It is almost 2017, which means a year of new beginnings, adventures and changes! Hopefully some of you will be stepping into the new year with plans to better your health and take steps towards the environment. Of course, the easiest and most poignant move you can make is to cut out meat or dairy, (or both!) from your diet.
We all know how bad beef is for the environment and your health. However, recently I have been finding out that milk definitely does not have all the health benefits it claims to be. Some of this is tied up in the large amount of dietary and sulphur-containing amino acids found in animal products.
If we were too chose one, meat or dairy. Which one would be better? In this article I explore the Health, Environmental and Ethic perspectives.
All animal products contain the same nutrition and have a similar negative impact on our health. They contain protein, fat, cholesterol, sulfur-containing amino acids, and dietary acids. So lets break down these toxins.
Toxin : Protein
The daily requirement for protein as prescribed by the authority nutrition is between 40-56 grams per day. Some studies have found that people actually thrive on much smaller amounts of protein, as little as 20 grams. Considering one egg has 6g, one chicken breast 43g it should be relatively easy to get enough protein. In vegetable protein lentils have 18g and chickpeas 39g. It really is not difficult to get enough protein on a vegan diet.
However, once a person consumed their daily requirement, the body seeks to eliminate the excess. The route of protein is through the liver and kidneys. Humans lose a quarter of their overall kidney function in 70 years of life. Those people who already have compromised livers and kidneys, excess protein speeds up the path to organ failure. Similar to dietary acids, protein also harms the bones. A double in protein intake increases the amount of calcium leaving the body through the urine by 50%. A study in protein intake and urinary of calcium excretion in healthy japanese can be found here. Calcium leaches from the bones escalating risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones
Toxin : Cholesterol
A toxin found exclusively in animal products and hardly any in plants. We produce enough cholesterol for our own uses, however eating additional cholesterol results in it accumulating in skin, tendons, arteries. In the arteries, cholesterol becomes a major contributor to vascular diseases of the heart and brain.
Toxin : Fat
“The fat you eat is the fat you wear” is probably the most accurate statement I have ever heard. Studies have shown that in 2007-2008 68% of adults in the United states were overweight. While 33.8% were obese, with a BMI over 30.9. A healthy Body Mass Index is between 18.5-24.5. It is calculated by considering your weight, height and gender. Have a look here how you are doing!
Human bodies store dietary fat easily as body fat. Surplus fat is stored in the liver, heart and muscles. This additional fat in the body contributes to heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes. It also puts stress on the joints and alters the metabolism.
The other two toxins include sulfur-containing amino acids and dietary acids. A more detailed breakdown is included here.
All the above mentioned toxins are also found in dairy products : prompting Dc John Mcdougall to say that ‘It doesn’t matter whether you grill meat that comes from a cow, pig, sheep, lamb or chicken, scramble eggs from a chicken or a duck, or drink milk that comes from a cow, goat or sheep”.
While dairy has many similar dietary aspects as meat, it has another enormous disadvantage. It has been the food most often recalled by the FDA due to contamination. Everything from known bacteria like salmonella and E.coli to lesser known staphylococci, Listeria, Mycobacterium paratubercolosis. In 2007 the Animal and Plant Inspection services found that 89% of US dairy operations showed evidence of infection with bovine leukaemia. UC Berkeley have found the cattle virus linked to human breast cancer.
The spread of this virus is caused by common farming practices including shared syringes, dehorning instruments, probing and tattooing needles. That is not even the worst part. Sick and dying cows are often fed to chickens and pigs, while the floor sweepings are sometimes fed back to the cows. Circulating the viruses throughout the animals. The most shocking, and probably deal breaking figure for me was that holding tanks from herd of 500 or more cows. Are 100% infected with these viruses, studies in 2007 found. I may not be a doctor or know that much about biology, but no filtration or processing will ever be able to ‘clean’ that milk up.
There have been examples of the viruses from cows milk spreading to other species such as goats and sheep, which subsequently become infected with leukaemia. In 1974, two of six orphaned chimpanzee infants nursed on infected milk died within a year.
While studies conducted by the dairy industry find research findings inconclusive, in connecting infected milk with 45,000 new cases of leukaemia in the US. The milk has also not been proven safe to drink if infected.
Cows milk is also filled with hormones, antibiotics and all the other injections farmers give their cattle to try and keep them healthy.
- Pus – Cow milk also contains pus, a national average of 322 million cell counts per glass, not sure how much that is, but apperently it is well above the human limit for pus-intake. And honestly, who wants any pus in their food?
- Blood – This is due to the frequency of milking cows (twice up to five times a day) with automated robotic suction machine. No matter how gentle farmers are in attaching the suction cups a cows udder is extremely sensitive. We all have nipples, I am just assuming that they are similar. The teets on the cows udder often get tears due to the suction which never truly heal. The continuous milking does not allow for scabs to grow and heal the cuts, resulting in blood in the milk.
- A Hormone Cocktail – including pituatary, steroid, hypothalamic and thyroid hormones.
- Antibiotics – only 4 out of 85 drugs used on dairy cows are tested. 38% of milk is contaminated with drugs
Like majority of people, I have been aware for quite a few years about the dangers of red meats. However milk, with the enormous amount of advertising promoting strengthening bones, it being low fat will help us lose weight and remain healthy. Somehow the fact that billions of people around the world who had never consumed dairy grew and remained healthy never crossed my mind. Just think of the Asiatic countries which have no dairy products in any of their native dishes and the vast amounts of people who are lactose intolerant. We do not need milk.
Considering how similar milk and meat are nutritionally, if you are going to consider cutting out one of the two in the new year. Milk, cheese, yogurt and all dairy products should be the ones to go. Eliminating dairy will improve your health and make you lose weight.
When I was beginning my vegan journey, I had a vegan scoff at the fact I had been vegetarian for six months first. He told me that he much rather be a full on meat eater, than just a vegetarian. I was taken aback and a little hurt. For six months I had been trying to cut out something that previously been an enormous part of the diet. I thought that I was helping the animals and myself. Recent readings about dairy has finally given me a little bit of an insight of why eliminating meat while still consuming dairy is not a good idea.
But cheese is so good!
Cheese was my life. I grew up in France where cheese was our entrée and dessert. We ate melted cheese as our main meal, as snacks on bread or by themselves. Our supermarkets are over flowing with every possible type of cheese imaginable. There is cheese on top of pasta, inside lasagna, baked with potatoes and mixed into our sauce. When debating whether I should become vegan it was one of my biggest concerns. How would I live without cheese? To be honest, since finding out so much about dairy, from the industry and production, cheese has become much less appealing to me. I have also, found many vegan alternatives which taste the same if not better. I urge you to go into a local bioshop, vegan store or market and seek out some of these vegan cheese alternatives. Just conduct your own research and you will see how possible it is to replace cheese with plant based alternatives. Vegan cheese is also easy and fun to make.
I am not even mentioning replacing milk. In every coffee shop now, they will have several options of non dairy milk. Soy, Coconut, Almond, Rice and Oat are just to name a few. They have different blends with hints of vanilla. Overwhelming choices for every taste preference.
To consider your health : Cut your dairy.
What if you consider the environment first and foremost? I have already asked the question : are cows the reason for climate change? Meat has an enormous environmental footprint from the water usage, methane emissions, carbon footprint, land use and pesticide run off. An excellent comparison of the various diets can be found here, one of the graphs shown below:
A breakdown of the various diets, cutting out meat from your diet decreases CO2e/person by 0.6 while cutting out dairy is a smaller 0.2. So if we are considering CO2 decreasing your meat intake will make a bigger impact than decreasing your dairy intake. Ideally cutting out both and becoming fully plant based is the ideal.
If you want to cut out one or the other because of your compassion towards animals, there is no definite answer. The comparison of the farming practises between dairy and beef cows shows that neither is treated more humanely than the other.
Many beef cows grow up in feeding lots, surrounded by millions of companions with no grass in sight. They get fed a mixture of grain and a medicine cocktail to allow them to grow as fast as possible. Even if packaging claims the cow was humanely treated.. What kind of death is humane? A last journey to the slaughterhouse surrounded by terrified cattle and electric prods urging them to their deaths? Shot in the head? Cut up while conscious?
Or are the dairy cows better off? The images of French Alpine Cows frolicking in the grass are pretty, but they do not tell you about how 50% of the cows are killed within the first few hours of their birth. Male dairy cows are deemed useless, often ending up slaughtered for dog meat shortly after coming into the world. Female dairy cows produce milk that is the life juice for their babies for up to 16 months after they give birth. Once they stoop milking, they get impregnated again to begin the cycle.
Long gone are the days of families in the western world owning one cow and depending on it for milk. Small scale farming has been replaced my massive corporations where cows are born, live and die as products. Unless you own your own animals, feed and take care of them. If you want to reduce the animal suffering caused, stop creating a demand for both meat and cheese.
Overall, I have learnt so much in this past year about the importance of a plant based diet. I came into it as an environmentalist and am now experiencing the health benefits. I hope that learning about the impacts of meat, dairy and animal products from the three perspectives has impacted you as much as me. So if you are considering taking a step to help the earth, yourself or the animals? You will try and cut out one (or all) of these food groups.
Try challenge yourself and your friends to participate in Veganuary this January. A month where you try and eliminate plant foods. Four weeks to test out this new lifestyle and reap the benefits. Its not as hard as it looks, and as always I will be updating the easy to make recipes!
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