Let’s talk about milk in the DASH diet. Almond milk and coconut milk do not have any dairy properties. Almond milk doesn’t even have a serving of almonds. And it requires lots of water to produce, which is an environmental concern in areas with drought, such as California (where almonds are produced).
For the DASH diet, milk provides the key nutrients calcium (milk proteins help dramatically to boost calcium absorption), potassium, vitamin D, and the excellent milk proteins. DASH research was conducted with real milk, so we don’t really know if soy milk provides the exact same benefits, but at least it is as rich in protein as cow’s milk, and has calcium and vitamin D.
Cow’s milk has been consumed by humans for thousands of years, as a sustainable protein source (along with the other nutrient benefits). It is minimally processed, unlike soy milk. I do, of course, recognize that people have tolerance problems with lactose or, less frequently, milk proteins (which I did have). Yogurt and cheese have very little lactose, and adding lactase (milk-sugar enzyme) can help you with tolerating milk. Some people find that acidophilus milk is easier to tolerate than regular milk. If you can, cow’s milk is a great choice, and if not, soy is a reasonable alternative.
Skim (nonfat) or low-fat milk are your best choices. (And, yes, skimming off the butterfat has also been done for centuries.) The butterfat is highly saturated, which increases your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. You don’t, however, want low-fat yogurt, since that has tons of extra sugar. The light yogurts are fat free and have little or no added-sugar. The clue is in the calories. If your yogurt has 90 calories or less for 6 oz, it is light!
If you have been told that you have a mild allergic response to casein by as shown by IgE, that is most likely a problem only for regular milk. After milk has been modified by heating or fermenting (yogurt, cheese, etc) you will probably not be sensitive to those forms. So hot chocolate may be OK (love that!), along with yogurt and cheese. See if that works for you.
On a side note, I used to get frequent, severe intestinal pains, but I didn’t know what it was, and used to drink more and more milk to calm it down. Eventually I was taken off milk to see if it was causing my headaches. The headaches didn’t stop, but my intestinal pains went away. Aha! After many years, I found yogurt that I liked, and started consuming that frequently, to get more calcium into my diet. Eventually, I decided to try milk again. Surprise! No intestinal pains. My thought has been that the yogurt nurtured the good intestinal bacteria, and thus eliminated any allergic response to milk protein. Yay!
And speaking of good bacteria, research has shown that people can lose weight just by adding one yogurt each day. Now we think that this may be due to those good bacteria, known as part of a healthy intestinal microbiota. Thinner people tend to have more of these good bacteria. And in lab rats, transplanting these good bacteria from thin rats into fat rats, causes the fat ones to lose weight. Good intestinal bacteria may promote reaching and staying at a healthier weight! Learn more about healthy gut bacteria in the upcoming book, The DASH Diet Younger You. An additional way that milk may help with weight loss is by providing lots of whey protein, which is especially powerful for maintaining or building muscle. During older types of weight loss plans, people were encouraged to reduce protein in their diet, which led to excessive muscle loss, and thus, slower metabolism. The whey protein in milk, as part of a diet with sufficient protein from all sources, can help make weight loss more sustainable.
Watch out for Greek yogurt, which is lower in the critical whey protein, even though it is higher over in protein as compared with regular yogurt. And Greek yogurt is also lower in calcium and potassium which are so important for having healthier blood pressure.
Dairy is critical to the DASH diet. In the original DASH diet research, they evaluated whether adding extra fruits and veggies (also key DASH foods) would lower blood pressure. However, without 2 – 3 daily servings of dairy, there was very little blood pressure benefit! Learn more at http://dashdiet.org.
Get going and get milk!
(DASH = Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)