Growing up I cannot remember a single breakfast that wasn’t accompanied by a tall glass of milk. Then there were the grilled cheese sandwiches, mac and cheese, ice cream sundaes, milkshakes, cheeseburgers . . . Yes, I may have held onto my baby fat for a little longer than was necessary, but I imagine I’m not the only white American child that was raised on the principle that dairy = healthy + essential.
Over the past decade, there has been much debate over whether the American diet provides an excess of high protein, high-fat dairy. There is also rising concern that the government supported dairy industry has lead to a brain washed, milk guzzling population. Got milk? Sure, dairy is a good source of calcium, protein + nutrients. But among the animal world, humans are the only species which consume milk after they have started eating solid food let only into adulthood. Biologically, we are not built to digest milk after infancy. Milk is only meant to be consumed during the critical growing period of a newborn, not a full grown adult. The milk sugar lactose cannot be digested in the stomach as is. We need the enzyme lactase to break it down, but that enzyme becomes less and less abundant after infancy. It is no surprise then that many adults develop a lactose intolerance as they get older, because we are no longer producing the enzyme we need to digest it. Interestingly, in populations where milk was an exceptionally important resource to cope with cold climates, such as Scandinavia and northern Europe, these populations underwent a genetic change that gave them the ability to produce lactase throughout their life. 98% of all Scandinavians and 90% of all French and Germans are lactose-tolerant. Thank goodness for my Swedish relatives :)
But what about the rest of the population? Lactose-tolerance is certainly the exception. When a lactose-intolerant person consumes dairy, lactose will pass through the small intestine into the large intestine, where bacteria metabolize it, producing carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane all wonderfully pleasant gases to experience. Lactate also draws water from the intestinal wall, causing a bloating feeling. Sound familiar to anyone?
The controversy arises over the issue of bone health. After all, hasn’t the dairy industry been telling us for decades that milk = strong bones? Well, the reality is, it’s more complicated that that. Sure calcium and all those good nutrients in milk are extremely important to good health, but there are plenty of other means in which we can obtain these. Dark greens like kale, collards, and mustard greens, and dried beans, nuts, corn tortillas, bok choy, and tofu are all good sources of calcium. In addition, once we ingest calcium, we must also hold onto it. The amount of calcium we have available for bone building is affected by the amount we excrete in our urine. And unfortunately the large amount of both salt and animal protein in the American diet actually raises the amount of calcium we excrete. Animal protein is of extreme concern because the sulfer-containing amino acids in meat raises the acidity of the urine when protein is digested, and pulls neutralizing calcium from our bones. If osteoporosis is your concern, then stacking those American cheese slices on your burger is not your solution. The best defense again osteoporosis is frequent exercise and a diet low in salt and animal protein, and high in dairy or non-dairy calcium sources.
Now, I’m not saying you should give up milk, or pizza, or mac and cheese, because heck aren’t those are the foods worth living for in life? But at least if you know the real story you can make a better decision about how often you should really be eating those foods.
So, how bout a dairy free recipe?
Honey Lavender Banana Soft Serve DF
1 frozen banana
1-2 T coconut milk
1 T honey
1-2 t lavender
In a blender or small food processor, blend bananas and coconut milk until a smooth, fluffy + whipped texture is reached. Add honey and lavender and pulse until just combined. Serve immediately.
Now, I’m not gonna lie. Real ice cream beats this dessert hands down, but it is a pretty nice substitute, especially for being dairy free.
And I just realized the next recipe I’m planning to post is a pizza recipe (cheese included). How’s that for controversy? Hope everyone enjoyed a lovely long weekend!