Photo by Ryan Song on Unsplash
Remember the “Got Milk?” Campaign? There were probably posters hanging in your elementary school cafeteria of famous celebrities posing with a milk mustache. What if I told you everyone was tricked by these advertisements to make us believe milk has nutritional benefits?
The harsh truth is that milk actually doesn’t promote good bone health, nor is it a good source of calcium and protein. It actually does the exact opposite in a terrifying way.
I believe broader societal understanding of the negative effects of milk products is giving rise to plant-based milks.
“With recent technologies and expertise, we know that it is not the best source for us, it is actually quite dangerous for us to drink cows’ milk,” said Louise Kelly, associate professor of Exercise Science at California Lutheran University who received her Ph.D. in Pediatric Exercise Science from the University of Glasgow, Scotland.
Kelly said that research has found human consumption of cows’ milk can cause inflammatory diseases as well as obesity, heart disease and cancers including ovarian and testicular.
“Something I feel people don’t understand about cows’ milk is that when they are producing the milk, if the cow has a cyst, they release that and it goes into the milk that you drink,” Kelly said in a Zoom interview.
Cows’ milk has also been found guilty of doing the opposite of what it advertises as a health benefit–consuming milk can actually deteriorate your bones.
“Despite all the old myths about drinking cows’ milk, dairy products themselves when consumed by humans cause our bodies to become acidic and the only way our bodies can neutralize that acidity is by giving out calcium. So, our bodies release the calcium from our bones to neutralize this acidity, making us more prone to osteoporosis,” Kelly said.
It is worth mentioning the negative effects that cows’ milk has on the environment as well.
“The meat and dairy industry have a really big impact on our climate. There are a lot of issues with the way the land is processed to create space for large meat and dairy farms,” Sarah Sherwood, senior and co-president of the Cal Lutheran Green Club, said in a Zoom interview.
The beef and dairy industries take a toll on the environment through clear-cutting land for pasture space, high levels of water consumption and the production of greenhouse gases.
Despite this impact, cows’ milk is embedded into American culture.
“I think the way we are taught to eat as students and as children is really hard to change once it has already been taught for so long. And taught to our parents and our grandparents, [milk consumption] is very pervasive in our culture, I think,” Sherwood said.
Because of documentaries like “Super Size Me” and “Cowspiracy,” many Americans are becoming conscious about the actual nutritional value in their food. I see no coincidence in the fact that plant-based milks like soy, oat and almond non-dairy beverages have been on the rise in recent years because of these technological advancements.
“I think people are taking more ownership over their health and looking for alternatives and looking to be healthier. And that is why I think there is a dramatic increase in plant-based milks,” Kelly said. “Cows’ milk also is very high in cholesterol which plant-based milk doesn’t have. Plant-based milk doesn’t have saturated fat or cholesterol.”
When it comes to plant-based dairy alternatives and how they score environmentally, Sherwood said oat milk is best, but there really is no perfect product–although anything is better than cows’ milk.
“There are a lot of people interested in a new environmental aspect that have come off of soy and almond milk due to deforestation issues,” Sherwood said.
There is no way to look at the meat and dairy industries without seeing the ugly. Post-2020 and coming out of a pandemic, I look at my health in a much different way than I did before. The difference in my perspective is that I now find it extremely important to treat our bodies right to stay healthy, if not for ourselves then for our loved ones so we can stick around longer for them.
By quitting cows’ milk and transitioning to plant-based products, everyone can make the conscious decision that is best for our health and our environment.