The Great Dairy Debate

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I recently was asked a fantastic question regarding dairy.  Why do some diets and meal plans shun it, and why do I allow dairy in my cooking?  There’s no super short answer for this one.  Honestly, if I could live my life happily dairy-free, I would.  I admit, I sometimes plug my ears and ignore all that I know about the farming industry so that I can make a fun and healthy version of a cheesecake.  I do not drink milk and haven’t for years.  I prefer unsweetened coconut almond milk.  But I occasionally cook and bake with Greek yogurt and cottage cheese; I’m not much of a cheese person, although a little  feta, Parmesan or goat cheese does make me happy in some recipes.  So what’s the beef with milk?  Well, it’s actually quite nasty.  If you’ve ever watched a documentary like, “Forks Over Knives,” or, “Food Inc.,” you know what I am talking about.  Cows are treated cruelly and are fed unnatural diets and are pumped full of hormones just to produce milk.  There’s all kinds of puss and nastiness in milk. Farming is not like it used to be. Cows are not milked by farmers anymore, they’re milked by machines. Those machines cause so much stress and damage to the cow’s utters that the milk we drink needs to be pasteurized to get rid of any harmful ingredients, including anything that may have leaked from wounds on the damaged utters. YUCK!

Another issue is that most people are lactose intolerant and just live with it, get used to it, or suffer from gas and bloating. As we age, we lose the ability to digest lactose, because we’re not really supposed to be consuming it post-infancy. You can build up/maintain a tolerance for lactose by continuing to consume it, but once you stop for a while, re-introducing it causes major discomfort. Lactose tolerance usually lasts through childhood in western society, but as we get older we also tend to stop drinking as much milk, and many people find they can’t consume it without very uncomfortable side effects. In many eastern countries, everyone is lactose intolerant because people just don’t drink milk. Digesting lactose past infancy is kind of like training yourself to eat poison berries.

Now: the flip side- I design my recipes for “the every day person,” and the every day person generally wants his cake and to eat it too, while getting thinner, stronger, faster and better looking.  Telling someone they can’t have something makes them want it more, or leads to feelings of deprivation.  Plus, I have many vegetarian clients for whom dairy is their only source of protein.  In my experience, only about 10% of my clients will get rid of something entirely.  I don’t suggest eating dairy every day.  But I do offer recipes with dairy because so many people eat it and I try appealing to healthier versions of what they’re already eating.  So if they’re going to eat cheesecake no matter what, perhaps they’d consider a version made from fat-free cottage cheese and egg whites instead.

I believe in moderation.  If giving up dairy makes someone miserable because they love it, perhaps the balance is to eat it less often and choose healthier options (swap plain Greek yogurt for full-fat sweetened yogurt or low fat cream cheese for full-fat).  If someone feels they want to omit dairy, I think it’s great choice too.

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