Alisa Fleming ~ My goal isn’t to milk bash. Not at all, in fact. I have many friends and family members who dutifully consume their dairy, and who am I to tell them otherwise? My job is to help people like myself, who want to or need to live dairy-free, do it successfully. Success to me means that they enjoy the food that they can eat and are healthy thanks to their diet.
That said, one major roadblock for people who are switching to a dairy-free diet is fear due to misinformation. They have either been told, or received the impression that a healthy diet cannot be had without dairy, and that dairy-free living is just far too inconvenient. To help relieve some concerns, I’ve got a few myth buster facts to share:
Myth #1: Real milk doesn’t need shaking
Odds are that most of you have seen this utterly ridiculous advertisement where a mom goes into an insane fit (they liken her to the monster of nightmares) shaking a carton of almond milk. Just a word of warning, if anyone spots you shaking milk alternative like this, they may have you committed. It’s pretty much like orange juice. Some may settle on the bottom, so you give it a quick shake (I emphasize quick here) to ensure that all of the good stuff is well dispersed.
But there was another thing that I found disturbing about the ad … the claim at the end stating that “real milk doesn’t need shaking.” On the contrary, real, unprocessed milk separates and indeed needs quite a bit of shaking or churning. The conventional and organic cow milk products that you will find at most grocery stores are homogenized, or processed, so that the particles suspend to create a fluid beverage that is easily drinkable right from the carton.
Myth #2: Milk is an unprocessed food
As mentioned, milk is homogenized to make it more appealing to drink, and so that you don’t have to take that extra second out of your day to shake it. In addition, it is pasteurized, or heated to very high temperatures, to kill off most of the bacteria. Dairy farms aren’t the most sanitary of places, not by a long shot, so the milk must be cooked before it is fit for human consumptions. When all is said and done, the milk sold in cartons at most stores, whether conventional or organic, is a far cry from raw, natural dairy milk. What we think of as milk in the dairy aisle, is in fact a very processed food.
Myth #3: The milk most Americans consume is a good natural source of vitamin D
All of that processing strips dairy milk of many of its vitamins, including the naturally occurring Vitamins A and D. Processors therefore fortify the milk with Vitamin D and Vitamin A. Yes, the vitamin D in milk is in essence exactly the same as the vitamin D found in other fortified products.* But beware, although processors are required to fortify milk with Vitamin A, they are not required to fortify it with vitamin D. It has become fairly standard practice to do so, but even so, some dairy farms may opt to skip the D injection.
Myth #4: The calcium in milk is better for you than the calcium in other foods
For some reason, there is a public perception that only the calcium in milk is quality calcium. This is a rather broad topic and one that I go into more detail on in the calcium section in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook. However, I can easily tell you that many studies have been done on calcium absorption from various foods, and not only do many non-dairy calcium sources measure up to dairy milk, some are actually better! Here are just a few to quickly digest:
- High-calcium mineral waters have absorbability equal to milk calcium or slightly better.
- Soymilk fortified with calcium carbonate has an equivalent rate of absorption to cow’s milk.
- Calcium Citrate, used to fortify orange juice, was absorbed significantly better by humans than the calcium from cow’s milk.
- Calcium from leavened whole wheat bread shows higher rate of absorption than cow’s milk.
- Kale exhibits higher rate of calcium absorption than milk.
*Vitamin D Note: The primary difference in vitamin D fortification is whether vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 is used. The former is plant-based and the latter is animal-based. This will vary from product to product, and some argue that D3 is superior in effectiveness, while some studies show that they are fairly equivalent. A whole other topic for another day!
Article by Alisa Fleming, founder of GoDairyFree.org and author of the best-selling book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a freelance writer for several publications and a recipe creator for the natural food industry with an emphasis on dairy-free living and other special diets.