Got milk?
February 26 2020 10:42 PM
Reem Abdulrahman  Jassim al-Muftah
Reem Abdulrahman Jassim al-Muftah

By Reem Abdulrahman Jassim al-Muftah

It’s so funny seeing all these studies and articles bashing certain food groups and I will never understand that strategy, but when it comes to me, I do not base my diet decisions on trends, I base it on research. I do not appreciate or respect those who hate on certain food groups and do not consider all other angles in the situation or all other comparisons within the same context. People discussing food groups and certain products should provide hard facts, examples and general advice for both sides of the story and then justify their personal take on it, not just attack the products and explain their biased views. So I’m choosing to briefly discuss dairy this week and the rationale behind those products, so let’s get real with the facts.
Because this is a short article and I cannot get into too much detail, I will make it brief and simple. To start, let’s go back to the basics. We all know that milk is produced by female mammals to feed their newborns; so it is a fact that newborns, including human babies, need human milk. Do humans (even animals) really need or require milk to survive? No. In that case, should we still drink milk and consume dairy products? In the end, there are numerous studies and professional reads that argue that there are pros and cons to having dairy, but this further goes to show, there is no wrong or right answer, only you have the answer. Milk has so many benefits but can also be harmful for some people, such as those that are lactose intolerant or those who feel some sort of discomfort after consuming dairy. Personally, the fact that we have lactose tolerant and intolerant people makes me feel more confident that milk is not bad, but not the best fit for some people. The same goes with the case in intolerance associated to dairy, the intolerance to the protein found in milk, not the sugar (lactose). So we have established that some people cannot tolerate certain dairy products and this is a no-go for them as their body rejects them. In this case, there is a biological reason why someone cannot have dairy, and that is clear.
Looking at all the studies that show the benefits of milk and diary products, you can tell that there definitely is a reason for the high consumption of milk and it’s by-products and that they provide an abundance of natural nutrients that the body does require. Simultaneously, when you look at the chemical make-up of milk, lactose (milk sugar) is really high and may be harmful in big amounts. When it comes to the high amounts of sugar, I agree that minimising your direct intake of milk is beneficial as is with all other high-sugar products, especially when it comes to children. Here is where I will step in and get a bit more direct, children do not need to be drinking milk after being breastfed or after fully passing that critical newborn stage. I am not saying they shouldn’t have it, I’m saying that since it’s really high in sugar, that one could easily decrease the consumption and substitute it with other plant-based milk alternatives or by focusing on other highly beneficial dairy products. 
Fermented milk products are cultured and have great benefits. Milk is not that high in probiotics as are the fermented derivates of milk, such as yogurt, kefir and some cheeses. The process of fermentation also helps break down the lactose and usually significantly reduces the amount of lactose to even a bare minimum where lactose-intolerant people can actually comfortably consume certain products; one can still gain the benefits of the essential nutrients found in dairy with almost no lactose, therefore, less sugar and more probiotics.
So what’s my motto when it comes to milk and dairy products? I try not to include milk in my diet due to the high sugar content, but I do not mind it here and there in small amounts. When it comes to other dairy products, I make sure to get my dosage of essential nutrients through yogurt, laban, labnah or some cheeses an average of once a day. This is because I am able to tolerate small amounts of dairy and want to make sure I am eating a well-balanced diet full of calcium, protein, vitamin D and probiotics.
If you stop or really reduce your milk intake, make sure to get enough vitamin D because the beauty of natural animal milk is that it has the perfect practicality of including calcium but also helps you absorb the calcium simultaneously due to the Vitamin D found naturally in it too. Also be ware of the food products that inhibit calcium absorption such as spinach, sweet potato, beans, high fiber foods such as whole wheat and high sodium foods. When stopping milk, you can get your calcium from other foods but make sure your getting your critical dosage of Vitamin D which is mainly found in milk, eggs, fatty fish, butter, man-made fortified foods or supplements. 

The author is a wellness advocate and influencer @keys2balance.

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