What is the Paleo/Primal Diet Part 3: Dairy

We’ve all been taught since we were little that we need to drink at least a glass of milk a day complete with a nice milk moustache, to maintain healthy, strong bones. Seeing all of those national TV commercials featuring professional athletes drinking milk and getting a silky, white milk moustaches after they finished drinking made milk seem “cool.” I mean, those athletes didn’t look ridiculous with milk all over there faces? Did they?

The government-recommended myplate.gov suggests having around 3 cups of “low fat” or “fat free” dairy products a day. Milk has always had a halo around its head when it came to healthy living. But wait, lets  look at the true health benefits of dairy before we make any final decisions on the calcium-rich, good old white stuff.

Lets start with nutrition. 1 cup of whole milk gives you:

  • a good source of protein
  • a good source of calcium
  • a few carbohydrates
  • good source of saturated fats
  • good source of vitamins D, B12, & Riboflavin
 In comparison, one cup of cheese will get you :
  • even more protein
  • even more good fats and saturated fats
  • good calcium
  • more sodium (not so great)
  • a lot more minerals than milk
  • a few less vitamins
  • a few less grams of carbs
So, from a nutrition perspective, Dairy products don’t seem to have many disadvantages to your overall health. In fact, it seems to even be a very good source for a number of macronutrients (protein, fat, saturated fat) and a few micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Where does dairy go terribly wrong?

Well first thing’s first, human beings are the only animals in the world who consume the breast milk of other post-partum animals (other than themsleves). As JYI says: “humans place themselves in the odd position of being the only animals that consume milk after weaning. Moreover, humans do not drink human milk, but drink the milk of other species, and do so commonly throughout their adult lives“. So, why did we start using other animals’ dairy in the first place? Well, the answer unfortunately is, we just don’t know. There is a lack of archaeological evidence explaining when cow or any other animal’s milk was originally consumed by humans. Some researchers say milk entered the human diet only around 9,000 years ago when everyone on the planet was lactose intolerant, which means those neolithic dairy farmers made things that were lactose-free (yogurts, cheeses, ghee).

Lactose was originally only broken down in small quantities during the first couple of years of a humans life. However, due to a genetic mutation, some middle eastern neolithic agricultural communities were able to make a small change on chromosome 2 to allow them to consume lactose products in their lifetime without diarrhea, nausea, flatulence, stomach cramps, etc. These communities eventually migrated to Europe where they introduced this phenomenon with Europeans, who now a days “many people” carry the change to chromosome 2.

HOWEVER, according to a study published in 2006, “An estimated 30 million to 50 million American adults are lactose intolerant.” The pattern of primary lactose intolerance appears to have a genetic component, and specific populations show high levels of intolerance, including approximately: 95 percent of Asians, 60 percent to 80 percent of African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews, 80 percent to 100 percent of American Indians, and 50 percent to 80 percent of Hispanics. Lactose intolerance is least common among people of northern European origin, who have a lactose intolerance prevalence of only about 2 percent.”

Which means, YOU yes, YOU could be lactose intolerant and not even know it.

When I started my primal lifestyle, I did a little self-experimentation to test my lactose tolerance which I encourage you to do, as well: Completely stop eating any and all dairy products for anywhere between 3 days to 2 weeks. Once you have completely given up dairy for that time period, drink a glass of milk, wait a little while, and see how you feel. If you end up on the crapper, shitting out your insides . . . well then you’re probably lactose intolerant and you should cut non-fermented dairy out of your diet (cheese, yogurt, and ghee are all lower lactose dairy products that can similarly be tested for tolerance. Harder cheeses present less lactose than softer cheeses).*

However, if you feel fine than congratulations! You are a successful product of a genetic mutation! So, you can have any and all dairy, right?

Wrong. Low fat milk, surprisingly, does not come straight from the cow and is not just milk with the fat taken out. It has a number of additives to “enhance” the milk. Almost always, dairy producers add dried milk powder to skim milk to give it an extra protein boost so it will sell better and keep up with the competition (whole milk). Well, dry milk powders not only severely damage essential nutrients found in milk, but the process of drying milk also oxidizes the cholesterol in milk which, when consumed, cause risks for heart disease. But, don’t go looking on the ingredients of your skim milk for dried milk: “You won’t always find skim milk powder listed in the ingredients of your milk. Because it’s considered an industry standard to use milk powder, milk processors aren’t required to list it.”

Not to mention, skim milk eliminates all of the essential saturated fats that are present in whole milk. Saturated fats are essential to achieving “stable cell membranes and healthy brain, lung, and skin function.” Stay tuned for future posts on saturated fat.

Dairy can be implemented into your health plan in several ways if and only if you can tolerate it. Be it an everyday occurrence in your morning cup o’ joe (post on coffee coming soon!), in the occasional piece of good, hard cheese, or you could leave it off of your plate entirely, everyone will have different levels of tolerance when it comes to dairy. If you choose to partake in dairy, try and look for the cleanest dairy you can find (grass-fed, organic) for optimal health. That should be enough on dairy for a while. I should stop before I get too cheesy 😉 

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*If you think you’re lactose intolerant, you should see your physician to get the necessary tests to be absolutely sure.


About The Author


Max is a passionate pursuer of integrative health. He has been drafted by a professional baseball team, worked in publishing scientific laboratories and spoken to groups of students on health and well-being. He is currently a biology major and philosophy minor at Denison University. Max spends his time reading, weightlifting, traveling and learning. Email Max at mungar810@gmail.com.

8 Responses

  1. Andrew
    Andrew June 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm | | Reply

    Hey guys, I’ve been reading your posts for a while now, and, while I may not be able to go into great detail like Sammy did (see his comment in part 1), I can’t help but feel like you are giving some misinformation to the public, especially regarding the overconsumption of saturated fats, which is not a good thing for you. While it is certainly true that fat is a great way to store energy, it is not the necessarily healthiest way to do so. I would suggest looking up some of your facts and talking to some other specialists in order to gain a complete perspective on the subject. I know for a fact that my parents (both nutrition specialists) would love to talk with both of you and give you more information.
    Oh also, I’m pretty sure your comment about how plasma membranes are 50% saturated fat is just not true. I may be wrong – I would love to see where you got your information, and just let me know if you’d like to get in touch with my parents on the matter.
    Keep up the posts!

  2. Adam McConnell
    Adam McConnell August 18, 2012 at 11:33 am | | Reply

    Where do you get calcium then??

  3. Alex
    Alex November 7, 2012 at 2:44 pm | | Reply

    I’m somewhat torn in understanding your logic here. It seems the whole premise of the diet is to eat how our ancestors did in the most natural way possible. It seem almost contradictory that you are now saying that since humans have adapted to process lactose it is fine to consume it. If this is the case, why should we not be able to eat things such as grains that we may also have become genetically adapted to over the course of time.

    Also as I side note: your statement of, “None of what we say on this blog is our own personal feeling towards dieting” is a bit ridiculous realistically speaking. Something being backed up by evidence does not counteract it being your personal opinion. Think about politics for example, what they say is backed up by their research and facts, but it is pretty agreed upon that the way in which they present them and the fact that they do present them constitutes their personal opinion and agenda. The same is true about this blog being your personal feelings and beliefs about dieting and nutrition.

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