Generally, dairy is not considered Paleo, but you’ve probably seen health bloggers debating this topic for quite some time. Dairy can take many forms and it would be unfair to treat it all like one. Let’s examine some of the arguments pro- and against different types of dairy within the Paleo lifestyle.
Is milk Paleo?
Historically speaking, no.
During the Paleolithic era, our ancestors only consumed breastmilk (during infancy). They did not have the ability to milk wild game, and therefore did not consume any dairy.
This doesn’t mean that milk is bad, but it does mean that it’s not authentically Paleo.
Is milk good for you?
The “Got Milk?” ads will have you think so! But truthfully, it depends.
Milk is meant to be good. It’s meant to be the first thing a newborn animal (or human) consumes, so it’s full of minerals, nutrients, and good bacteria that’s supposed to contribute to a healthy development.
If you eat kefir, yogurt, or cheese you will get even more than just nutrients – you’ll get a big dose of probiotic bacteria and none of the lactose (since it’s broken down during fermentation).
So should I just drink milk?
What makes milk troublesome for some people are compounds lactose and casein, as well as the poor quality of conventionally-sold milk.
Lactose is a sugar found in milk that many people are intolerant of. It may give them uncomfortable symptoms such as cramps, bloating, and gassiness every time they have milk or milk products. About 75% of the world’s population is lactose-intolerant.
Casein is a type of protein that makes up 80% of the proteins in cow milk (while making up only 20% – 40% of the proteins in human milk). Some studies show that the human body has a difficult time digesting casein, leading to a sensitivity and even allergies to the protein.
An expert in Integrative and Functional Medicine, Dr. Frank Lipman found that common side effects of casein sensitivity are respiratory problems, excessive mucous production, digestive problems, acne, fatigue, joint pains, and more. Eventually casein consumption can trigger an autoimmune response.
Lastly, all milk you’ll find at the supermarket has been pasteurized, which means most of the beneficial qualities of milk have been eliminated anyways. The human body has no need for it if it cannot provide a benefit.
In addition, large dairy farms pump their cows full of hormones, like the bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase milk production. Not to mention all the unnecessary antibiotics, vaccines, and other potentially toxic pharmaceuticals given to the animals that end up in our milk.
Perhaps raw milk would be a totally different story, and I would even recommend it to people, but in our world, with the type of milk available to us – it’s best to avoid it altogether.
Paleo alternatives to milk
Almond milk is a fantastic alternative to cow milk. Make sure to get organic and unsweetened (or make your own!). Almond milk has a similar “body” to regular milk, so it’s an easy transition for most people. It’s also low in sugars, carbs, sodium, and calories, while filling you up with vitamins D and E, calcium, and omega-3s.
Coconut milk is another great choice if you’re trying to follow Paleo. Coconut milk is slightly watery and has a natural sweetness. Coconut milk contains lauric acid, which converts into an antiviral and antibacterial compound in your body, leading researchers to believe coconut milk can enhance your immune system.
Hemp milk, a lesser-known gem of Paleo milks is a great choice for those looking for all 10 essential amino acids, omega 3s and omega 6s, calcium, and vitamins A, E, B12, B6, D, and many more. This milk won’t get you high, but it’ll definitely provide you with most of your daily nutrients!
What about yogurt and kefir?
Everyone should decide for themselves whether their Paleo regimen can include fermented dairy. Personally, I often have both kefir and greek yogurt. I don’t experience any discomfort like I do with regular milk, and I definitely notice the benefits!
As mentioned above, if you are lactose-intolerant, you can still consume fermented dairy since fermentation breaks down the lactose (among other sugars).
The probiotics in those foods are extremely beneficial to your gut, immune system, and overall well-being. For most people the benefit outweighs any risk.
If you find that your body responds negatively to kefir or yogurt, it would make sense to remove them from your diet. You can still get those probiotics from dairy-free kefir that you can make at home.
Where do you stand on the dairy vs. paleo debate? Let me know in the comments!