Friday, September 10, 2010

Cow's Milk

I grew up on milk. I usually ate it (and then drank it) with my Chocolate Cocoa Krispies. Then at night, my mom would serve up a tall glass for dinner.

As my consciousness about nutrition has grown over the years (no more fake cereals for me!), I've looked at cow's milk through a more critical lens. I'm extremely wary of the chemicals and the antibiotics that go into raising cows. I now opt for organic, antibiotic-free milk.

However, I've never gone the route of many of my nutritionally-conscious friends. I know lots of people who have given up dairy. I've been reluctant to take this path because, as a vegetarian, I appreciate the protein and calcium that come from milk. "Milk" that comes from non-dairy sources (like soy or rice), always seemed so processed to me.

Now that I'm pregnant and under the care of a midwife, I've been forced to look at my milk consumption again. My midwife advises against drinking milk. She has noticed that milk drinkers tend to have a strange calcification on their placentas, post-delivery. She says she hasn't been able to find any research to support her observations, but she's noticed it so many times that she feels confident advising against it.

Despite her warnings, I've continued drinking milk (again, because it's so easy so get protein and calcium from what feels like a natural source).

However, the other day, we ran out of milk, so I opted for the leftover, plain soy milk we had in our fridge (from the cookies Matt made last week). I realized that I enjoyed it so much more than cow's milk! It felt so much lighter.

I definitely won't switch to soy milk, due to the concerns associated with isolating certain soy compounds, but I think it's time to explore nut milks. When I read about Amy's process of making her own almond milk, I realized that nut milks aren't really that processed at all. She simply soaks almonds.

The one thing I need to look into is the nutritional content. I need to make sure I get enough calcium and protein...

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Nikki Cupcake said...

i've never heard of any issues of milk and placentas (i got to an office with a midwife and OB), but that's totally interesting!

the funny thing is since i've been pregnant the 2nd time around, i've been all about milk, i don't know why. i was an almond milk/hemp milk drinker for years then bam all i want is milk

also try oat milk, i really enjoy it as a substitute in my morning cereal

Lisa said...

There are so many other ways to obtain calcium and protein through vegetables, grains and other plant based foods. There are many organic milks that aren't as organic as they seem, they may not use certain antibiotics, but there can still be harmful things in their feed. BSE (mad cow disease) is also found first in dairy cows, who are eventually used for meat. PCRM provides a lot of good research advocating a vegan diet for healthy living and healthy pregnancies.

Jessica said...

My midwife has also talked about the calcifications in placentas. She said in her experience it is most linked to over use of antacids like tums and rolaids but that she also noticed it in milk drinkers! Pretty interesting. Those little calcifications will start to cut off nutrients to baby so obviously they're no good. I didn't stop taking rolaids altogether, sometimes I HAD to have them, but I avoided them if I could :)

bklyn76 said...

i don't really like milk other than in lattes or ice cream ;) but did a bit of research when my son turned one and could drink milk and breastfeeding was coming to an end. i used to only buy organic milk b/c of the hormones/antibiotics. i found out that in canada certain hormones/antibiotics are not allowed in milk so it's a bit *better* than regular US milk so i stopped buying organic. not sure if i'm doing an injustice to my family to save a few bucks.

i've also heard lots of negative things about soy and male hormones as well as its effect on fibroids, which i had so i generally don't drink much of it, but when my son gets his hands on some he loves it b/c of the sweetness!

ok, that was a long comment about milk!

lisa said... exception to the comments, as someone who ran an organic raw milk dairy: BSE, or mad cow, is found in dairy cattle because it takes several years to become noticeable. Beef cattle are butchered before 18 months....a good dairy cow will live to at least 8, and more if she is valued for genetics and not just production. Even the best beef cows (mothers) are butchered by 6 or so, as they aren't watched so closely while they calve.

Raw, unprocessed milk is the best thing in the world....don't confuse the ultrapasturized, plastic-packaged, homogenized junk in the stores with the real thing.

maya938 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
maya938 said...

I'm one of those that switched to dairy free. Like you describe, I grew up as a huge fan of milk and drank it regularly, even through college. The transition has been tough to convince (over 3 years I have had many lapses in my pledge to remove dairy from my diet). I gave up meat much more easily. In my switch I have relied on soy as my backup a bit hesitantly based on intuition rather than any convincing evidence (to me) against soy. Recently I have become aware of a health condition that makes dairy a toxic choice for me, partially for the reasons you cite as hormones and antibiotics and also because dairy causes inflamation and issues with human digestion. Interestingly, soy is also toxic for my body. Apparently there are very harmful chemicals used in the processing of soy. So not only is soy harmful because of its possible effects on my estrogen levels, it is also extremely toxic as an environmental input. This includes the organic soy. I was also surprised to learn that organic soy only needs to contain a small percentage of "organic" in order to be classified as "organic." This is probably true for a lot of organics. I honestly haven't done enough research to know but in this light I do worry about corn and peanuts. I am a bit buried in the work of achieving nutritional balance as my diet morphes to gluten free, dairy free and meat free. I have had many alternative health providers say that for me, dairy and wheat are the worst, even in small doses. I'm curious what else you learn/decide. I often wonder what I'll decide when I become a mom and have to make a decision about my child's nutrition.

Heather said...

In the health section of one of my massage courses, we watched a video that spoke convincingly against dairy. I don't remember exactly how it worked, but it had something to do with the idea that there is too much protein in dairy (more than you need), and you need extra calcium to process it. So your body is not really getting all the calcium you are consuming. Although this wouldn't apply to you, (being a vegetarian), the video pointed out that osteoporosis is higher in countries like the US where we consume more meat, and thus more protein. Instances of osteoporosis are much lower in countries like China and the Mediterranean, where they get their calcium from lots of leafy greens.

Alycia said...

Unless you know the cow the milk is coming from, you really don't know what process it's going through. The FDA allows so much to get by under organic labels. Yea lobbyists!

I agree about raw milk; it's just too bad that it's not legal everywhere in the U.S. It's also really high in fat! But it's pure and the real thing.

Michelle said...

I recently made the switch to almond milk and I love it! For some reason, soy milk makes me sick, so I was never able to switch. But a friend introduced me to almond milk about a month ago and I have to say, I barely notice a difference. Like you, I grew up on lots of milk. My sister and I went through a gallon a week! So the taste is slightly different at first, but you quickly get used to it. I don't know if I can commit to completely cutting dairy out of my diet (I love ice cream and cheese!), but I'm happy that I was able to at least cut down with a replacement for milk itself.

Christine said...

There are numerous health benefits to milk that it is not being given credit for. Yes, if you get milk that has been processed and altered - that is not what you want to be drinking! However, as an individual who has taken countless nutrition courses, let me assure all of you that the benefits of milk far outweigh the bad. I know many of you will not believe this concept, but there are many good components to milk - including excellent fats that are very difficult to get outside of 1% milk. Of course, we must all remember - everything in moderation!

Schmei said...

We still keep a quart of organic cow's milk around for the occasional recipe, but otherwise we almost exclusively use almond milk, and I really enjoy it. Like you, I worried that it was overly processed, but then I read about how to make your own, and it's really quite simple!

This has been part of a few food changes we've made around here, but we both _feel_ better.

On the other hand, when my sister was in her third trimester, she was drinking about 2 quarts of milk a day - I think she needed the calcium to build her baby's bones. What other calcium sources can one use, if one's avoiding cow's milk?

Bex11 said...

I'm going to chime in to support Christine. I am a nutritionist (R.D. actually, I just hate the term). While most of the arguments above have some validity, what I'd recommend you considering is a blend of several choices. The former dairy farmer raised an excellent point that raw milk from organic, grass fed cows, is highly nutritious (the kind usually found in glass bottles that only lasts in your fridge a week & that forms a cream layer on top). But moderation is key, maybe just a glass a day. Perhaps have a second daily glass of another 'milk' (nut milks are my fave in this group). Then to top it off and to ensure you're getting sufficient calcium, make sure you're getting at least 1 serving of dark leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach etc.) preferably lightly cooked - this will help with bio-availability of the calcium & iron but not destroy the B's and other water soluble vitamins.
Sorry for the long post, hope it's useful though! Good luck

Bex11 said...

I just wanted to add something regarding dark leafy veggies: the more the better (1 serving a day is sort of a starting point)! They are an excellent source of Calcium, iron, folate & a ton of other nutrients important for health, especially during pregnancy. :)

lisa said...

I'm the organic dairy farmer: a lot of the women I know drink multiple glasses of the lovely white fluid daily, some as the exclusive beverage through their pregnancies, and have not had problems.

Real milk: from grass-fed, organic cows, in glass, with the cream on top, is just about nirvana. Good fat is good for you, though I advise newbies to skim it a bit for the sake of your tummies....

The key is knowing your cows. Find a cow-share dairy, locally, and get your milk from it. Homogenization is what gives milkfat a bad name.

Randa said...

I would definitely talk to a registered dietician about this and not just rely on the advice of your midwife.

I was a heavy milk drinker for YEARS until I developed an intolerence for it in my early teens [genetic so don't worry about going lactose intolerant from too much milk. I don't think that could happen. ;0)]. It was really hard to incorporate calcium into my body after that because even something as simple as eating yogurt made me feel gross. Eventually [aka years of not doing anything until I finally went to college and had a RD as a professor], I just talked to a RD and she suggested looking into other sources of calcium - leafy greens, beans, some grains, and such. She also told me that I needed to intake a good amount of Vitamin D into my body since that's how calcium is absorbed. Since I wear sunscreen everyday [extremely fair skinned], she said that I was probably not getting enough Vitamin D from the sun to do much good.

Now, I do take vitamin supplements to be on the safe side but I am so glad I talked to her about my situation. I guess this was just my round about way to encourage you to just call/email an RD.


Good luck!

C├ęcy said...

I've never been a big milk drinker. I think starting teenage years I stopped drinking it for breakfast.
Now I do still eat and love cheese however. I do try to get it organic as well for the same reasons of antibiotics and hormones.
Lately I've discovered almond milk. I buy the S*lk brand. I don't know how to make my own, and both my husband and I have been enjoying it.
If you find out more about making your own and cost effectiveness vs buying it I'd be interested.
I've been trying to balance out protein sources (vegetarian household here too) because both my mom and her twin sister have been treated for breast cancer, so I'm trying not to eat too much soy based products. said...

Unless you know the cow the milk is coming from, you really don't know what process it's going through. The FDA allows so much to get by under organic labels. Yea lobbyists!
I agree about raw milk; it's just too bad that it's not legal everywhere in the U.S. It's also really high in fat! But it's pure and the real thing.
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