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Is Milk Bad for You?

Are dairy products good for you? Depends on who you ask! Here’s my two cents’ worth.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
October 15, 2008
Episode #013

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In today’s article, I’m going to tackle the great dairy dilemma: Are dairy products good for you or not?

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Is Milk Bad for You?

Daniel writes:

I've heard a great deal of contrary opinions about milk. Is it good for you? Is it bad for you?  Would it only be good for you if you were a cow? Could you put this debate to rest for me? 

Well, Daniel, I seriously doubt that I’ll be able to put this debate to rest in the next five minutes. But I’ll try to sort through some of the main arguments for and against eating dairy products.

One of the arguments I’ve heard against eating dairy products is that it is unnatural. We humans are, by and large, the only animals to drink the milk of other species and to drink milk at all past infancy. To some, this seems like a perversion of our nature. Others feel strongly that consuming dairy products is unfair to cows or that keeping cows is an irresponsible use of land and other resources.

Now, I actually do have some opinions on these issues but I’m afraid you’ll have to invite me to a cocktail party to find out what they are. For the purposes of this podcast, I think I’d better try to stick to the nutritional issues. They’re thorny enough.

Here are a few things dairy has going for it, nutritionally:

  1. It’s a good source of high-quality protein. Now, most Americans get more than enough protein in their diet. But for those who choose not to eat meat, it can be an important protein source. It’s also a relatively inexpensive source of animal protein, which can be significant for those who are feeding families on tight budgets.

  2. Dairy products are rich in calcium. Most Americans do not get the recommended amount of calcium and health experts are very concerned with the future health of our collective skeleton. Promoting milk consumption is one way to try to reduce the incidence of osteoporosis. Although you can get calcium from other foods, like broccoli and leafy greens, it’s often not as bio-available as the calcium you get in milk. (Plus, most of us don’t eat nearly enough vegetables to meet our calcium requirements!)

  3. Dairy products are also a major source of vitamin D in the American diet. That’s ironic because dairy products contain no vitamin D naturally. In fact, there aren’t a lot of foods that do. And because the government is very concerned about making sure that we get enough, they have mandated that milk and other dairy products be fortified with D. However, many brands of soy milk and other non-dairy alternatives are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

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