• Almond Milk and the Cow’s Milk Debate

    Posted on May 16, 2012 by Elaine in Calorie Counter, Get in My Fridge!, Thoughts and Musings, Weight Loss.

    As a little girl, I always suffered from stomach aches drinking whole milk.   Cereal (of course back then, of the processed variety – Lucky Charms and Corn Pops  and Capt’n Crunch were my favorite!) just could not be eaten without milk – whole milk nonetheless.

    Not knowing about almond milk back then, I continued to drink milk.   My Saturday morning cartoons were not the same without my bowl of cereal and whole milk.  I would have to lay down on the couch in a fetal position because my stomach hurt that bad from the cow’s milk.   But I would endure the pain just to be able to eat my bowl of cereal.

    Although a lot of Asians are lactose intolerant, eventually I discovered I was not.  I was able to eat ice cream and not have the stomach pains so I knew that the culprit was just cow’s milk.  I continued to drink cow’s milk and eventually my body got used to it.   Nowadays, I can drink whole cow’s milk without any stomach issues at all.  But as I continue on my journey to becoming a holistic health coach and continue to seek and absorb knowledge on different food items and health subjects, I find that cow’s milk is a food item that interests me less and less.

    Instead, what I have leaned towards is almond milk, of the unsweetened variety.   Most people really only drink cow’s milk because it is high in protein, around 8 grams, and because of its calcium content.  But did you know that almond milk has more calcium than cow’s milk?  Others drink whole milk because what goes better with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies than a tall glass of ice cold whole milk?  It has also been ingrained in our heads to include milk in our diet.  From the famous “Got Milk” ads showing celebrities with milk moustaches to the government food pyramid that touts milk should be included in the daily American diet.

    Whole milk contains both whey and casein as protein.  Casein is what often causes the allergies in people who are on a gluten-free diet but continue to drink milk.  That’s the reason why you will often see people who are on a gluten-free diet drinking almond milk or rice milk instead.   Almond milk is kind of watery and if you get the unsweetened variety, it will lack a bit of taste.  But I promise you, it is something you can get used to :) .

    Almond milk has only 1 gram of protein compared to around 8 grams in cow’s milk.  But, remember, there are SO many different sources of protein – salmon, sardines, eggs, etc.  And there are SO many other sources of calcium besides cow’s milk – green leafy vegetables (swiss chard, collard greens, kale), unsweetened plain yogurt, sesame seeds, tofu, sardines, blackstrap molasses, soybeans, broccoli, okra and almonds.

    Give almond milk a chance – it’s got more calcium than cow’s milk and will treat your intestinal tract with more care than cow’s milk.  Plus, with the heated debate surrounding cow’s milk nowadays, it might just be safer to opt for unsweetened almond milk.  There is a HUGE debate as to whether or not dairy, particularly cow’s milk, is necessary in the American diet.  I will leave it up to you to decide if cow’s milk is still for you.

    Michelle Obama and the Food Administration replaced the American food pyramid with the My Plate visual.  This visual basically says half your plate should be fruits and vegetables and the other half grains and protein.  It also has a circle showing dairy, suggesting milk.

    Many nutritionists are against cow’s milk, particularly, Dr. Walter Willett who recently spoke to my nutrition class.  Dr. Willett,  is the head nutritionist at Harvard’s School of Public Health.   He says that the rate of bone fractures are actually higher in countries that drink cow’s milk versus those countries that do not consume cow’s milk, like Africa and Asia.  Dr. Willet also said that the likelihood of prostate cancer increases with high dairy consumption (so that includes cheeses, ice cream, and yogurt, although plain, fat-free yogurt is okay).  Dr. Willet says we should all limit our intake of red meat, limit our intake of butter or lard, eat WHOLE grains versus refined, processed grains, and most importantly, limit our dairy intake.

    But if you read this article from Men’s Health, you will find that most men like to drink milk and do so to lose fat and gain muscle.  This article addresses the issue of potential hormones and antibiotics in cow’s milk, whether milk actually helps you to lose fat and gain muscle, and if you should drink whole or skim milk.   It says that men who drank whole milk had a 2.8 percent more muscle protein synthesis than those who drank skim milk.

    My nutrition school currently espouses this food pyramid, which I particularly like.  You will find along the way as I share my knowledge with you, that there will always be more than one viewpoint for things.  I will always share with you the top most significant views and let you choose on your own which one you find more of an affinity towards – which one fits more with your lifestyle.

    In this case, I have already shared with you the government view on the essential American diet.   I find more of an affinity towards the view that the essential American diet includes not just the foods that we ingest, which they call “secondary food,” but that our diet for optimal health, also includes “primary foods,” which includes healthy relationships, career, spirituality, and physical activity.  This food pyramid does not mention dairy at all in the recommended American diet, but rather WATER.

    So in summary, if you DO want to keep some type of “milk” in your diet, almond milk is a great alternative.  It has NO SUGAR (unlike cow’s milk which has about 12 grams) and has NO CHOLESTEROL (unlike cow’s milk which has 5 mg).   Depending on which brand you buy, you will find that almond milk has more calcium, more vitamin E and less calories per glass than cow’s milk.   Obviously you can figure out what I have decided to do for my diet in terms of cow’s milk :) .

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