Dairy Consumption (Pros & Cons)

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Whether you love consuming dairy or not, talking about dairy creates controversy. Proponents of dairy claim that pasteurized, low-fat dairy is healthy and should be consumed two to three times per day. While others say that raw, full-fat dairy is a healthy and opponents of dairy insist on not having dairy part of the diet at all. Below is an overview of some issues to consider when deciding whether or not dairy is right for you’re body type. There are health benefits & risks associated with dairy consumption, as well as some ethical and environmental issues to be mindful of . 

Health Implications

Vitamin D

  • Processed dairy in the US is fortified with vitamin D. The USDA recommendation is, 3 glasses of fortified milk which provides 300 IU of the recommended 800 IU per day. 
  • Processed US milk is fortified with vitamin D2, a form that the body does not utilize as well as D3.
  • Dairy is not the best or only source of vitamin D – almond milk contains as much vitamin D, a 3.5 oz serving of wild salmon contains 360 IU vitamin D and also sun exposure and supplements are great sources of vitamin D as well.


  • Yogurt and kefir are excellent sources of gut friendly bacteria (probiotics) that have been shown to promote a healthy gut and strengthen the immune system. 
  • Reducing intake of animal products such as dairy lowers inflammation in the body and helps reduce the onset of auto immune diseases such as arthritis. 
  • An estimate of 50 million american adults are lactose intolerant and continued consumption of lactose in those who are intolerant can create vitamin and mineral deficiencies or other long term health implications.

Bone Health

  • Milk and other dairy products are high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein and vitamin D, which are essential for bone health.
  • Dairy is not the best or only source of calcium – collard greens such as spinach, almond milk, baked beans, and supplements with both calcium and vitamin D are also good choices.

Ethical and Environmental Concerns

There are small farmers who treat their cows humanely and allow a natural relationship between the mother cow her calf while still being able to collect milk for human consumption. On the other hand, large industrial milk factories often subject their cows to not so ethical living conditions. Animal abuse and mistreatment at factory farms is well documented. There is also the question of how ethical is it to impregnate a cow for milk production while taking away her calf shortly after birth, which is often for slaughter in order to maximize economic profits. 

Animal agriculture is a major contributor to global warming, pollution of the water and air. Large amounts of land, water and fuel are used for cattle feed, grazing and processing. Agriculture accounts for about 70% of international nitrous oxide and 50% of methane emissions. You can help support the farms that are producing dairy more ethically and responsibly by choosing from small, local farms.

When deciding to on which type of dairy to purchase, here are some health guidelines to be mindful of: 

Non organic - can be treated with antibiotics to kill potentially harmful bacteria, synthetic contaminants like antibiotics, growth hormones, cow’s feed may be genetically modified and also pesticides. 

Organic - free of synthetic hormones, antibiotics, chemical fertilizers, pesticides or genetically modified seeds. cows cannot be fed GMO feed, cows must eat some grass and have at least four months of pasture access. Studies show higher vitamin E, omega-3, antioxidants and beta carotene.

Grass Fed -  higher in omega-3 fatty acids which protect the heart, higher in vitamin D3 and cows are grazing on gras as part of their natural diet.

Raw - without any methods to kill bacteria, raw milk may still contain beneficial bacteria. It tastes fresher and contains enzymes such as lipase that may aid in digestion and great for those who are lactose intolerant. Raw dairy contains original vitamins and minerals, however without any methods to kill potential pathogens and bacteria, raw milk can cause illness. It must be consumed within 1 week of bottling. Raw milk regulations are determined by each state and many states prohibit its sale.

MyPyramid.gov – Inside The Pyramid – How much food from the milk group is needed daily? February 3, 2011. Available at: http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/milk_amount.aspx#

FAQ – Dairy. The Weston A. Price Foundation. Available at: http://www.westonaprice.org/faq/784-faq-dairy?qh=YTo5OntpOjA7czozOiJyYXciO2k6MTtzOjc6InJhd25lc3MiO2k6MjtzOjQ6Im1pbGsiO2k6MztzOjc6Im1pbGtpbmciO2k6NDtzOjU6Im1pbGtzIjtpOjU7czo2OiJtaWxrZWQiO2k6NjtzOjg6Im1pbGtpbmdzIjtpOjc7czo2OiInbWlsayciO2k6ODtzOjg6InJhdyBtaWxrIjt9

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Available at: http://www.pcrm.org/health/veginfo/vsk/4foodgroups.pdf

Release No. 0059.10. United States Department of Agriculture. February 10, 2010. Available at: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2010/02/0059.xml

 Scientific American. June 6, 2008. Available at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=experts-organic-milk-lasts-longer

 Vitamin D and Chronic Disease – Your Nutrition Questions Answered. The Nutrition Source. Harvard School of Public Health. Available at: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/questions/vitamin-d-and-chronic-disease/