If you been hanging around a gym regularly for the past couple years or are a frequent visitor of health and fitness websites than chances are you have probably read an article discussing either the benefits or the detriments of dairy and why you should or shouldn't consume it.
Probably the most popular and well known group of people who run around saying dairy is going to kill you would be the dogmatic paleo community. Now I understand that not all people who practice paleo are as dogmatic as others and that some are much more educated than others, but in large part this community has been bashing dairy left and right for the last several years (unfairly if you ask me).
I am not to happy about this bashing because it is causing a pile up of misinformation on top of the existing misinformation regarding dairy. It's filling the general populations head with non-sense and unsubstantiated claims that in the long run could make people miss out on a food that might just be an important part of a foundation of good health.
The reasons people claim dairy as unhealthy are various, but there are two that I want to address and put to rest today.
1. Humans are mammals and thus we aren't made to consume diary after childhood.
I most commonly seen this argument made among those who have some understanding of biology, but not a complete understanding.
Yes most mammals only consume dairy from their mother's milk for the first couple years of life and this ability is produced by the production of an enzyme called lactase which is able to break down the sugar in dairy. Most mammals quit producing lactase once they stop consuming their mother's milk because it is a waste of energy to continue to produce an enzyme that will never be used in adulthood.
But Humans have continued to evolve since the paleolithic era and one of the largest pieces of evidence of this evolution is the phenomenon known as lactase persistence. This is a mutation in a human's DNA that enables the production of lactase continually throughout life.
This mutation arose out of the large amounts of people in western Europe consuming diary in adulthood after the Agricultural Revolution and subsequent domestication of the cow. This meant that if you had the mutation that allowed you to consume cow milk without any trouble you had the ability to survive longer because you could source both hydration and nutrition from milk during times of famine and drought. This mutation then quickly proliferated through the populations and Europe and is now a mutation that over a third of the world possesses. Places in Northern Europe the rate of occurrence of this mutation is over 90%.
The point is humans have continued to evolve over time and just because at one time we did not eat something doesn't mean that we shouldn't eat it now especially if it is a good source of nutrients.
2. No other mammals consume the milk of another mammal.
I hate this one so much because it is one of the most fallacious arguments I have ever head.
Should we really be basing how we as humans should behave based on how other mammals behave? My answer is no.
Besides this argument being illogical it is also incorrect. There have been reports of other mammals consuming the milk of another mammal as part of their diet. Check out the link below.
So the fact is that dairy is not inherently bad (and the topic is not as black and white as people would have you believe) for us and as humans we cannot make the blanket statement that we should not consume dairy in adulthood.
The truth is that dairy consumption is highly dependent on personal tolerance and preference.
Dairy can be problematic for some people for two main reasons. The casein in dairy can cause food sensitivity and even allergic reactions in some people. Also if someone does not have the mutation that allows lactase production in adulthood then dairy consumption will cause them quite a bit of gastric distress.
But if you are someone who doesn't find dairy problematic and enjoy dairy products then dairy can be part of a really healthy diet. Don't let the paleo people convince you otherwise.
Real quick though before discussing why dairy consumption is healthy for you we should first discuss what kind of dairy you should consume.
In my opinion the only dairy you should consume should be full-fat raw dairy made from milk that is produced by grass fed pasture raised animals. This means I would highly recommend avoiding the white colored, homogenized, and pasteurized milk in your local supermarket.
This milk is produced in rather disgusting conditions from potentially sick animals who are fed unnatural diets and at times either growth hormone or medications. All of which filters into the cows milk and alters the nutrient quality of the milk.
The processing of this milk also destroys a lot of the nutrient content in the milk.
So try to find yourself a local farmer who will hook you up with some great raw milk from some happy jersey cows who get to graze and grass and be in sunlight regularly.
Now that we have talked about what kind of dairy and the quality of it you should be consuming if you can let me list for you some reasons why if you can you should consume dairy as part of your weekly diet.
- High fat dairy intake has either been inversely associated with obesity and metabolic disease or not associated with them at all.
- Butyrate, pytanic acid, trans palmitoleic acid, and conjugated linoleum acid (compounds found in full fat diary) have beneficial health effects. Butyrate gives energy to the cells that line your colon, inhibits inflammation in the GI tract, and possibly could prevent colonic bacteria from getting into the bloodstream. Phytanic acid has been demonstrated to reduce triglycerides, improve insulin sensitivity, and blood sugar regulation. Conjugated linoleum acid also may reduce your risk for CAD, diabetes mellitus, and cancer.
- Dairy products provide a wonderful amount of fat soluble vitamins such as retinal and vitamin K2.
- Dairy provides a rich source of saturated fat (which the evidence clearly shows does not cause heart disease). This is exceptionally help full if your limiting carbohydrate intake, but trying to maintain energy consumption levels.
Again you can see that dairy isn't inherently evil in fact dairy is actually quite good for us if it comes from healthy cows and is not processed.
The only thing limiting dairy consumption is each individual's personal tolerance and preference for it. The best way to determine whether dairy is right for you is to try eliminating it from your diet for a few weeks and monitoring how you feel. Then reintroduce the dairy back into your diet and notice how you feel.
If you feel bloated and experience gastric distress after reintroducing then dairy may not be a good food for you. But if your like me and you feel that dairy products make you feel whole then I would recommend incorporating them into your diet regularly.
This is how I coach my clients on dairy consumption and I recommend you do the same.
p.s. If you are someone who suffers from lactose intolerance I would recommend trying some fermented dairy such as kefir or yogurt. I've seen that some people can tolerate fermented dairy despite of their lactose intolerance and that eating fermented dairy can actually promote bacteria growth that may help you tolerate lactose better.
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