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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
4-minute read
Episode #13

 

  • There have been some studies, many of them funded by the dairy industry, suggesting that Americans who eat more dairy products tend to be thinner than those who eat less—and much has been made of this by the dairy industry. On the other hand, there are cultures where people eat little or no dairy and are lots thinner and healthier than us, so I tend not to think that dairy products are some sort of magic bullet for weight loss. 

  • Let’s look at the nutritional cons of dairy foods:

    1. Dairy foods can be high in fat and, therefore, calories. Low-fat dairy foods, such as skim milk and low-fat cottage cheese, have had most of the fat skimmed off and they can still be good choices for calorie counters. But all the good stuff, like cheese, ice cream, and butter, can be diet-busters.

    2. In higher fat dairy products, most of the fat is saturated fat. Diets high in saturated fats can raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease.

    3. Dairy products may contain hormones from the cows.

    4. Dairy products contain lactose, a type of milk-sugar that many people have difficulty digesting because they lack the digestive enzyme lactase. If you can’t digest lactose, eating dairy products can give you a rumbley tummy or worse. Lactose intolerance affects between ten and twenty percent of the population. You are much more likely to be lactose intolerant if you are of African, Asian, or Native American heritage. Lactose-reduced dairy products or lactase tablets can allow lactose intolerant people to eat dairy with fewer difficulties.

    5. Although cow’s milk allergies are fairly rare in adults, many babies and small children are allergic to milk, and experience symptoms including ear infections, skin rashes, and digestive problems. Avoiding dairy products can alleviate symptoms.

    The Bottom Line? Dairy Is Not Essential

    So, where does this leave us? Frankly, I can’t make a case for dairy being essential to a healthy diet. I think the fact that dairy products are considered as a separate food group instead of being lumped together with other animal products has less to do with their special nutritional advantages and more to do with the fact that the dairy lobby has spent a lot of money to influence public health and nutrition policy.

     

    There are plenty of other ways to get protein, calcium, and vitamin D than in milk.
     
    There are plenty of other ways to get protein, calcium, and vitamin D. So, Daniel, if you don’t care for dairy or you feel that the cons outweigh the pros, I see no reason for you to eat it as long as you have your nutritional bases covered.

     

    But I’m not ready to insist that everyone swear off dairy, either. If you like dairy products, and you tolerate them, I think that you can enjoy them in good health, as long as you consume them in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.

    If you have a nutrition question or a cocktail party invitation for me, send an email to  nutrition@quickanddirtytips.com.  I am also on Facebook and Twitter.

    Thanks for reading. I hope you have a great day. Eat something good for me!

    Milk image courtesy of Shutterstock

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    About the Author

    Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

    Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.