Why a dairy-free life is good for your health and great for the planet

Milk is for babies

Although Western cultures consume milk every day, approximately 65% of the world’s population are unable to digest the sugar found in milk once they stop drinking their mother’s breast milk in infancy.

Cows produce milk for one reason – to turn an 35kg (75lb) calf, into a 200kg (440lb) cow in less than a year.

No other species drinks breast milk after infancy and no other species drinks the milk of another species. Human milk is designed for human babies. Cow’s milk is designed for calves. Breast milk was never designed for human adults.

Dem bones

Many things contribute to strong healthy bones however research shows that consuming milk, dairy, or extra calcium is not one of them.

The places with the highest levels of dairy consumption such as the US, Britain, New Zealand, and Sweden also have the highest rates of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. Comparatively, the places with the lowest levels of dairy consumption including Asia and Africa have the lowest.

Calcium is an element absorbed by plants from the soil. The largest animals with the biggest bones such as elephants, cows, and horses get all their calcium, just as you can, entirely from a whole plant-based diet.

Dairy truths

Just to produce a single litre of milk takes 300-1200 litres of water, two times its weight in carbon dioxide, and fourteen times more fossil fuels than the equivalent energy it provides to our body.

Furthermore milk and dairy have been linked to many illnesses including acne, type 1 diabetes, and breast and prostate cancer. Dairy allergies are common in childhood and these children may experience eczema, sinus congestion, stomach problems, heartburn, anaemia, and recurrent ear infections.

Many cultures and cuisines throughout the world are dairy and milk-free. Substituting milk and dairy is is easy, makes you feel great, and is fantastic for the environment.

Milk as an ingredient

Plant-based milks are an easy replacement for cooking and baking. Types include soy, oat, almond, rice, and even hemp. Some work better for savoury dishes and some for sweet but there are many versatile options and you shouldn’t have a problem finding a type or brand that suits your needs.

Although breakfast and cow’s milk seem inextricably linked, plant-based milk or fruit juice on oatmeal or cereal tastes even better. Alternatively the starchy ‘milk’ of grains when simply mixed with water add moisture and creaminess to your breakfast grains all by themselves.

Lastly, plant-based milks keep for a very long time unopened and you can even make them yourself!

Drinking milk

Often we crave milk when we are both thirsty and hungry. Because milk is technically a liquid meal for calves, it will quench thirst, provide energy, and curb appetite, but at the expense of you feeling and looking your best. Try fruit with high water content instead, such as oranges, watermelons, peaches, or strawberries.

Some people reach for milk to ‘settle’ their stomach but it actually causes acid production. Instead, reach for bland starchy plant-based foods like bananas, rice, toast, or oatmeal, or simply drink water.

Coffee and tea taste great with plant-based milk but the flavours, types, and brands vary greatly so make sure to experiment.

Milk classics

Treats like milkshakes and smoothies are easily made with plant-based milks and any combination of fresh fruits and berries.

Blended frozen bananas make a simple plant-based ice cream. Additional fruits and flavours such as berries, cocoa, vanilla, and mint can make your frozen treat extra special. Non-dairy gelato, sorbet, and soy ice-cream are other options.

For a quick cool snack, replace yogurt with fresh fruit or berries. For sour cream, try hummus, salsas, chutneys, or plant-based pestos. When cooking or baking, plant-based milks, starch thickeners, potatoes, pumpkins, bananas, and many other plant-based foods easily add depth and creaminess to any dish.

(The above article is an excerpt from Week 2 of ‘The 21st Century Food Course’ by New Zealand doctor Luke Wilson (MBChB, BA, MSc) and Craig Hagan. Week 1 can be downloaded for free at www.twozestybananas.com/21stcenturyfoodcourse/)

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