The Dairy Myth Plus 3 Ways to Build Healthy Bones

Milk is good for everything right? It builds strong bones. It aids in weight loss. It is the best source of calcium. We have been told this our whole lives. Celebrities tell you to drink milk while sporting cute white mustaches in all of your favorite magazines. Even your mom probably offered a warm glass of milk at night to help you fall asleep. Milk has, more than likely, been a huge component of your diet since your first birthday; becoming so normal you've never thought to actually take a step back and think about what you're actually consuming. Why would you? The message is everywhere, "Milk Does a Body Good." But, does it really?

Big Dairy marketing genius. Got Milk? But, do we really want it? No.

Big Dairy marketing genius. Got Milk? But, do we really want it? No.

Milk is often touted to be the best source of bone-building calcium and vitamin D -- a powerful duo for strong bones. It's nature's perfect food... if you're a baby cow. But since you have neither four stomachs nor the desire to grow to weigh nearly 1500 lbs, I assume it's not your perfect food. When was the last time you instinctively went up to a dairy cow  and began rooting around for milk? Umm, gross right? Thought so. Humans wean themselves from their mother's milk just as all animals in nature do when their bodies no longer require it. Then how did dairy milk become such an integral mainstay in our modern diets? Marketing plays a big part. The dairy industry has made bank on selling its milk, cheese, whey, yogurts, etc and wants to keep pocketing the big bucks no matter the cost to our health and to our world. 

When you think about where cheese actually comes from... it's not that appetizing! Photo courtesy of www.foodnetwork.co.uk.

When you think about where cheese actually comes from... it's not that appetizing! Photo courtesy of www.foodnetwork.co.uk.

Studies have begun cropping up stating that milk consumption may actually make bones weaker and lead to weight gain and certain cancers. “Ironically, osteoporosis tends to occur in countries where calcium intake is highest and most of it comes from protein-rich dairy products,” says Dr. Campbell, head of the China Project, the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease. 

And if that's not enough, take into consideration the role of animal welfare, or rather the lack thereof, in dairy production. Dairy cows are confined in tiny stalls in factory farms, continually impregnated to keep milk production high while many, if not all, suffer painful lesions and infection on their udders as machines milk them numerous times each day. This then creates a need for antibiotics which are administered in higher and higher doses as the vicious cycle repeats over and over. Read: Antibiotics, pus and blood is in your milk. Sure it's pasteurized but you're still drinking dead pus and blood cells. Ew. That means it's in your beloved cheese and yogurt as well. But seriously, poor cows :(

Luckily, there are many ways to get calcium, vitamin D and protein without consuming dairy:

Pure Barre is a fabulous way to build strong bones.

Pure Barre is a fabulous way to build strong bones.

  • Eat your leafy green vegetables and broccoli for calcium and vitamin K, both of which are important for bone health.
  • Get vitamin D from spending time in the sunshine, fortified foods or a supplement.
  • Perform weight-bearing exercises like Pure Barre to stress your bones and muscles more than usual daily activities tend to so your bones rebuild stronger. (Like you needed another reason to tuck your way through the Pure Madness Challenge!)
Homemade almond milk. Delicious, creamy, healthy... who needs moo milk?!

Homemade almond milk. Delicious, creamy, healthy... who needs moo milk?!

If you're struggling to remove dairy from your diet, try dairy-free milks and cheeses. Made from seeds or nuts, they taste so good and are good for you and the planet. I love to make my own vanilla almond milk at home but also pick up a variety of fortified nut milks from the grocery store. And I add nutritional yeast, which is rich in B vitamins, to dishes to get that cheesy taste I sometimes crave. Another great option is to make this recipe for nacho cheese made from cashews! Missing cheesy quesadillas? Try using mashed butternut squash and coconut oil mixed with a little nutritional yeast and sautéed veggies like peppers and onions for a dairy-free delight. Then top your creation with belly-flattening cilantro. So fresh, so delicious and so good for you!

I feel so much better now that I don't eat dairy. My digestion is better. I no longer suffer seasonal allergies which means I don't have to take a daily Claritin like I used to. No more sinus infections and my skin stays clear. Best of all, I'm not supporting the cruel and unethical treatment of those poor dairy cows.