This article was written by Rebecca Straus and provided by our partners at Rodale’s Organic Life.
Ice cream is one of my great passions in life, followed closely by cheese and milky breakfast tea. I lived for a long time in a happy, dairy-filled bubble, until recently, when I started hearing reports that eating dairy every day was very probably killing me. If you ever venture onto the internet (and you’re reading this, so I know you do), you’ve probably heard that milk is dooming the human race to everything from chronic acne, constant bloating, and obesity to poor bone health, hormonal imbalances, and cancer. Yikes.
And here I’d been thinking milk was a great source of nutrition. I reached out to a bunch of doctors, dieticians, and naturopaths to find out how dairy really affects the human body, but I came away more confused than ever. Everyone seemed to have wildly different opinions about how much dairy is appropriate to eat, whether it should be skim or full-fat, and how it impacts the body.
Some, like Rebecca Lewis, a registered dietician with HelloFresh had great things to say for mighty milk, like that it’s chock full of calcium, protein, and brain-boosting vitamin B12. On the other hand, naturopath Gabrielle Francis, author of The Rockstar Remedy, says that cow’s milk is not great for nutrition or digestion thanks to the pasteurization and homogenization process. She adds that even if you’re not fully lactose intolerant, many people still have sensitivities to the milk protein casein, which can manifest in a range of symptoms that include congestion, headaches, fatigue, bloating, gas, and systemic inflammation, including acne.
And then I heard from Nitin Kumar, a gastroentonologist who told me the scientific literature is very mixed when it comes to dairy. He notes that there are some recent high-quality studies that show full-fat dairy is associated with lower incidence of diabetes and weight gain than low fat, though there’s still a lot we don’t know about how dairy affects our bodies overall.
Since I’ve been eating a high-dairy diet for pretty much my whole life, I was interested to find out if I’d feel any different if I gave it up. Plus, I figured I could probably do with fewer ice cream cones in my life. Resolute, I bought my first-ever carton of almond milk and firmly told my boyfriend that we couldn’t go out for ice cream until this was over. Here’s what happened.