By virtual show of hands, how many of you have read something or been in a conversation about whether or not you or your kids should be drinking milk? And I’m talking about good, old-fashioned milk from a cow. I was getting my eyebrows done a few weeks ago and the aesthetician chatted my ear off about all sorts of utterly uninformed and nonsensical things she had recently heard about drinking milk and then not 48 hours later I found myself in a similar conversation with the cashier at the grocery store.
Before the alarm bells go off (am I too late for that?), I am sensitive to the fact that some dairy allergies exist and that there are also people who choose to not consume cow’s milk for other personal reasons. I’m not arguing against anyone’s (professionally diagnosed) medical issues or personal beliefs, but given all the chatter, I thought it was the perfect time to shed some light on a couple topics that are fraught with misinformation and hopefully give dairy-loving parents like me some peace of mind when it comes to this cluttered topic.
It was absolutely unplanned, but my career has never strayed far from the topics of dairy and calcium. I went to Purdue University for undergrad where I both participated as a research subject in and a research assistant for studies investigating dairy and calcium. Upon graduation I worked as a research coordinator on a project that developed a school curriculum and computer games to teach kids about the importance of drinking milk. And, as time has gone on, dairy has come in and out of my life through my PR career and other professional opportunities. In fact, I recently had the privilege of touring the Heins Family dairy farm as an invited guest of the Midwest Dairy Council. I don’t claim to be a dairy know-it-all, but I’ve read many a study on the topic and that is why I didn’t second guess introducing Hailey to cow’s milk when the time came and why milk is one of two default beverages in our home. (hint: the other one is water)
Take, for example, the issue of antibiotics. On my tour with the Heins Family I learned that ANY milk you’ll find in the store is antibiotic free. Some containers may put it on the label as a way to grab your attention, but milk, by standard CAN NOT contain antibiotics. The milk is tested before it ever leaves the farm and again before the truck is offloaded at the bottling plant. If any antibiotics are detected whatsoever, the entire load of milk is dumped and the farmer is fined.
Another dairy hot topic is lactose intolerance. I don’t have a statistic to share, but by personal observation I’d guess that lactose intolerance is one of the most self-diagnosed conditions out there (perhaps second only to the self-proclaimed need for a gluten free diet). The bottom line is that there is a fairly simple breath test that can be done to determine if you or your child really is a lactose maldigester. My advise is to be really careful what you say around your kids when it comes to self-diagnosing any sort of intolerance. You could set a precedent for their entire life. Trust me, I saw it in action in my research work. Milk is a good source of protein and it is also high in calcium and vitamin D. Drinking milk and eating dairy foods helps kids get the calcium they need to grow strong bones. Cow milk alternatives do exist, but their nutrient profile is not the same and many flavored options contain a lot of added sugar. So, please think twice before you rule out good, old-fashioned milk.
Disclosure: I attended a dairy farm tour and educational program sponsored by the Midwest Dairy Council. I wholeheartedly stand behind all thoughts in this post and was not compensated for writing it.