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The Drama of Dairy (part two)

Shara and Mini Human #4, Easter Sunday.

Shara and Mini Human #4, Easter Sunday.

The Drama of Dairy continues…

This is the second post in a two-part series. You can read the first post here: The Drama of Dairy (part one). As mentioned in the first post, I invited two non-dairy dieticians to engage in conversation with me and to share their research; one of them declined and the other did not reply.

The below ramblings highlight my research from our family journey toward healthier eating and living.

Ramblings of a Dutch Aussie (aka: me)

You may assume that my research ended with the replies I received from The National Dairy Council. That’s not the case. I have continued to read, listen, ask questions and learn more. I interviewed the school nurse at the elementary school in which I work. I asked her how she feels about dairy. She doesn’t work for the milk industry so I knew she wouldn’t care one hoot about answering with any agenda.

She told me, “I think dairy is fine. Most parents feed their children a poor diet these days and that includes too much fat. So I always recommend that those parents give their kids low-fat dairy rather than the fatty products. The kids don’t need more fat but they could use the calcium and protein.” She went on to tell me that it bothers her to watch obese people drinking whole milk but that’s another matter altogether…she referred to herself at this time, letting me know that she blames her own obesity on unhealthy food choices – namely high fat and sugar intake. She is older now and looking back, she regrets her food choices and lack of exercise.

Back to my point…

I pushed her a little more: “I give my kids whole milk because I feel as though the healthy fat from milk is good for their brains. However, we eat a low fat diet in other areas and my kids eat a ton of fruits and veggies. They drink water all day long, in between having a glass of milk and eating cheese. They exercise non stop by playing outside, jumping on our trampoline, walking to the park and more. So they burn off the fat. I am not really worried about them getting too much fat from the milk. What do you think?” She answered, “Well, most parents are not like you. They don’t give their kids healthy food to begin with and they don’t have their kids exercise. Their kids are too busy watching TV and playing video games now and their foods are all processed. But yes. If you have your kids eat lots of healthy foods and exercise on a regular basis, the fat from the milk won’t bother them at all.”

My colleague Beth, from 411 Voices, wrote a post about dairy and one lady left a comment with a link to the following article: High fat dairy and breast cancer (Medical News Today). She stated that she believes her cancer was caused by dairy intake. I think it’s good to note that the study stated that people who already have the cancer need to stay away from high fat dairy. The study is clear that high fat is the primary issue:

The investigators found that a high-fat dairy diet was linked to a greater breast cancer death rate – no association was found in low-fat dairy products though. [Medical News Today, March 18, 2013]

One of my favorite posts, found while researching, is this one: How the Dutch stay slim. I am half Dutch and half Australian. My mother is full blooded Dutch. We grew up eating cheese and yogurt and drinking milk. My parents have always believed that dairy products assist with strong bone development and calcium intake. My mother began buying Tillamook Cheese during my childhood. I buy their cheese to this day. In fact, my father was hired by Tillamook to paint the murals on their restaurant walls throughout the Northwest. Unless they have been painted over…the murals stand as a testimony to my family’s history with the Tillamook brand. My father painted a picture of me onto one of those walls, as a child. I was standing beside a horse at the age of nine.

[And now – a short break of silence for a moment of nostalgia.]

And we’re back: growing up, we ate everything in moderation and watched our portion sizes. My mother allowed treats on Friday nights (licorice and chips) during family movie time and insisted that we all learn to eat in moderation. Otherwise, she kept sugar and junk food away from us. No one in my family is over-weight. We all believe in eating a healthy and balanced diet along with getting daily exercise. I love the article about “how the Dutch stay slim.” When I visited Holland as a child all of my relatives ate cheese sandwiches and drank milk. They believed in hard work, too, which tells me – they were burning off the fat they were eating.

There are those links again, eh?…Exercise. Moderation. Small portion sizes.

These things seem to matter. Very much.

Here’s another fun take on why the Dutch stay healthier than others, even with all that dairy consumption:

Did you enjoy that six full minutes of nothing but bike riding? Pretty riveting, I know.

As I continued to read and learn I came upon multiple articles that stuck with me. Here’s an interesting post I found about the differences between organic and regular milk. A friend of mine had told me that there are no differences between organic milk and regular milk. This is not true. While visiting the farm we learned that organic cows are required to grass feed for at least 120 days per year. They are treated for illness by natural means unless they must have antibiotics for fear of death. If they are given antibiotics to keep them alive, they are moved to live with the regular cows and can never again be called “organic.” In addition, organic cows are given organic feed. After learning all of this, my family opts for the Shamrock Farms USDA Organic Milk. We also recently began buying the Shamrock Farms Organic Sour Cream. My one year old gets the Whole Milk (with the fat content – for her brain – pediatrician recommended) and the rest of us now drink the 1% or the 2% (we rotate).

promo-why-organicI had heard on the news that the milk industry wanted to use aspartame in their drinks. I went to and learned that the milk industry wishes to use aspartame in flavored milk only and they fully intend to label that on their products. Next, I wanted to know if aspartame is considered safe, scientifically speaking. I found a post at the National Cancer Institute that talked about artificial sweeteners. You can click over to learn more about what the National Cancer Institute has to say in regard to aspartame when used in tiny increments. Here’s my favorite line from the study:

In 2005, a laboratory study found more lymphomas and leukemias in rats fed very high doses of aspartame (equivalent to drinking 8 to 2,083 cans of diet soda daily).

Seriously folks, if you are drinking 8 to 2,083 cans of soda a day, I fully expect that you’ll get cancer. In fact, I think your gut will explode. You’ve been warned. You’re welcome.

Farmers, Miss Mollie & Matilda

I went on to read about farmers. I wanted to know, “Do farmers have a higher rate of cancer? Might that be caused by drinking milk?” I found a page on the site that talks about farmers and cancer. However, they basically only discuss the matter of pesticides and cancer – they don’t mention diary. I found it interesting to note that the studies indicate low rates of cancer among farmers, in general. I will venture to guess, once again, that hard work and exercise are factors here: most farmers work very hard and they spend lots of time in the sunshine (Vitamin D). I tell the kids in our class: “Work is good for you. Sunshine is good for your body and brain. Don’t sit around playing video games for hours on end – go PLAY!” Farmers know this, too: a sedentary lifestyle = an early death. Sitting now and again is fine. Making sitting your full-time lifestyle is bad.

While doing my research I emailed Mollie numerous times, from Dairy Management Inc, an organization funded by farmers. I met Mollie in California and thought she was swell. I enjoy chatting with Mollie and I put her in touch with my pal Matilda (mentioned in part one) so they can converse about all-things-dairy. Here’s a portion of Mollie’s email to Matilda:

It’s great that you ask questions and are truly interested in all sides of a topic. We need a stronger connection between farmer and consumer since most of us do not have a connection to farming anymore. I’ve worked for dairy farmers for 12 years but my prior work was in fund raising for non-profits including the Arthritis Foundation and the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Growing up in a Midwestern suburb, I visited a farm maybe once a year.

A couple things I have learned are:

1) Cow care is a farmer’s highest priority. Comfortable, well-cared for animals provide nutritious, safe and wholesome milk. We deplore anyone who abuses animals; those who do are rare. We are constantly looking for ways to ensure the best care for our cows.

2) Misinformation is rampant. Hopefully the above links and comments below will clarify some topics.

Let me briefly comment on a couple specific issues. First, I’m glad you are aware of the risks in raw milk; but I want to assure you that the nutrition in milk is the same before and after pasteurization and homogenization. These techniques do not change the composition nor nutrition.

Second, from my experience in the non-profit world I learned the value of good research and judge the merit of current studies on food or medicine the same way. If research is backed up with an independent peer-review process, I put more faith in it. I learned that many times “industry” is the only place where money is available to conduct the research. The peer-review process helped me overcome my mistrust of industry funded research. To make sure it’s not a marketing ploy, any research we fund as the National Dairy Council is submitted for peer-review, even when a study’s results don’t support our hypothesis. We know it takes a long time to build a reputation but only a minute to lose it so we value and guard our credibility by following sound science guidelines.

Mollie linked over to an article at Men’s Health: Is milk really healthy for you? The National Dairy Council was not involved with these findings so the information can be viewed as impartial. Whew.

kids and cow mural

This is me, taking a photo of two of my kids, at the Shamrock Farms farm in Arizona.

Here are a few tips from the Men’s Health post that I found especially interesting:

  • The researchers discovered that calcium supplements didn’t work as well as milk. Why? They believe that while calcium may increase the rate at which your body burns fat, other active compounds in dairy products (such as milk proteins) provide an additional fat-burning effect.
  • In fact, milk is one of the best muscle foods on the planet. You see, the protein in milk is about 20 percent whey and 80 percent casein. Both are high-quality proteins, but whey is known as a “fast protein” because it’s quickly broken down into amino acids and absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Unlike steroid hormones, which can be taken orally, rBGH and IGF must be injected to have any effect. That’s because the process of digestion destroys these “protein” hormones. So drinking milk from hormone-treated cows doesn’t transfer the active form of these chemicals to your body.
  • Some scientists argue that milk from cows given antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance in humans, making these types of drugs less effective when you take them for an infection. But this finding has never been proven.
  • The bottom line: Drinking two to three glasses of milk a day, whether it’s skim, 2 percent, or whole, lowers the likelihood of both heart attack and stroke—a finding confirmed by British scientists.

[Men’s Health, May 7, 2013]

This & That

In a comment section under one of the articles I read, I saw this note:

N.B. For those doubting whether the inclusion of milk in the diet has any evidence for improving body composition and helping with fat loss, please look up the work of Professor Stuart Phillips from McMaster University in Canada who has published extensively on this subject. By way of example, please read the following article: Body composition and strength changes in women drinking milk. Josse AR, Tang JE, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jun;42(6):1122-30.

I Googled this Professor Stuart Phillips fellow. You can read up on him if you wish to know more about his findings related to dairy. He is not related to the National Dairy Council so you can assume his findings were impartial.

This is a photo that I swiped from Wendy's Facebook wall.

This is a photo that I swiped from Wendy’s Facebook wall.

Wendy Woman

Meet Wendy. She runs a site called Kidlutions. Wendy is one of my go-to people for anything related to parenting, social emotional development, emotional intelligence and education. I wanted to know her opinion on dairy products. I trust Wendy more than most humans in this world and she always tells-me-like-it-is. She doesn’t beat around the bush with me or protect me with sugar talk. I know I can trust her to be honest and ethical and I know she researches topics as much as I do. So I went to Wendy for her opinion. Wendy is a source of truth in my world and I would trust her with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back.

Here was her reply to me:

As a Child and Family therapist, I am concerned with my young clients from a holistic stance. Intake evaluations always include a section on feeding/nutrition. Nutritional deficits and poor eating habits can have a huge impact on behavior. At times, some parents are referred to their local physician, dietician or nutritionist for further analysis and evaluation. This can be a critical factor in returning some youth to optimal functioning, or at the very least, improving symptoms, including behavioral problems.

Proteins, minerals and vitamins are the building blocks of a well-functioning brain. We would never dream of putting anything other than fuel in our gas tank, yet our kids are often allowed to eat things that have no nutritional value whatsoever. This serves to crowd out the good foods that make the human brain and body a well-oiled machine. I like to help kids understand this, too. It is true that foods can heal. It is also true that the wrong kinds of foods can cause disease. The more we stick to “whole foods”, the more nutrition we will get.

Short of having a milk allergy, I see dairy as an incredible source of nutrition. But don’t take it from me, see what a Registered Dietician has to say about it. Cheryl Orlansky, RD, LD, CDE, states that milk is close to nutritionally perfect. In her words, “Dairy Delivers.”

On a personal note, as a mom of three athletes, I rely on dairy on a daily basis in my own home. My kids’ standard go-to after a grueling hockey game is chocolate milk. It’s better for them than sports drinks. While fueling the body, dairy also helps build muscle and bone. We have it, in one of its various forms, at every meal.

I have seen photos of Wendy’s three children (teens). They are all lean and healthy, actively involved in the sport of hockey (I find hockey scary but Wendy assures me it’s awesome). Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Wendy.

Here are 10 conclusions I have come to at this point in my food research (in no particular order):

1. We learned, while visiting the Shamrock Farms farm, that dairy is the most regulated food source in America. Dairy is more regulated than seafood, poultry, produce or beef. It goes through numerous safety tests before it’s allowed to sell on the store shelf.

2. Eat all food in moderation. Watch your portion sizes. Gluttony is bad. Food discipline is good. (Short sentences are funny.)

3. A balanced diet can include dairy (we prefer organic), whole grains, some meat (we prefer grass-fed), organic snacks (we enjoy the CADIA brand, Kettle Chips, Annie’s and Mary’s Gone Crackers) and occasional treats (I eat yogurt covered raisins when I’m in the mood for ‘candy’). We also enjoy organic chocolate but sadly, it’s dang expensive. “Dear organic chocolate people: I’ll buy more of your goods if you lower the prices. Thank you very much. That is all.”

4. Stay away from fast food unless it’s a healthier option. I like Greek food, when I feel the need to splurge, as they use fresh vegetables in their products. They also use olive oil. We eat Greek food a few times per year, nothing more.

5. For everything you read, saying something is good for you, another report will say that it’s bad for you. For instance, Harvard Health wrote a post about good fat vs bad fat. They list whole milk as bad along with coconut oil. If you read recent posts from Naturalists they will often mention using coconut oil in cooking because they consider it far healthier than other oils, being GMO-free. In fact, some people believe that coconut oil helps our brains so much that it can be viewed as a cure for Alzheimers. If some folks believe that the fat from coconut oil helps with brain function and memory, perhaps the same can be said about milk. My husband mentioned this the other day, in fact. He told me, “I am starting to wonder if more people have Alzheimers now because so many of us cut out fat from our diets long ago.” After watching the video about coconut oil, it certainly makes you wonder, doesn’t it? It also makes us wonder about milk…According to The Globe and Mail:

Breakfast foods such as cereal, toast, waffles, fruit, milk and yogurt raise blood glucose levels, supplying the brain with the food it needs to power morning activities. Some breakfasts are better than others when it comes to helping kids learn. In a study of elementary-school children, those who ate oatmeal for breakfast scored much better on certain memory tests than kids who were given a low-fibre, refined cereal or no breakfast at all.

Both milk and yogurt are mentioned here as being good breakfast foods, to get the brain powered up.

6. Drink water. I was told that Spring Water is best but I can’t prove it. Maybe you can. I’m all ears. We currently drink filtered tap water and Arrowhead Spring Water.

7. Don’t drink soda. Soda is the devil in a can. The new Pepsi ad from Beyonce makes me laugh: LIVE FOR NOW. Well, yes, that is precisely what you are doing if you drink soda on a regular basis. You are living for NOW rather than thinking of your long term health. True enough, Pepsi. Good tag line.

After all of my reading, I believe that sugar and obesity (aka – lack of exercise) are the leading causes of many American cancers. If you shove sugar and bad fat down your pie hole daily and then sit for 6 hours, watching the tellie – you’re gonna regret it. If you do want soda, switch to a brand like Hansen’s. It’s sweetened with cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup. But remember…everything in moderation. Unless you want all of your teeth to fall out because you think toothless people are sexy. Then by all means – drink it daily.

8. Exercise every single day. Go for walks, limit your TV watching and game playing and GET OFF YOUR BOOTY. Don’t grumble or complain about moving around. Don’t make excuses. Don’t settle for a sedentary schedule if you wish to live a long and healthy life. Do exercises in your own room, at a gym, by walking around the block, with your entire family as an evening routine – it doesn’t matter how you do it – just do it.

9. I recently started walking every day. I’ve been walking daily for about 10 weeks now. People are saying, “You have lost weight! You look skinny!” I have four kids and I remained a size 2 until my third baby. After that, it was more difficult for me to drop the pounds. I’m now wearing a size 4 again and it feels great to have people notice the effort I’ve been making. Our family tossed out most of the junky snacks in our home and we moved toward organic foods. We cut out almost all of our sugar intake and guess what? My son’s ADHD-prone behavior improved! (Read: Rude? Bad Mood? It Could Be the Food!) There’s something we kept in our diets, though. Yep. Dairy. The other day my daughter said, “Mom, can I please have some of that licorice you got from the Natural store?” I replied, “Not now, babe. You already had some sugar earlier.” She said, “Okay, FINE! Can I just have a piece of smoked Gouda then?” LOL. Sure…

10. I have learned that just about everything could cause cancer, eventually: the air, polluted water, cleaning supplies, tainted seafood, tainted soil, licking the bottom of your shoes after walking through the school I work in (haha – gross), an over-consumption of food and more…We are basically living in a cancer war zone and it’s up to you to figure out what you’ll do to hold it at bay. Here’s a tip: spend more time MOVING than you do SITTING. See here: Common questions about diet and cancer [read under “Physical activity”]

My final summary, thus far:

Diary may not be the right choice for your family but as for mine – I see improved behavior and focus in my kids when they eat a diet of fresh organic fruits and vegetables, water (we buy Arrowhead Spring Water), milk (we buy Shamrock organic), cheese (we buy Gouda and Tillamook), yogurt (we buy organic), kale, hummus, GMO-free snacks, nuts, beans, almond butter, fish (wild), eggs (we prefer free range organic brown eggs) and grass-fed beef (limited – we buy it from Costco). We’re all doing great and feeling better than ever. The primary thing we have cut out?

High fructose corn syrup.

So there you have it. Sugar. It does a body bad. Dairy? You decide.

More reading (if I haven’t fried your brain already):


Disclaimer: I have been contracted by the National Dairy Council through 411 Voices to generate dialog and conversation related to dairy consumption and production. All personal opinions expressed are my own.

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36 Responses to “The Drama of Dairy (part two)”

  1. Louise S. says:

    I have really enjoyed, learned and related to so much of what you offered in these two Dairy Drama articles. It is funny, I am learning so much about eating healthy by reading reliable articles such as this one. I have stated in other articles and will reiterate here, docs who helped me with weight loss after thyroid surgery insisted on good dairy consumption to maintain health and bone density.

    BRAVO for a comprehensive, fun and relatable set of articles. THANK YOU!!

  2. Shara says:

    Thanks, Louise. I spent weeks and weeks reading and researching. Be sure to watch the Dutch video of the bike riders; it’s super exciting. ;-) Keep me posted on your health updates, of course!! xoxo

  3. Ava says:

    Shara I was completely riveted by this incredible well written well researched piece you posted!
    I can’t believe how much I learned and I so appreciate your doing this research!

    As you mentioned it’s a complete lifestyle overhaul to build and maintain a healthy life style!
    i love the whole portion size healthy foods lots of activity and of course i add dont forget the feelings kids have!
    I love that you’re opening up this dialogue for folks!

  4. Shara says:

    Ava: Thanks for the kind comments. I appreciate it! I know how health conscious you are so I value your input here; thanks. I’m thrilled to know that I was able to teach you something you hadn’t already researched.

    Oh, gosh, yes – feelings, too! That’s another post, though, eh? You have been writing numerous posts about that topic for my blog lately and the readers are loving it (according to the traffic stats). Thanks so much for helping parents figure out ways to talk to their kids about feelings! I listed your book as one of my 30 favorite books for kids (on my ECE site), helping kids talk rather than eating their way through their emotions.

  5. Ava says:

    Again I love the article thank you so much For all the great research information I love learning!
    And thanks for your kind words but I do learn so much from you !
    And your research skills are fantastic!
    Remind me to hire you for my next project:)
    Thanks so much for also listing my book and I’m so glad folks like the topic on feelings!
    We both like living a healthy lifestyle and giving our kids a well-rounded happy healthy active fun creative life!

  6. Shara says:

    You’re welcome. My mother used to tell me to go into research for a living. Back then, I thought she was nuts, but I guess she knew me better than I knew myself.

  7. Scottie says:

    Shara’s articles are informed, articulate, and humorous. She presents her information as story narrative; I remember information from stories. I also enjoy and appreciate the personal mingled with the research . . . we DO know our own bodies. Keep ‘em coming!

  8. Shara says:

    Scottie – You are very kind. Thanks so much. I appreciate you taking the time to read my crazy long posts, too!! xoxo

  9. My husband worked on a dairy farm for over 20 years. You learn a lot about how the industry works when you have hands on experience. Dairy is an important part of your nutritional life at different stages of your life…it’s impact (good or bad) has far reaching consequences. Nothing stays the same for long including your nutritional needs. As infants you need higher fats/proteins for the developing brain and body cells. As teens your body’s needs are changing…and at different stages of adult hood it is also true. My husband no longer is a dairy man…we buy our milk in the store (although that may be changing soon as we are weighing the decision to buy a young cow or possibly a goat). We hear that goats milk is more easily digested and that is a consideration for some members of our family. (We must try it first to make sure it will be something the whole family can embrace as a life choice). Still, it is important to know your family’s nutritional needs no matter where you procure your milk supply. At present, we buy two percent milk and only milk that is produced without added hormones/chemicals. Still, we desire to know exactly what we are consuming by raising, feeding, and milking our own animals because it is becoming increasingly important to where your food supply is coming from; what’s in it, and how it is processed and preserved. Thank you for writing such a thought provoking series of articles Shara. As always, you are on the cutting edge of what is important in today’s world when it comes to improving the lives of our families.

  10. Shara says:

    Rainy – Wow. Thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment. My sister lives on a farm in Oregon and they did buy their own cow, their own pig and more :-) It’s a lot of work but for some folks, they prefer that choice, yes.

    You are correct that people need different things at different stages of life – thanks for pointing that out.

    I always value your wisdom and insight. I had no idea that your hubby used to work on a farm. I learn more about you all the time! Many educational experiences in life = a better mind, eh? ;-)

    Thank you for the kind comments about me, also.

    Please keep me posted about what you decide in regard to your cow purchase. xoxo

  11. Will do Shara. We bought our home many years ago with the idea of becoming semi- self sufficient. We planted fruit trees and bushes, planted gardens, raised beef cows & pigs (years ago); and now we raise chickens,ducks, turkeys, geese and have a family dog. I think regardless of space…we can all do more to be proactive…even if it is just getting to know a local farmer who thinks as you do and help to support them by buying local produce; if a person doesn’t personally have the space to do it themselves. We all need to be informed & make some better choices these days about what we can do to try to take some control over what we put into our family’s bodies food/drink wise. I don’t think we can any longer blindly trust government, big named corporations & companies to make those decisions…after all, who has to live with the consequences? We do! Thanks again Shara for opening a dialogue and creating awareness.

  12. Juli Lipof says:

    Wow, Shara – two great, detailed and informative articles! I know you spent a long time researching in order to give us the best and most unbiased info available…and it really shows. I’m so glad you included the interview with Kim Kirchherr…I think it helped to dispel a lot of the myths that are circulating about dairy. What a shame that the non-dairy dietitians wouldn’t take part in the interview…it would have been interesting to hear their point of view, as well.

    I’m really glad that you provided info about drinking milk and eating dairy products vs. taking calcium supplements. I have family members who say, “I don’t drink milk…but it’s okay because I take a supplement!” It’s really not okay. I have always believed that the best way to get the calcium we need is straight from the glass of milk, slice of cheese or yogurt! We are a dairy loving family…always have been. If my kids aren’t drinking milk, they’re drinking water…no soda for us. I got a kick out of the Pepsi slogan, too.

    “Exercise. Moderation. Small portion sizes.” You said it, Shara! Words to live by.

    Thanks again, Shara for this great info!

  13. Shara says:

    Rainy – When we move back to Oregon in a few years, we fully intend to grow our own garden there. I’m very excited about that. The soil and rain makes Oregon a great place for food growth, unlike Arizona!

  14. Shara says:

    Juli – My kids are the same. They love milk (and we recently starting buying Milo again – from my Aussie childhood – full of vitamins and used by many athletes). I found some at the Asian Market. So they love milk + Milo but otherwise – it’s water. We rarely have juice here although I did find some Organic lemonade at Costco that tastes amazing. I buy that every so often as a treat. My kids drink water all day long so I figure having treats now and again won’t hurt them, so long as they continue to exercise and work it off.

    True – I didn’t even mention supplements. It seems to me that eating the actual food is likely much better than taking a tablet, yes. In fact…I just looked it up!

    Here is what says:

    “Calcium | Is calcium related to cancer? Several studies have suggested that foods high in calcium might help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, and calcium supplements modestly reduce the recurrence of colorectal polyps. But a high calcium intake, whether through supplements or food, has also been linked with an increased risk of prostate cancer. In light of this, men should try to get – but not exceed – recommended levels of calcium, mainly through food sources. As women are not at risk of prostate cancer and are at a higher risk of osteoporosis (bone thinning), they should try to get recommended levels of calcium mainly through food sources. Recommended levels of calcium are 1000 mg/day for people ages 19 to 50 years and 1200 mg/day for people aged older than 50. Dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, as are some leafy vegetables and greens. People who get a lot of their calcium from dairy products should select low-fat or non-fat choices to reduce their intake of saturated fat.”

  15. Rick says:

    Following along the road with Shara to learn about healthier living and the value of dairy has been eye opening for me.

    I have always believed in milk and most things dairy, so I was surprised to learn that there are many people who want to see dairy removed from our diets.

    It made no sense to me, and after the research that Shara has shared with me, I am more convinced then ever that the anti-dairy thinking has little basis in fact or scientific support.

    I have seen how the internet has become a tool for the perpetuation of falsehood, so it does not surprise me that people get caught up in “belief systems” that have not been researched. Someone they read and maybe even trust says something is so, and so it becomes their reality. Too bad. We have lost our ability to discern truth from rumor.

    It also amazes me when people get hyped about products like aspartame and the like. When studies show links between a product and cancer or other disease, the studies often point out that the lab sample that had the link was for ridiculously high quantities of the item (like the 8 to 2,000+ cans of soda a day). My thought is often, “Really? who would ever consume such quantities?” How could it be better to consume the cup of sugar that the product requires for sweetness instead of the drop of aspartame? Do we really think aspartame is more harmful in such small doses then the huge quantities of processed sugar or high fructose corn syrup?

    Again, it comes back to portions, moderation in all things, and some common sense.

  16. Shara says:

    Rick – Don’t hold back! LOL. There are a lot of people who argue that they can get the same vitamins and health benefits from other foods (plants & nuts, etc), therefore, not needing dairy. They can locate potassium, calcium and Vitamin D in other food sources and so they direct people away from dairy (in many cases – because they feel that dairy farmers are inhumane to cows). When I read from the dairy dieticians, however, they believe that dairy is a simple, affordable, effective way to gain these things with many benefits to our health (along with the strengthening of teeth and bones). There’s a deep divide between the two parties, for sure.

    What I have not found much of yet is scientific data stating that all dairy is bad for our health, as some of the non-dairy advocates claim. I have yet to find a report that says this. Science seems to back dairy at pretty much every turn – other than high fat dairy in people who are ‘already’ sick or obese.

    So the conclusion is likely…low fat dairy is not going to hurt us, especially if we work it off. And it’s easy to work off. I’m testing this hypothesis now, for the third time, by losing weight through exercise, dairy, protein, fruits/veggies, water drinking, nuts, hummus, greek yogurt, etc. I continue to lose weight by removing high fructose corn syrup and limiting my cane sugar intake. The key? Exercise! Fat is easier to burn off than sugar (including the fat from dairy). No doubt about it!

    Sugar. Bad.

  17. Shara says:

    Oh! Another health tip I didn’t mention in my post: FLAX. We use Carrington Farms Flax on top of various foods:

  18. Dara says:

    I love that you created a forum to have a conversation about dairy. Kudos to you for going the extra mile in doing research to answer many questions about dairy. I agree with you-moderation, educated and healthy choices are what keeps us healthy and happy.

  19. Shara says:

    Dara – it’s all been a huge learning experience for our family, for sure. Thanks for the comment!

  20. Wendy Young says:


    This series on the Drama of Dairy is incredible! So educational, while at the same time entertaining. You are a master at making scientific research a fun read! Thanks so much for asking me to weigh in on dairy. Our family has had a love affair with dairy. It is a mainstay for us. It’s a fab fuel, in my eyes.

    Now onto this business of claims that dairy interferes with weight loss. I have an interesting tidbit of information. I have worked with two teens recently, both of whom have shed a significant amount of weight. One student has lost near 70 lbs and the other has lost more than 40 lbs. BOTH have continued to have dairy (in its various forms)in their diets. I’m so thrilled with their success, you can likely picture my big cheesey smile! (Also, with one of the teens I used, “My Feelings Are Hungry”…which was a HUGE hit!)

    And I chuckled that you swiped a photo of my daughter’s hockey team (she’s second from the left leaning forward)! Chocolate milk is often seen in most hands post-game! And one of our fave things to grab for the cooler while “on the road” for our never-ending game schedule is yogurt and low-fat string cheese. It’s one of the first things my kids grab for to satisfy their hunger.

    Thanks again for such a wonderful and thought-provoking series on dairy!

    Wendy =)

  21. R. Kasth says:

    While I appreciate all your research and hard work to gain insight into dairy, I think not pursuing the anti-dairy point of view weakens your conclusions. I highly recommend the China Study for straight up scientific data supporting cutting out dairy.

  22. Darla says:

    Shara – I love this series, too. From a childcare provider’s view, it is concerning to me that we now are required to offer 1% or non-fat milk to children over the age of 2. Milk does not make kids obese…sugar does. Lower fat products almost always replace fat with sugar for taste.

    Some of my clients buy fresh milk from dairy farms and have it shipped to their homes.

    Dairy is a good choice for my family; I love that they get vitamins and protein from a source that they enjoy!:)

  23. Shara says:

    Wendy – The Indy 500 winners agree with you, that milk is the choice of drink post-game:,165450

    Anyway, thanks for the comment about exercise and weight loss. I am having the same results myself – I usually only diet a bit after having a baby. So now, after my 4th Mini Human, I’m on the road to working out again and have kept dairy in my diet…while I continue to shed pounds.

    Thanks for your kind words, also!

  24. Shara says:

    R Kasth – Thanks for stopping by! I did invite two non-dairy dieticians to comment. I also read over many anti-dairy pages, FB walls, etc. I was told by a few people that they would “send me scientific information about why dairy is bad for you” but they never sent it.

    So I looked for scientific data on my own. I didn’t find much at all. I found many opinions but not research based information. In fact, the study that I mentioned here, from Medical News Today, stating that high fat dairy is bad for those who are already sick – claims to be “one of the first studies of its kind.”

    I looked up the book you mention. There’s a breakdown here, for those interested:

    After all of my research, my family is eating far more plants that before, too. We now eat kale and we continue to eat lots of spinach, all kinds of veggies, tons of fruit, etc. (Although some fruit is full of GMO’s so I’m attempting to stay away from those ones)

    Last year I had my blood tested to be sure I was on the right track and everything came back as “optimal.” That could change in the future, of course. According to all of the American cancer reports I have read, exercise is key. So I’m now exercising every single day – morning and evening – while closely watching portion sizes, of course.

  25. Shara says:

    Darla – Thanks for the comment. Yes, at the school I work in, we are also required to offer 1% milk – not Whole Milk. But like you said, they offer the flavored milk which has double the sugar (24g rather than 12g). So you are right; they simply replaced fat with sugar.

  26. Jena says:

    2. Eat all food in moderation. Watch your portion sizes. Gluttony is bad. Food discipline is good. (Short sentences are funny.) <– awesome! If I was a person who allowed stuff on my refrigerator door, I would print this sentence and put it up there.

    Thank you for this insightful article, Shara. I suspect that in the future you will do a part 3… maybe even 4 or more since there is so much to learn! :)

  27. Shara says:

    Jena – Wow. My writing has made refrigerator status. I can retire now. LOL. Hey – when you have kids, please consider putting things on your fridge, okay? We’ll talk later about this when we go thrift store shopping together. I will convince you (trust me – I have power of fridge doors).

  28. Rick says:

    To R. Kasth: first of all Shara states in the article that she asked two anti-dairy people to contribute (as long as they provided scientific data to back their statements) and one declined, the other did not respond. Either way, I think she has made it clear that she wants to hear from the anti-dairy side. Good, honest dialogue is essential for understanding.

    As to the China Study. Even though the book/study received a lot of attention (because it supposedly gave credence to the vegetarian point of view) there are some serious questions raised about it from those who examine the science of this kind of reporting. For example, and

    Both of these point to some serious flaws in the studies “science.” Too much to submit in comment form here.

    One conclusion in The China Study is something that anti-dairy people love to point to – that humans can’t digest the casein protein that is abundant in milk. This is also contradicted by numerous studies, and, in fact, many nutritionists argue that casein is an ideal protein for humans because it does digest slowly, and therefore allows the protein to work longer in the body (as opposed to whey, which moves too quickly through our system.

    I also found it interesting that if casein is bad for us, and not digestible, why is it sold as a supplement by nutrition stores as a way to build up muscle strength?

    Just some thoughts as a quick response.

  29. Shara says:

    Rick – I know you were researching casein this morning before I left to volunteer. I read a little bit of it and also found it interesting that it’s sold as a supplement, as though our bodies not only need it – but thrive on it.

    However, it brings me back to my point again and again and again – exercise! We need to BURN OFF what we eat. If we eat anything in abundance and don’t burn it off, we’re asking for trouble. I’m sure that if they fed a rat 8000 times the normal amount of kale, it would also die. Anything, if overdone and not countered by something healthy, is going to harm us. People have even died from over-drinking water in short periods of time.

    Also – from what I can tell about The China Study, they were working with people who were ALREADY sick (I might be wrong, but that’s how I read it). People who already had a hard time breaking things down in their bodies because they had already done enough harm to their bodies from various poor choices. Perhaps those people had cells that were not breaking proteins down, like the average person, because they were already sick. So for them, maybe casein is bad? Just something to ponder…I’ll look into this more when I have time.

  30. Shara!
    Thank you so much for all this research and information. I am a HUGE fan of dairy as you know and am so happy to get the real 411 on the truths vs. the myths. My little one is now 7 and now more than ever I see how proper nutrition affects his ability to concentrate, stay on task and focused. We have been adding more dairy to our diets and truly I have never felt better! Thanks for all you do! ~ Beth

  31. Leah says:

    Where to start…..hmmm. As a born and raised Farm girl, I fully support the Dairy industry. We are milk drinkers in this house, we drink non fat milk and chocolate milk for treats and my afternoon Frappacino’s! You will always find a variety of cheeses and yogurt in the Fridge. Our favorite Sunday evening dinner is Fruit smoothies, made with yogurt and milk, then a variety of snacks: Peanuts, Almonds, 3 different kinds of cheese, crackers, turkey etc.

    I am going to point out one thing that you missed (or maybe I did) is Education. Educating our own children is important, but teaching it in schools would also be beneficial. Growing up in a small midwestern town, where almost all the kids in my class were farm kids and also in 4-H, we knew all about the benefits of growing our own food. But even in school we had “Home Economics” classes where we were taught all about the benefits of healthy eating and how important drinking milk was to our daily diet. Now days there is no “Home Economics” classes in schools, I’m sure because it isn’t deemed as “politically correct”. Since when is learning basic nutritional guidelines not correct?? I bet most kids today couldn’t tell you what the Food Pyramid is – thoughts?

    Why Dutch are slim…..I lived in Poland for 1 1/2 years and have traveled to multiple European countries. Number one reason they stay so slim? Walking daily or riding bike! The first time I went to Europe on vacation I couldn’t believe how wonderful the food was, it was because they use REAL cream, butter, sour cream, whipped cream – see a pattern??? Most people were slim and trim, because they walk to the store, they ride bike, they take an evening stroll with their families. A month ago, we had relatives visiting from Germany and they couldn’t believe the portion sizes of foods in restaurants – this goes back to your “eat in moderation”.

    Getting back to living on a farm. Yes, I am a born and raised Farm girl from small town, rural Minnesota. My parents and Grandparents were all farmers. There were dairy cows, beef cattle, chickens, ducks, hogs and lots of vegetables. When people complain about Farmers, I just want to scream, maybe they should take a week or month and find out how hard that job is and how so much is out of their hands. In what other industry does Mother Nature play a huge role? If it rains too much, the farmers can’t plant their fields, if it doesn’t rain, the crops will dry up and die, if a hail or thunderstorm roll through or a tornado, your crops or animals could die. Farmers farm because they are passionate about their job and providing healthy food and animals for us to purchase and eat. Farmers work 7 days a week, well over 40+ hours with no paid vacations or sick days. God Bless the farmers.

    Kudos to you for helping get the word out there about the importance of Dairy to our everyday life. This old farm girl is happy to help you spread the word!

  32. Shara says:

    Beth – I appreciate your nice comment. Thank you. I’m glad things are working out well for your family. Thanks for taking a moment to comment!

  33. Shara says:

    Leah – I took a night to sleep on your comment, before replying :-) You have brought up some really interesting points that I hadn’t even touched on; you’re right. In our previous small town, 4-H was quite popular. It’s pretty popular around here, also, as we’ve moved out to farm land area.

    We do the very same thing with dinners, at least once per week: an array of nuts, produce, sliced meat, cheeses, etc.

    I would fully agree with you that Home Ec was cut, in many regards, because certain people considered it “politically incorrect.” I also agree that this was a grave mistake. Girls and boys alike need to know about nutrition, how to cook healthy foods at home, how to make something from scratch, etc. During my high school years I made a sweatshirt – boy, was it ugly. LOL. But I learned a lot! They do have Life Skills classes now in some schools. My JR High son took Life Skills last year and he made a hand made pillow and learned about cooking. However, the things they cooked were very unhealthy so that bummed me out.

    Poland – wow, yes!! Bikes and walking! Daily exercise! They worked off the fat! Exactly.

    Portion sizes in restaurants – yes. I used to waitress for a truck stop many moons ago. The portion sizes were astonishing. I understand that the guys get hungry but guess what they do AFTER eating that heavy dose of food They sit…for hours and hours and hours. Not good.

    Very good points about Mother Nature, also. Thanks for pointing that out. Farmers sure do have it tough. It’s no easy job. My kids recently asked me if we can start a farm. Hmm…

    Your comment was very moving – thank you for taking the time to write it.

  34. Shara says:

    Quick note: I emailed my mom the other day. My mother has cancer. I wanted to know if her DR’s, in Australia, have told her to stay away from dairy products. I asked her flat out. Here was her reply:

    “I still eat and drink dairy. I have two cups of coffee a day made on milk, I have a little milk in my cereal and apart from that I do eat cheese but not a ton of it. No, no doctor has ever told me not to eat dairy. My lymphoma strain, if anything, has an apparent connection to chemical exposure, and it is mostly men who are diagnosed with it. Odd hey?”

    My mother cleaned homes for many years…FYI.

  35. margaret says:

    Thanks for this well-researched, balanced and in-depth discussion about milk! I learned so much! Your post even inspired me to dust off my bike and get some exercise like the Dutch.

  36. Shara says:

    Margaret – Nice to see you! That’s awesome about your bike. Whoo Hoo!

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