This is a guest post from Jessica Blanchard - a registered dietitian, Ayurvedic practitioner, and yoga teacher.
It’s time, isn’t it?
You’re motivated. You’re ready. You’re going vegan.
But a doubt eats away at your resolve.
Don’t you need milk?
After all, you’ve grown up hearing that milk “does a body good.” The milk proponents drummed this mantra into your head, so you believed it.
But the question remains — Do you need milk?
The answer is yes — if you’re a calf.
But humans can kiss dairy goodbye.
Separate Fact From Fiction
It’s true; you’ve always heard that you must drink milk to have healthy bones, and you need the protein in milk for growth.
But did you know that the American dairy industry spends $180 million per year on advertising to convince us of this?
Even the USDA, who produces our dietary guidelines, “helps America’s dairy farmers and producers efficiently market high-quality milk and a wide range of dairy products." Source
So the same agency tells us what to eat and promotes dairy products.
Smell anything rotten?
Let’s be honest.
Because you deserve the truth — facts backed by science, not profits.
It’s time to peer beyond the interests of big industry. Let’s uncover the myths about dairy and dig out the reality.
It’s not what you expect...
Myth #1 You need dairy for strong bones.
Most Americans grew up thinking that we absolutely needed milk for healthy bones. For so long, milk and its calcium were touted as the only solution for bone health.
The dairy industry’s heavy advertising along with the USDA’s inclusion of milk as one of the four food groups (remember this?) had everyone convinced.
In truth, your bone health depends on a balance of factors from your diet and lifestyle. Your body needs adequate calcium, protein, vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C to build bones.
Calcium is a mineral in the soil that is absorbed by the roots of plants, and cows get their calcium by eating these plants. So the actual source of calcium is the earth, not cows.
You don’t need dairy products for healthy bones and calcium. You need the right balance of nutrients for your bones.
Plenty of plant sources give us plenty of calcium. And the same plants give us the other required nutrients like protein, vitamin K and C, potassium, and magnesium. You can get vitamin D from fortified nut milks or supplements. Or you can spend a little time outdoors so that your body can synthesize it from the sun.
So the truth is, you don’t need dairy to protect your bones. Instead, you can simply eat a variety of the following:
Beans: black beans, great northern beans, and navy beans
Greens: bok choy, turnip, mustard, collard, kale
Soy: tofu, tempeh, edamame, soymilk (calcium-fortified)
Seeds: sesame, tahini, almonds, almond butter
Fruits: figs, raisins, calcium-fortified juices
Fortified nut milks: soy, almond, coconut, hempseed
These bone superfoods provide all the calcium your body requires. And consuming calcium above required levels does not guarantee healthier bones. In one study, vegans that had a lower calcium intake than omnivores had the same bone health.
By eating a vegan diet with plenty of plant-based whole foods, you’ll get plenty of bone-building nutrients plus a host of other health benefits such as lower blood pressure, and a lower risk of cancer and heart disease. In fact, getting your nutrients from plants instead of animals leads to better bone health.
Myth #2 Dairy is a necessary source of protein.
Do you still believe the protein myth? That you need tons of protein to be healthy?
Of course you need enough protein to fuel growth based on your age and activity level. But protein deficiency is practically nonexistent in Western countries. Even if you subsist on junk food such as potato chips and pasta, you’ll get enough protein.
Cow’s milk contains more protein that we need. Nature designed it to perfectly nourish a calf — to fuel its whopping growth to 800 pounds at weaning.
In fact, it contains three times more protein than human breast milk. Infants simply don’t need the concentration of protein found in dairy milk. Breast-fed babies tend to be slimmer than formula-fed babies because they grow at the rate nature intended.
Besides, nature provides the perfect protein source. It’s low in fat, has no cholesterol, and is high in fiber and protein.
Can you guess what it is?
Not protein powder, or kale, or coconut oil.
The best source of protein is legumes — beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, peanut butter, and soy foods including tempeh, soy milk, veggie meats, and soy yogurt.
And it gets even better.
People across the globe who eat legumes live longer. Bean consumption in Sweden, Japan, Greece, and Australia decreased the likelihood of death by 8% for every two tablespoons of beans in their diet.
So nosh on your PB & J, enjoy lemony hummus and rice crackers, and chomp on edamame. They’ll give you all the protein you need, even if you never take another sip of milk or bite of cheese.
Myth #3 Soy milk will disrupt your hormones and cause cancer.
Have you heard the myth that soy will give men boobs or cause breast cancer?
Concerns about soy stem from confusion about phytoestrogens, a group of natural compounds that bear a mild resemblance to estrogen chemically.
Phytoestrogen is not estrogen and has positive health effects.
And despite the myths, evidence also shows that unprocessed soy decreases rather than increases cancer risk and lowers cancer recurrence rates.
People in Japan, rural China, and Okinawa consume several servings of soy daily, and they have some of the lowest cancer rates in the world. The phytoestrogens and antioxidants in soy are also linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
Soy can be a healthy part of a varied diet based on legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Choose products made from the whole soybean such as soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and veggie burgers. Opt for non-GMO or organic soy (all organic soy is non-GMO).
Limit refined soy such as soy protein isolate because it’s been stripped of the heart-healthy fiber and cancer-fighting isoflavones.
If you don’t like soy, take your pick from the array of milk alternatives such as almond, coconut, cashew, and hempseed milks.
So relax as you sip your soy latte and nibble on edamame because you’re decreasing your cancer risk and helping your heart.
Myth #4 Children can’t live without dairy products.
Human breast milk, not cow’s milk, is the ideal food for infants. Human breast milk contains antibodies, easily absorbable fat, protein, and more than one hundred other compounds not found in cow’s milk.
Cow’s milk has triple the protein, and it's a type that is harder for babies to assimilate. Cow’s milk lacks iron, and the excess calcium interferes with iron absorption. Babies can get iron from breast milk or fortified formulas.
At around six months of age, even breast-feeding moms may supplement their infant’s diet with formula. And plenty of formulas don’t contain dairy.
When they start to eat solids, babies grow and thrive on a diet without dairy products.
Drinking milk can even cause more harm than good. Milk consumption in children is linked to the development of asthma, allergies, and acne. This Harvard Study found that teenage boys who drank skim milk had a higher risk of developing acne due to milk’s hormonal constituents. Milk is a common cause of allergies and colic in young children.
And as childhood obesity rates are skyrocketing, plant-based diets are proving to be the best way to combat this epidemic. They are high in fiber, and vitamins and minerals, and low in saturated fat. Children eating plant-based diets tend to be leaner, especially in adolescence.
Whether vegan or omnivore, growing children need adequate amounts of carbohydrates, fat and protein. Your children will exceed their nutritional needs with a diet of grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, avocados, and nuts. And as an added advantage, they’ll develop tastes for healthier whole foods.
My son enjoys his healthy whole foods diet of soy milk, nut butters, vegetables, and whole grains. And he’s an energetic, thriving toddler with high hemoglobin levels.
So you don't have to force your children to drink milk and eat cheese. By eating tons of healthier foods, you’re reducing their risks of developing allergies, acne, and obesity.
Myth #5 You can give everything up but cheese.
Why is cheese especially so damned hard to give up?
Americans eat more than 33 pounds of cheese per person per year. That’s a LOT of cheese — three times more than in 1970. Cheese is the number-one source of unhealthy saturated fat in the American diet.
A recent study found that foods high in fat and/or refined carbohydrates provoke addictive-like behaviors — i.e. they act like drugs in our brains!
Nature designed casein to morph into an opiate called casomorphin so that animals would enjoy nursing from their mothers. Human milk contains 2.7 grams of casein per liter, while cow’s milk contains a whopping 26 grams. This is one reason you might find cheese so addictive — with a lower water content, cheese is packed with casein, palatable fat, and often salt.
But the truth is, it’s not impossible to give up. You just have to break your addiction. Luckily, you can nibble on plenty of indulgent non-dairy cheeses to ease your transition. And toasted ground sesame seeds, almonds, or nutritional yeast add a layer of flavor to your favorite meals.
You’ll notice that after you stop eating cheese, the cravings go away, and you enjoy the light, clear feeling from eating plant foods.
Ready, set, go!
You’re all set.
You can eliminate cow’s milk, cheese, and yogurt without worrying about your nutritional needs.
And you’ll be helping your body to be healthier in the process.
Say goodbye to feeling sluggish from eating fat-laden dairy.
Say goodbye to worrying about your nutritional needs.
Say goodbye to eating a diet that harms animals.
And say hello to a kinder, happier way to eat and live.
Try it for a week, and see how good you feel.
You’ll feel so vibrant, energetic, and healthy that you’ll never look back.
Jessica Blanchard is a registered dietitian, Ayurvedic practitioner, and yoga teacher. She's on a mission to help you use food, yoga and wellness to super-charge your health. Grab your free 7-Day Plan here and feel healthier, fitter and happier in just ten minutes per day.