There are many reasons to go dairy free. Ethical, health or environmental...whatever your reason, cutting out dairy is a step towards a healthier life.
The dairy industry
If you’re unsure of how the dairy industry works it’s definitely worth learning about to know where your dairy products are coming from, but here’s a quick overview.
In order for cows to produce milk they must first have a calf, which is then taken away from them soon after birth in order for the milk to be used for human consumption instead. Throughout their lives, each dairy cow will have several calves and so will have to go through this process multiple times. In addition to this, cows are often kept inside for several months each year, and crowded conditions can lead to lameness and bacterial infections such as mastitis. To reduce these infections, antibiotics are often given which can end up in your milk, along with hormones that may be given to the cows by farmers. Finally, dairy cows are considered “spent” after producing several calves as their fertility and milk production will drop, and are culled after just a few years of life.
In addition to the ethical side of dairy farming, we have to think about the environmental impact too. The dairy industry is extremely intensive, with huge amounts of crops needing to be grown just to feed the cows. 100 calories of cattle feed only produces 40 calories of milk, making dairy an extremely wasteful product. With plant based milks, the crops directly become the milk and so the entire process is more environmentally friendly and less wasteful.
Dairy products aren’t as healthy as you think
Milk and other dairy products contain high levels of saturated fat, which can lead to a variety of health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. Cheese is particularly high in fat, making it a particularly dangerous food. Several studies have also linked the consumption of dairy to an increased risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancers, including one particular study that found women consuming the highest amounts of dairy, particularly cheese, had a 53% higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Hard to digest
According to statistics, 65% of the human population cannot digest milk past infancy. The main sugar in milk is lactose; typically, the enzyme that breaks down lactose - lactase - stops being produced when we reach 2-5 years old. If a person steadily consumes milk (or any other dairy product) after losing the ability to produce lactase, they can end up with digestive problems. The undigested lactose sits in your system and can cause issues such as bloating, cramping, nausea, constipation and diarrhea. Not to mention the fact that we are the only species that drinks milk from another species...!
Think you may have a lactose intolerance? Take this quick quiz to find out
There are so many alternatives!
There are so many plant-based milks these days, why would you need to drink cow’s milk anyway? Almond, soy, coconut, oat… if you’re not convinced, try a frothy oat milk latte or coconut milk in your morning oatmeal to see for yourself how good the alternatives can be! And there are non-dairy alternatives for lots of other products too, such as vegan cheese and soy yoghurt.
What about calcium?
Cutting out dairy doesn’t mean cutting out calcium - it’s not the only source in the world! You are better off getting your calcium from dark leafy greens, vegetables, legumes, nuts, chickpeas, tofu, beans, and so much more. The human body can only absorb 32% of the calcium in milk, whereas the body can absorb 40-64% of the calcium found in beans and most greens. 1 cup of cooked has the same amount of absorbable calcium as 1 cup of dairy milk.