of permeate, dairy waste-products that have a a mucus-like substance, to water-down and standardize protein and fat levels in milk.
- High levels of PCB’s have been found in dairy products. PCB’s are man made chemicals that were made to insulate transformers, produce adhesives and a variety of industrial products. They are proven to be cancer-causing agents when consumed in the body and have been found in dairy products.
What About The Cows?
In the old days, small farmers would have a few cows, a few chicken and maybe some other animals they would love and take care of. The cows would be out in the pasture eating grass and the chickens running around in their pen eating grass and bugs. These animals would produce milk, eggs and for the farmers to eat. However, in big industry where billions of people are demanding animal products these animals are no longer treated like living, breathing sentient beings.
These animals are treated as dollar signs and if they prove to no longer be able to make money they are discarded carelessly like trash.
Huge dairy farms are not set up to be able to allow their cows to run free in the pasture. These poor cows are often kept in small cages, artificially impregnated, their babies ripped away from them at birth and their udders hooked up to uncomfortable milking machines. These animals have been shown to suffer numerous levels of abuse and have a shorter than average life-span.
I am sure smaller dairy farmers take better care of their animals; however, mass produced animals products bring in a lot of profits at the expense of the animals who suffer a great deal in the process.
If you choose to consume dairy products it is important to know the facts. Do research into the farms where the cows are being raised for their milk and meat so you can be sure they are of the highest quality and not contaminated in any way.
However, the big issue is this… too many people eat dairy because they are told it is a health food. It is not. Regardless of how the animals are treated the adverse health effects will still come with long-term consumption of dairy and even the vitamins, minerals and proteins that are in dairy can come from healthier food sources.
1) Dairy-Free Sources Of Calcium, Other Minerals and Vitamins.
Many people consume dairy products because it is shown to be high in calcium and other vitamins and minerals; however, you can get these vitamins and minerals from other healthier sources including:
- Bok Choy
- Brazil nuts
- Brussels sprouts
- Butternut squash
- Coconut meat
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Green beans
- Prickly pear
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
- Swiss chard
- Turnip greens
All of the above vegetables are not only rich in calcium but also fibre and other essential vitamins and minerals that will help you obtain optimal health without any adverse side effects.
2) Dairy-Free Sources Of Protein.
Dairy products are consumed for the proteins whey and casein that many people believe are a good source of protein.
However, research has shown side-effects from consuming these products.
Therefore, if you are looking for high protein-based sources then choosing plant-based options will give you just as good results without the adverse side effects.
Some of the best plant-based protein sources include:
- Whole grains
For a more comprehensive list on plant-based protein please read the blog, “21 Best Sources of Protein.”
3) Dairy-Free Milk, Cheese, Yogurt And Ice-Cream.
Giving up dairy products, for most people, means having to give up their cereal, because it is topped with milk, their cheese, yogurt and favourite desserts. This is not true! There are so many delicious dairy-free options on the market today including:
- Milk: Plant-based, dairy-free milk is very popular. You can find coconut, almonds, cashew, flax, rice and hemp milk in your local grocery store and even make your own!
- Cheese: A variety of brands including Daiya, Vegan Gourmet by Follow Your Heart, Go Veggie and Chao by Field Roast make delicious dairy-free cheese options that melt and taste just like real cheese. For one of my favourite baked almond feta cheese recipe please read the blog, “5 Simple Healthy Upgrades To Your Favourite Snacks.”
- Yogurt: If you love yogurt you will love the coconut, almond or rice versions. They are just as delicious and have the friendly bacteria that dairy yogurt does.
- Ice cream: Ice cream is one of my favourite desserts. A variety of dairy-free ice cream and ice cream bars can be found in your local grocers freezer. There are coconut, cashew, soy-based ice cream and more. However, if you have a food processor or high-speed blender you can make your own ice cream. Stay tuned to upcoming blogs for recipes.
4) Make Your Own Dairy-Free Options
It is very easy, and more affordable, to make your own dairy-free options. Try these recipes and never go back to dairy options again:
- Almond Milk – Fresh almond milk is far better than buying it from the store. Click here to get the recipe.
- Baked Almond Feta – This is one of my favourite vegan cheese recipes and it is wonderful replacement for feta. Click here to get the recipe.
You may be thinking, “…but I love dairy! How can I possible give it up?”
I get it. I thought this same way a few years ago. If you would have asked me in my childhood, teenage
years or 20’s to give up dairy I would have laughed in your face.
Back then there was no way I could’ve lived without my favourite foods like cheese sliced right off the block eaten raw or melted onto a bun or cracker, or cheesecake or even chocolate milk.
However, one day in my 30’s I realized I had not choice but to give it up.
I returned to school in my early thirties to obtain a Master’s in Business degree and met many wonderful people. I was fortunate enough to meet a psychologist, who eventually became my friend. Since we had developed a friendship I discussed my digestive problems with him many times. He one day observed that I was suffering with stomach cramps after we had lunch and suggested that perhaps it was dairy that was causing my problems.
Lactose and casein, two proteins in dairy, often cause symptoms like pain, cramping, and bloating in the digestive tract, which I experienced often after eating. I did not want to hear this and refused to believe his suggestion as dairy products, including cheese, yogurt, and milk chocolate, were among my favourite foods.
Knowing how stubborn I was he challenged me to cut out dairy for one week to see if it made any difference. Since I wanted to prove him wrong I accepted his challenge and immediately cut out all dairy for what I thought would be only one week.
Within three days my stomach and intestines felt noticeably better. I began to study the effects of dairy on the body and was shocked to find out that it causes mucus build-up and many other problems. Knowing that the issues dairy causes in the body are mostly due to the infection, pus, steroids and other toxins contained in the products from conventional farming methods I knew immediately I had to cut out dairy products forever to avoid the negative health effects.
With hesitation I admitted that my friend was right and I thanked him for the suggestion. If it weren’t for his challenge I don’t think I could have cut out my favourite foods.
I share this story with you because it took be cutting dairy out of my diet to know how much better I felt when I didn’t eat it. Back then when I first cut out dairy there weren’t as many options as there are now. Soy-based cheese was the most disgusting thing I had ever eaten and the yogurt was less than to be desired. However, what this did for me was inspire me to make my own. I started to find recipes online and experiment with different ingredients. Soon, I made an entire recipe book of dairy free foods that I still enjoy on a regular basis to this day.
You just never know what changing one simple thing in your diet can do for you. It may just change your life in ways you never even considered.
There you have it. You now know that there is no reason to consume dairy and the many reasons why it is not a health food. Multiple dairy-free options exist so you won’t feel deprived even if you love it and eat it on a regular basis.
Please leave a comment or question below and I am happy to help!
Until next time,
Rachel Joy Olsen, BSc., MBA
Vegan, Author, Health & Lifestyle Coach
Read my, “From Frog Killer To Compassionate Vegan” story