I am not a doctor nor do I have a degree in nutrition. I am just a mommy who is passionate about animals and living a healthy lifestyle.
When my daughter turned 1, the big topic of conversation became about milk. If we were vegan, she could never thrive without whole cow’s milk. I mean, where on this big green earth could she get her calcium, proteins, vitamin D, and fats from? She needed these things to survive and grow healthy and strong. Well, my friends, I am here to tell you a secret… not only do toddlers NOT NEED cow’s milks to grow into healthy children and adults, they don’t NEED ANY milk! I know that sounds insane to a lot of people, but I am so serious. Everything we need, as humans, can be found from plants, so with a variety of whole, plant-based foods, anyone could thrive, even without milk. We are the only animal on the planet that drinks ANY milk after infancy, and strangely enough, drink another animals breast milk. The only milk we need is as babies, and it comes naturally from our mothers or is specifically designed to mimic the mother’s milk. After weaning, there truly is no need. Cow’s milk is as necessary for humans as giraffe or monkey milk is. Think about an 80lb calf. Within a year that calf will grow to be closer to 1,000 lbs! Just like our mothers milk is intended to grow a human baby into a toddler in a year( from about 7lbs to about 20), a mother cow’s milk is packed with hormones and proteins high enough to feed and grow her baby calf 10 times its size in the same time! You can’t get anything from cow’s milk (besides the possible pus, blood, and added hormones) that you couldn’t get more naturally from nature itself.
There are a wide variety of plant-based milks that are not only delicious, but also very nutritious and affordable. So, if you just like milk, no problem! That’s one of my favorite things about veganism; you don’t have to miss out on anything! If anything, you gain such a new array of foods by opening yourself up to more. (Have you ever even heard of tempeh or rice milk? You’re missing out!) There are vegan versions of all your favorites somewhere, I’m sure. Milk is no exception! There is soy milk, and coconut milk, and almond milk, and yellow pea milk (Ripple), rice milk, oat milk, and MORE. Take your pick! Many of them even have higher levels of calcium or protein than the traditional whole cow’s milk you may be buying, minus all the cholesterol and saturated fats.
Here’s another one that may shock you. Cow’s milk is also directly linked to osteoporosis… you know, the breaking down of your bones! How can this be if milk builds strong bones, like most of us have been told most of our lives? Hint: it doesn’t. Okay, okay, it DOES, but it helps COWS grow strong bones, not us. Like I mentioned before, cow’s milk is very high in animal protein, which becomes acidic in our bodies. Our bodies then pull calcium from our bones to neutralize the acidity, then we pee it out. So, in turn, it’s actually taking more calcium from us, than it supplies us with. If calcium is your concern, there are plenty of excellent sources of plant-based calcium. For comparison reasons, 1 cup of whole fat cows milk has 276mg of calcium. 1 cup of collards has 268mg of calcium, 1oz of sesame seeds has 280mg, and 1 cup of soybeans has 261mg. Spinach, tofu, beans, broccoli… all of these are high in calcium.
Cow’s milk is also associated to a lot of our top killers in America. It is linked to several cancers including testicular, breast, and prostate cancers as well as what will kill 2/3 Americans, heart disease. According to the American Nutrition Association, United States cows milk is banned in Europe because of the increased cancer risks from the, what they call, “genetically-engineered bovine growth hormone” (rBGH) that is injected into our cows to help promote milk production.
Cholesterol clogs your arteries and the only place cholesterol is found is in, you guess it, animal products….including milk. Those clogged arteries is the cause for heart disease and the need for stints, bypasses, and open heard surgeries later in life. I’ll probably say it a thousand more times, but all of these things are preventable, and often reversible, by simply not consuming animals or their by-products.
So, why aren’t our doctors telling us this? Or the government? Why aren’t there big campaigns to stop people from consuming these things? Well, for different reasons. For some, it’s all about the money. The dairy industry obviously doesn’t want people to stop drinking animal milk, so they market it with false or exaggerated claims of being “healthy” or “a great source of calcium”. It is a billion dollar industry that, as more information comes to light and people become more informed, has been rapidly declining over the past couple of years. They have to do something in order to stay in business, even if it isn’t for the greater good of the consumer. For most others, it’s just lack of information. You can’t know what you don’t know, you know?
RA’s pediatrician has been nothing but wonderful to us since finding out that we are vegan. We are her first vegan family and she has been so open to learning more about our lifestyle. She even kept calling us “vegetarians that don’t drink milk” for a while. I’m not real sure she even knew what vegan really meant until then. When it first came up, she did seem a little adamant about how RA would need certain things, like cows milk, but we would have a nice discussion and show her where else she could get the same things, and more naturally. She’s who originally informed us that doctors are often given little to no classes on nutrition in the United States. She didn’t know what nutritional yeast was and never realized how many protein sources there were. That was until she asked about B12 and where RA’s protein intake was coming from. Now she is on board and tells us that we teach her something new each time we visit, as well as her doing her own research and becoming more aware. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, really. We got lucky though. I hear horror stories all the time about other peoples doctors telling them there is no way to thrive off a plant-based diet. If this is the case for you, just ask them where the animals get their vitamins and nutrients from so that humans can get it from them. Cows don’t eat meat. Gorillas don’t eat meat. Heck, Rhinoceroses are herbivores. Are you going to tell me a Rhino is lacking in protein? I don’t think so. Having an open mind is so important.
If you still think my toddler NEEDS cow’s milk of any kind to grow and develop properly because of it’s fats, or vitamin D, or protein, I will assure you that I have done my research and she is thriving just perfectly. She gets plenty of healthy fats from avocados, and nuts, and tofu. We often get more than enough protein from our nut butters, lentils and beans. If you’re concerned with our vitamin D intake, don’t be. I couldn’t spend an entire day inside if I wanted to. RA loves to be outside more than she loves her “Mr.Fox” (which is A LOT) or Little Baby Bum, so we get plenty of natural sunlight, even if it does mean I am constantly swatting mosquitoes in the Alabama heat. Not to mention, many of our non-dairy milks, cereals, and our beloved OJ, are fortified with vitamin D.