Millennials and Gen-Z are dumping milk. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the messaging since the ads are everywhere: “Dairy-Free. As It Should Be” and “It’s like milk but made for humans.”
Dairy is one of many cultural staples falling victim to cancel culture with a recent National Osteoporosis Society survey finding that one-fifth of adults under 25 are reducing dairy intake or completely cutting it out of their diet. Furthermore, half of those same young adults insist they have a dairy intolerance, but under a quarter of them have even confirmed this with a doctor.
With superstar celebrities and influencers touting dairy-free diets like Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Madelaine Petsch, and many more, it’s no wonder that young women are ditching dairy in exchange for plant-based alternatives. I did too at one point. I thought that milk was giving me acne and putting extra inches on my waistline. I also saw so many other role models insisting that dairy was the enemy and cutting it out of their diet entirely.
While I can’t speak for every individual – especially since there are, of course, people who are lactose intolerant or have a genuine milk allergy – nor am I an expert in the field of nutrition, I can comfortably express my own testimony that more dairy has made a better impact on my body.
So when I retraced my steps and saw that what seemed to be a cultural shift I was comfortable riding along with was not only unsustainable for my lifestyle but also not rooted in scientific fact, I stopped letting dairy be a bogeyman. Here’s what happened.
My Complexion Cleared Up and My Skin’s Elasticity Improved
We have all heard someone say it: “I can’t eat dairy, it breaks me out!” There is some scientific research that commonly gets pointed to which suggests that dairy contains hormones that give both men and women a higher estradiol concentration and inadvertently cause acne. However, the same study debunks the concerns in its own conclusion: “it seems that there is stronger evidence suggesting that amounts of estrogens in cow's milk are too low to cause health effects in humans.”
So what is actually causing people to break out when they consume a dairy-rich diet? For some, it might be the fact that they’re vitamin A deficient. Vitamin A is a key nutrient in maintaining clear skin, and if you’re deficient in a certain vitamin or nutrient then a high-dairy diet might cause you to break out. This can happen to certain individuals because of the high metabolic rate that a dairy-rich diet can create. (Dairy has been shown on multiple occasions to raise your metabolism.) You might be consuming a lot of dairy and benefitting from the heightened metabolism, but if your nutrition isn’t supported then you might suffer from nutritional imbalances. If you want to enjoy more dairy but feel as though it breaks you out, perhaps boosting your diet with potent forms of vitamin A through liver, salmon, tuna, or supplements could help counter that problem.
Acne breakouts could be a sign of vitamin A deficiency, not a reaction to dairy.
Bringing it back to the people who ditch dairy to clear up their skin. It’s all the rage to make the switch to almond, soy, coconut, hemp, flax, or oat alternatives. Some dairy alternative brands like Malk tout clean, filler-free labels where it’s really just almonds, water, and salt. Unfortunately, many of the top alternative milk brands contain fillers, oils, gums, and sweeteners. These long ingredient lists meant to make your “milk” as close to the real thing as possible can often be the culprit of duller skin texture, loss of firmness, and increased acne.
And about those same additives – how often do you hear the other ladies in your life saying that a cup of plain Fage Greek yogurt or a glass of organic A2 milk caused them to break out? From my own experience, I haven’t heard that very often. What I have heard is other ladies lamenting the state of their skin after a night of eating cheesy takeout pizza, decadent chocolate treats, or a pint of ice cream.
When I stopped fearing dairy, I also started cooking a lot more of my own meals and learned how to say no more often to indulgent sweets and desserts. I discovered it wasn’t actually the dairy intake giving me dull, spotty skin – it was sneaky additives like fillers, gums, sugars, and in the case of takeout, way too many oils.
My skin has actually improved after reincorporating dairy into my diet… and I think I’ll enjoy the higher metabolism too!
My Lean Muscle Tone Is Better Than Ever
There’s no denying that dairy products are incredible sources of protein that also pack a mean nutrient-dense punch. Dairy is manna from heaven for muscle protein synthesis as it contains all essential amino acids. Animal-free sources, however, lack one or more essential amino acids.
The nutritional differences between cow’s milk and the plant-based counterparts are not even comparable, especially with non-soy dairy alternatives. Your oat milk or almond milk lattes and coconut “Greek yogurts” have such low protein content that you would be better off replacing those macronutrient-wise with other carbs. To put it simply, things like oat milk are just empty calories. Sometimes tasty, but empty calories nonetheless.
Let’s also chat about milk’s power to satiate. The combination of milk’s protein and fat content helps quell hunger. It satiates you while it nourishes you! When I wasn’t consuming as much dairy, I felt the urge to fill up on foods like simple carbs or fats. Since simple carbs are anything but satiating, eating them in excess can actually cause a caloric imbalance and make you gain weight.
So many women fall into this trap as well. Mainstream media has them under the assumption that nuts, seed, or oat milks are adequate protein replacements when many of these beverages contain less than a quarter – and in some cases, less than an eighth – the amount of protein that real dairy does. The same thing can be said for adding in more nuts, nut butters, and seeds into your diet in an effort to consume more protein. Nuts and seeds have a higher fat content than protein, with 80% of the calories coming from fats and only contain about as much protein as one egg, which doesn’t make it an ideal, primary source of protein. They’re amazing for getting heart-healthy fats into your diet, but they just don’t stack up nutritionally as a 1:1 swap for meat or dairy.
Dairy is manna from heaven for muscle protein synthesis as it contains all essential amino acids.
After years of drinking more milk, eating more cottage cheese and Greek yogurt, and supplementing with whey, not only is my waistline slimmer than when I was a dairy-denier, but my muscle tone is also sexier and better than ever.
I directly attribute this to putting a priority on consuming protein, and in my personal case, this not only includes meat-focused meals but dairy-focused meals as well. The proof is out there: dairy products reduce body fat mass and preserve your lean body muscle!
You also don’t need to be afraid of full-fat dairy. Health-focused individuals will often tout non-fat, high-protein dairy as your best option. Low-fat yogurts or ice creams, for example, will have their fat replaced by sugars and additives to be more palatable – making them equally guilty like those sweet, but tasty almond or oat milks. Drinking 2% instead of skim or having 4% Greek yogurt instead of diet versions will give you more nutrients without adding any extra sugars. So enjoy a more satiating, nourishing cup of Greek yogurt with real honey instead of fruit-on-the-bottom diet yogurts. I know I do nowadays, absolutely guilt-free!
My Hair, Nails, and Bones Are Stronger
If it wasn’t drilled into your mind enough in grade school, here is your friendly reminder that calcium is critical for bone health. Not only that, but consuming adequate amounts of calcium with protein can improve your locks of hair and the length and resiliency of your nails.
Before I move on, one commonly overlooked nutrient for your bone health that also must be mentioned is vitamin D. Vitamin D actually promotes calcium absorption, so one without the other can lead to thin, brittle bones.
Unfortunately for dairy-deniers, milk, cheese, and yogurt reign supreme as the number one source of calcium and vitamin D in the diet. Plant-based dairy alternatives are sometimes fortified with calcium, but not all contain both calcium and vitamin D. In addition, the base nutritional contents are still not nearly up to par as it is entirely dependent on the raw material used.
Milk, cheese, and yogurt are the top sources of calcium and vitamin D in the diet.
With entire generations giving up on dairy and raising their children on plant-based alternatives, it’s no wonder that there are many reported cases of infants with severe nutritional deficiencies as a direct result of their dairy-free diet. Though I tested out being dairy-free years after reaching my full height, I was still putting myself at risk for stress fractures. Had I continued on that path, I could have had greater chances of osteoporosis in my later adult years.
I Benefit from a More Sustainable Approach to Eating!
Let’s be honest, despite their best efforts, it’s quite hard for the dairy-free but not lactose intolerant crowd to stay away from dairy products. I’ve seen it countless times – and experienced it myself – where someone abstains from dairy nine times out of 10, but then they fall to temptation and have ice cream with their friends or indulge in a slice or two of pizza.
It simply wasn’t sustainable for me to restrict an entire food group in my diet, not only because my body craved the nutrients but also because I may have been affecting my mental health. The Millennials and Gen Z’s obsession over health food trends has been coined by eating disorder specialists as orthorexia nervosa.
Though it doesn’t have a clinical diagnosis, orthorexia nervosa has been identified by psychological experts as an individual presenting with a mental fixation with righteous eating. Orthorexia nervosa is being studied in its connection to obsessive compulsive disorders as well, which could explain a bit of the fear and panic over consuming dairy.
As the data shows, very few dairy-free individuals are lactose-intolerant. (This is not to say that those individuals who are genuinely lactose-intolerant or have a diagnosed allergy to milk shouldn’t avoid dairy for their own health.) So then why are younger generations treating milk like a bogeyman and touting debunkable excuses for why they shouldn’t consume dairy? This movement is a self-righteous trend, much like other trends in cancel culture, and unfortunately, the food industry is capitalizing on it and converting many to dairy-free diets with fashionable marketing.
When you accept the fact that non-dairy alternatives are in style because of their novelty and instead learn how to properly reap all the benefits of dairy in your diet, you will level up your body composition, complexion, and overall femininity!
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