If you’re remotely interested in health, fitness, and general wellness, surely you’ve heard about the recent interrogation on diary. From the hormones to the saturated fat, dairy has gotten a bad rep in the foodie world. But I think the argument regarding dairy is far more nuanced than saying all dairy is good or all dairy is bad. And for those of you who are dairy-free, I’ve got a great cashew dip that even die-hard dairy fans won’t be able to recognize as vegan.
The Mixed Reviews On Dairy
In the 50’s and 60’s, the USDA went ape shit about dairy. The government food pyrmaid recommended Americans to drink milk with cereal for breakfast, have cheese on their sandwich at lunch, and eat yogurt with fruit for a snack like it was nobody’s business.
But then in recent years, our attitudes towards dairy totally shifted. We started interrogating a very wish-washy process for cultivating this food group. We started wondering if pasteurization was really necessary. And to top it all off, we developed a bunch of ‘dairy alternatives’ we could drink guilt-free. Ranging from soy to almond to hemp, it seems like every time you walk down the dairy aisle at a local grocery store you find anything but actual cow’s milk.
In other words, there is a pretty rigid dichotomy in the health and food world about the incorporation of dairy into our diets. I’ve met with many clients who fear cutting out dairy will put them at risk for osteoporosis. I’ve had other clients who swear by their almond milk despite how it could be loaded with even more GMOs and additives than cow milk. Google carrageenan and see what you find.
I like to think that I straddle between both the dairy world and the non-dairy world. I don’t shy away from a probiotic rich food like yogurt or even cheese. But at the same time, I’m mindful and try to steer clear of consuming dairy all day every day. It took me a while to figure out which foods were better in their natural dairy form, and which foods I’d be better off substituting, but I think I finally found a balance that will satisfy dairy eaters and non-eaters alike.
5 Dairy and Non-Dairy Myths Debunked
Before we get to today’s recipe, I’d like to debunk a few myths that seem to be swimming around the dairy pool. Don’t think that gossip, rumors, and hearsay are only for the school cafeteria. All sorts of outlandish ideas about food pop up in the nutrition world all the time. Check out these five myths about diary and non-dairy alternatives
- You need to drink milk for calcium and strong bones–While it’s true that cow’s milk has a decent amount of calcium, don’t think that you can only acquire this mineral from dairy products. We’ve learned in recent years that a variety of vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes provide a ton calcium. When purchased organically, veggies like kale, nuts like cashews, and legumes like mung beans can easily provide all the calcium you need in a day. Why organic? Because organic foods are grown in a much more mineral-dense soil than conventional foods. Those minerals are then absorbed at a much higher rate than non-organic foods, resulting in higher mineral (and calcium) levels.
- Dairy alternative milks are always better than cow milk–If you genuinely have an allergy to milk or some form of lactose intolerance, by all means drink a milk alternative. But if you’re reaching for almond or coconut milk because it’s ‘healthier,’ think again. These alternatives usually have a ton of additives and GMO ingredients that could actually be worse for you than regular milk. Even organic varieties have pretty crappy standards that allows them to put chemicals like soy lecithin in their products. If you really want to drink nut milk, try making it yourself. There are a ton of recipes that simply require the nuts, a little water, and a blender.
- Pasteurization of cow milk is essential to kill harmful bacteria–Surely you grew up drinking pasteurized milk. In fact, did you know it’s illegal to sell raw dairy products in the United States? Advocates of pasteurization argue that the process kills harmful bacteria that could make you sick. While this is true to some degree, the high heat used during the pasteurization process kills all good AND bad bacteria. We’re slowly starting to catch on to the overuse of antibiotics and sterilization, and that means interrogating the processes we use to make food safe. Remember that in the history of human civilization, pasteurization is a pretty recent thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next five years raw dairy makes a comeback in the food world. Yep, you heard it hear first!
- Skim milk is better for you than whole milk–Do you even know how skim milk came to be? It’s the extra milk that’s leftover after farmers skim all the cream off of it to make heavy cream. Up until the second World War, it was actually fed to chickens and pigs to fatten them up and help them grow. But during the war, farmers developed a brilliant way to alleviate the food rations. They started selling skim milk to people as a way to boost sales and give Americans some relief. If you want to take a moment and go all paleo for a second, our ancestors didn’t have access to fancy machinery to remove fat from milk. They most likely drank whole milk in its raw, unpasteurized form!
- Calcium-fortified organic soy milk is a great for my vegan lifestyle–There have been recent rumors circulating about soy products and their link to breast cancer. First of all, it’s impossible to say that any one food causes a specific illness. There are simply too many factors that could account for such a correlation. We have concluded, however, that regular consumption of soy products could mess with our hormones, leading to a syndromes called estrogen dominance. Now, estrogen dominance isn’t going to kill you. BUT it can definitely make you more susceptible to a variety of other illnesses as trivial as chronic headaches and as serious as cancer. Steer clear or soy products, even organic soy milk, if this is a concern for you.
Today’s recipe is great because it’s easy! You can serve this as a dip with veggies, pita chips, or even use it as a vegan mayonnaise.