If your body responds favorably to dairy, I say go for it. If not, I don’t see incorporating it as a necessity.
I’m often asked if I include dairy in my nutrition plan. Folks wonder about my take on it in general, including most recently when I posted a sample food journal. This doesn’t surprise me; dairy inclusion is one of the most consistently controversial topics when it comes to health.
Traditionally, Americans enjoy their dairy, consuming large quantities of milk and cheese, and we’re told to get multiple servings daily. On the other side of the spectrum, the “Paleo” crowd believes it’s unnatural, and they avoid it at all costs.
Personally, I eat butter from grass fed cows daily. I don’t shy away from cheese or milk, especially of the raw, organic variety. I also have two sons. Chase, my older son, gulps no less than 4 cups of milk every day and digs cheese. Dane, my younger son, has zero interest in drinking milk and won’t eat cheese unless it’s on a pizza. These two guys have grown up under the same roof and been exposed to the same choices. Yet one craves dairy, one rejects it.
This isn’t overly surprising. Humans are the only species that regularly consumes the milk product of another species, and we are generally the only species that consumes milk products past infancy. From authoritynutrition.com:
When we’re infants, our bodies produce a digestive enzyme called lactase, which breaks down lactose from mother’s milk. But many people lose the ability to do that in adulthood. In fact, about 75% of the world’s population is unable to break down lactose as adults, a phenomenon called lactose intolerance.
Is Dane’s rejection of dairy a signal from his body that he isn’t processing the lactose well? Possibly. Our systems won’t all respond in the same fashion.
For those of us who can process dairy, however, there are some potential health benefits. The most obvious one is, of course, calcium.
Numerous studies show that dairy products have clear benefits for bone health. They improve bone density in the young and lower the risk of fractures in the elderly.
The vitamin content is undeniable. From milkfacts.info:
Milk contains the water soluble vitamins thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B12 (cobalamin), vitamin C, and folate. Milk is a good source of thiamin, riboflavin and vitamin B12 .
For those of us trying to build or maintain muscle mass, dairy can be a valuable resource. I always chuckle when I walk by the Muscle Milk in the supermarket aisle. Muscle Milk, of course, contains no milk but is filled with plenty of artificial ingredients. Milk in its original form is nature’s original protein shake. A cup of milk tacked onto any meal provides 8 grams of protein.
Assuming you’re drinking and eating high quality dairy (that is, whole milk from grass-fed cows), it also provides important fatty acids, like CLAs and omega-3s, and significant quantities of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin K. If you’re filling your plate or glass with low-fat or skim products, you lose out on most the benefits and are getting a heavy dose of sugar as well.
Luckily for individuals like Dane, all of these benefits can be sourced elsewhere. While I agree it does a body good, it doesn’t do every body good.