“Got Soy Milk?”

By: Hannah Paynter

Recently my friend went to the doctor for a bad cough. The diagnosis was bronchitis and the cure, in addition to an inhaler and medicine, was to stop eating dairy. More and more consumers are turning away from dairy products in favor of plant based alternatives. Many people choose these products as a result of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. More recently, however, people have decided to turn away from dairy, due to a concern for health risks. The demand for dairy-less products has been met with more alternatives than milk itself. Since 2012, non-dairy milk sales have grown an impressive 61%. In a society, where the slogan “Got Milk” used to rule them all, what beliefs have led to these concerns and is there any truth behind them?

One of the first arguments that always comes up against drinking dairy milk is that is it unnatural. Humans are in fact the only species that drink milk in adulthood and of course the only species that drinks milk from another animal. Therefore, biologically, it doesn’t necessarily make sense that milk would be needed for a healthy lifestyle. In fact, it is estimated that about three quarters of the world is lactose intolerant, though this often doesn’t apply to fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, or high fat products, such as butter.

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Another argument commonly used against milk is that while it does contain vitamins and calcium, these things can easily be obtained through other parts of your diet. In addition, milk could contain high level of  pesticides and synthetic hormones that are used to increase milk production in cows. When these hormones are consumed by humans, they can affect normal hormone function and bring unwanted consequences like an increase in hormonal acne.

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Overall though, dairy products do still have nutritive value. They contain calcium, vitamin D, potassium, vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium, and more. The list goes on and on. In fact, dairy tends to contain a little bit of everything we need, although it should be noted that many of these healthy fats and vitamins are removed in low-fat and skim dairy products. Full fat dairy products are much better for your health than alternative dairy options.

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The bottom line is that there is no clear cut answer as to whether diary is good or bad for you. The health risks and benefits vary across the board from person to person. However, the good news is that if you do make the decision to remove dairy from you diet, no matter what your reasons may be, the products out there are endless and on the rise. Many stores and restaurants have began to prioritize alternative options to dairy. Currently, the most popular alternatives are almond, soy, and coconut-based. Rising products to watch out for are oat milk, barley milk, flax milk, hemp milk, pea milk, and quinoa milk. All of these products contain different combinations of vitamins and minerals to help you stay healthy while maintaining a dairy-free diet.

HANNAH PAYNTER is a sophomore in the College studying Biology of Global Health. When she is not inside a lab you can find her playing ultimate frisbee, listening to The xx, and getting Wingos delivered any day of the week.

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