Whilst dairy milk is fantastic for dairy calves, we humans are not dairy calves! In addition, countries with the highest rate of dairy consumption have the highest incidence of fractures. This is certainly not the message my generation received as children, which, disturbingly is still a message given to billions of unsuspecting dairy consumers.
No doubt dairy products do contain a good amount of calcium and protein among other nutrients. However, they also contain fragments called casomorphins, which is a casein-derived morphine-like compound derived from the milk casein protein. Casomorphins, unsurprisingly, can lead us to become addicted to dairy products and can also cause constipation like most morphine-like compounds.
Another issue with dairy is that a significant number of people are intolerant to the sugar (lactose) in dairy which can trigger a number of symptoms if dairy is consumed. These include gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and/or diarrhoea. However, it pays to bear in mind some of the symptoms attributed to lactose intolerance may actually be casein intolerance. This is because casein proteins can cause inflammation, which can subsequently lead to conditions such as sinus problems, ear infections and eczema. If this wasn’t bad enough research has shown that dairy can increase cancer risk.
So what to do instead? For those of you that love a latte or crave cereal with milk, thankfully there are alternatives. There are a plethora of non-dairy milk substitutes. These include ‘milks’ made from rice, soy, coconut, cashew, almond, oats, hazelnut, macadamia, hemp, flax, and pea. Before you rush off to the supermarket, there are many things to consider when choosing a milk-substitute.
First of all and most important in my opinion are artificial additives. Most of the supermarket brands are like chemistry experiments with far too many ‘nasties’ in them. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into each one but for further information on artificial additives please see here. The most common artificial ingredient found in non-dairy milks are emulsifiers which helps stop non-dairy ‘milks’ from separating. Unfortunately, as well as having no nutritional value, emulsifiers can also lead to increased risk of cancer, inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome and increased gut permeability.
A really easy way to ease the separation anxiety that can occur with non-dairy milk substitutes is to stir your ‘milk’. This can also count as your mindful exercise for the day as an added bonus. Personally I would rather stir my ‘milk’ constantly than risk the adverse effects of emulsifiers!
The type of non-dairy ‘milk’ is also important to consider. Nuts are one of the best options for plant based milks because of their nutritional benefits. Nut milks are also one of the best plant based options compared to the following other types of non-dairy ‘milks’:
- Soy: I only recommend soy if it is whole, and fermented, which soy milk isn’t. In addition, soy is one of the most chemically sprayed crops.
- Rice: These ‘milks’ usually contain unacceptably high levels of arsenic.
- Oats: Unfortunately like soy and rice, oat milk often contains a high amount of chemicals from sprays and/or drying agents. Oats also have a higher natural sugar content compared to nuts.
The percentage of the main ingredient, e.g. hazelnut, in 100ml of made up product is important too as obviously the more nuts they contain the more you maximise the benefits of the good fats and protein in the ‘milk’ substitute. Most good quality nut-milk brands have around 4% nuts with some cheaper brands only containing 2.5% nuts.
It is for all the above reasons that I love the Mylk Made milk substitutes. That brand also ticks all the other boxes I like ticked when considering a dairy milk alternative such as:
- Sustainable glass jar packaging with Jar labels FSC® Chain of Custody certified, made from 30% post-consumer waste, Green Seal certified and fully biodegradable?
- In my opinion, the best tasting ‘milk’ substitute
- Easy to make up
- Long shelf life of 9 months
- Not heat treated
- NZ local business using the best certified organic New Zealand grown nuts and seeds ingredients where possible
- Can be made more concentrated for a higher nut percentage.
A note of caution when considering switching to dairy alternatives is to add in alternative food sources of calcium or supplement with calcium if appropriate. If you are an adult don’t worry too much about that though, as calcium isn’t as bone-protective as we first thought. Research has shown that vitamin D is likely more important than calcium in preventing fractures. There are also potential problems with consuming calcium supplements so please seek medical advice before doing this.
If you simply must consume dairy, choosing grass-fed sources will give you the optimal ‘good’ fats compared to the more inflammatory ‘bad’ fats in grain fed dairy products. Hopefully after this you won’t feel the need to consume dairy, especially with the wonderful milk substitutes like the Mylk Made products.