The Milk Question.
My son told me the funniest joke the other day. “ How do you tell a Vegan?” ‘I don’t know.” I said
“ They’ll tell you.” Was the punch line. Extremely funny if you know as many vegans as I do.
When I first heard of veganism (people who eat not animal products at all) over 25 years ago I was completely puzzled. A friend of mine came home from England with stories of Hawk Wind( a band) followers with messy hair and sticks in their beards who spit out carrot that were served to them because they had butter on them. A year later all of my vegetarian started to tell me they were ‘going vegan’.
“What are you going to eat?” I asked in horror? I couldn’t possibly imagine how you could eat with out some type of animal product. Vegetarianism I understood, I had a hippie Mom, who was a macrobiotic cook in the 70’s. Not liking the germ factor in meat, I ate vegetarian about 90% of the time myself. I knew how to cook vegetarian very well. But no cheese, how could you live? And wasn’t it unhealthy to cut out milk? Wasn’t milk good for you??
Well lets take a look at why Americans are so into milk. In the past there were not as many sources of food available as there is today. In our European winters of yesteryear milk must have been one of the only sources of nutrition in the winter months. We lived with our cows. Some barns are even attached to the house to keep the life saving cows warm in the cold winters. Milk was the few foods around and one of the only sources of fats and calcium during the cold months. Our Medieval ancestors lost a lot of weight in the winter from not being able to get enough calories during winter. People of European decent can digest milk, our bodies have evolved around cows and milk.
In India cows and their milk kept many poor people from starvation. Cows in India are sacred for this reason.
As far as calcium is concerned there is just no better source of calcium in the western diet as milk. Other sources of calcium include blackeyed peas, leafy greens and broccoli, but none of them have even half the calcium per serving that one can attain from milk, yogurt and cheese.
In many parts of Asia bones and insects are eaten for calcium. As an interesting fact,the idea of drinking cows milk is unappetizing in most Asian cultures.
Calcium is important in your diet, the USDA recommends about 1000- 1200 mg a day, but in Countries such as the US and Finland high calcium intake is associated with a higher percentage of hip fractures. The USDA’s recommendation for calcium is more based on having Dairy Famers make money and a little less on real nutritional needs. According to the Harvard Medical school Guide to healthy eating we only need about 550mg of calcium per day. In other words milk being such a good food choice is nothing but a myth.
In the end weather to consume Dairy Products is a personal choice, and in today’s world we have access to many good food choices for calcium aside from milk available to us at all times. Black eyed peas are inexpensive, easy to prepare, and are a great source of fiber to boot.
With Industrial Farming adding so many chemicals and drug resistant bacteria to our foods, so many American food choices being high in fat, dairy may not be the best choice for humans today.
What do I do? I love cheese and dairy products but I choose high fat these days, is small amounts. the latest research says that it is better to consume small amounts of high fat dairy instead of higher of low fat dairy. I drink Kefir 3 times a week, in smoothies. I eat lots of beans, leafy greens and supplement with a liquid multivitamin that contains calcium.
I used to eat a lot of cheese saying I needed the calcium myself until a few years a go when my cheese consumption and a genetic predisposition lead me to have high cholesterol a few years ago Now I limit my cheese fetish to a few ounces every other day. I also am choosing organic for all of my dairy and eggs from good companies that have respect for animals. And yes there is such a thing as Organic Industrial farming, where they pen animals up by the thousands in a huge barn and just give them organic food.
You can find which companies are the best from Animal Welfare Approved. I am always reposting their articles on this blog. I also research all of my egg companies. These day’s I love Pete and Gerry’s eggs, I get to see pictures of the chickens and how they live right on Face Book.
In the end enjoy what is best for you and listen to your body for the right food choices.