Another Point of Agreement
Day 343, 164-179
Well, I have found another square meter of common ground in the pro-veggie diet book I am reading. The author really goes to town talking down dairy, and I'm inclined to agree. We differ a little on the methods, but we both end up in (almost) the same place. He starts off pointing out that all the largest animals on the planet rely on plants for their calcium, so surely us tiny humans could get enough calcium from plants. To that, I say maybe. Calcium is a soil mineral, and many plants efficiently take it up through their roots and incorporate it into their various parts, so there is a lot of calcium in plants. However, there are lot of differences between us and other animals on the inside, perhaps more glaring than the external size differences. For example, cows and many other animals have special stomach called a rumen, which allows for prolonged digestion of plant matter. This helps them break down tough fiber in plants and release more vitamins and minerals to be absorbed further along in the digestive tract. We don't have a rumen, and although there are many factors in digestion, that is just one example of where we might not be able to extract as much calcium from a plant as a cow. Also, you know who else incorporates calcium into their various tissues? Animals. Red meat is an excellent source of calcium. But I digress; I was supposed to talk about agreeing here.
Dairy products do have calcium. And I do not think it is necessary or even wise to swear them all off. However...cow's milk probably isn't necessary. A glass of milk probably isn't as bad as a can of soda, but it's not great either. It has a lot of sugar, and speaking generally with respect to simple dieting hacks, liquid calories make it easier to overload. What's more, the sugar in milk is lactose, which some people cannot tolerate at all. Also, dairy proteins are often associated with sensitivities as well. In cases of suspected food intolerances, dairy intake is often a good place to start looking because of this.
While I don't think plain milk is a a great nutritional resource, fermented dairy products such as yogurt and kefir are worth exploring. The fermenting culture consumes the lactose, reducing the sugar content, and the culture is often helpful for increasing and/or maintaining gut microbiome diversity. On this last point, it is helpful to make your own or find some good local sources, as the colony count can die off pretty quickly in commercial preparations. The same idea holds for cheese. Sugar content is decreased as well as whey protein content, which is often suspected of being the prime suspect in dairy sensitivity.
Of course, talk to your doctor before changing up your dairy routine and definitely before adopting your very own cow.