COW'S MILK. It's a staple of the American diet. The US Department of Agriculture recommends 3 glasses of milk per day for growing adults for calcium and bone health. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations maxes out at 4 cups of milk per day for kids age 1-2. Although, cows milk introduction is not recommended for children under 1 year old. What do you think about this? I'm going to discuss a little about what I think about dairy consumption in the pediatric population.
A couple of guys over at Harvard wrote an article about the role of animal milk in human nutrition summarizing:
- Humans don't need milk. We were fine before milk was introduced and we'll grow up fine without it.
- Milk isn't needed for bone health. "Throughout the world, bone fracture rates tend to be lower in countries that do not consume milk compared to those that do." A recent 2014 study found that higher intake of milk was related to an increase rate of fracture in women.
- There is no evidence on the safety of growth hormones in milk.
- Fat free milk doesn't make us skinny...and it may increase obesity.
- On top of all of that, the Harvard "Healthy Plate" nixes dairy as a staple and adds it to the limited/optional list.
So why the push for milk? Of course the dairy companies want us to drink milk and there is a lack of understanding about nutritional benefits of dairy. People think that we need to consume milk after we are weaned off of breast milk. We do, in fact, need milk during the weaning process but cows milk can be dangerous for infants. After the weaning process, we assume that babies and toddlers require milk in their diets but this is not the case. They can get what they need: protein, vitamin D and calcium from other food sources.
If you do choose to give your little ones cow milk just make sure they are not exhibiting any signs of a dairy allergy or intolerance (skin irritations, eczema, abnormal bowels, tummy aches, congestion, asthma, vomiting, chronic ear aches, etc.) The research on asthma and dairy is limited but clinically, parents often see symptom improvement when dairy is removed from the diet. In addition, non-organic dairy should not be in your child's diet due to the high amount of toxins that are fat-soluble and detoxified through milk glands and into your babies tummy. And I could go on and on but...just stick to Organic.
Nix the fat-free stuff...that's old school. We need fat to feel fuller and not over-eat. These low-fat fads are fading out as the decrease in fat just increases our intake of sugars and carbohydrates. In fact, switching from whole milk to skim milk adds 13 grams of sugar and only 3 grams of fat. We NEED fat for our brains and cellular membranes. Focus on good sources of fat: avocado, oils, butter, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, etc. Stay away from the low-fat labels that are weighed down with refined sugars and weird chemical processing that makes things "fat-free" but still tastes fatty and creamy. As Sweet Brown would say, "That ain't right."
Bone Health. Calcium can be found in dark leafy greens, seeds, nuts, legumes and sardines. Guess what...calcium isn't the head captain in charge of bone health! We also need magnesium, vitamin D and K as well as weight bearing exercise to ensure healthily bones!
Exceptions: Aviva Romm MD is a pediatrician and she advocates that milk is not needed as a dietary staple unless nutritiously necessary. For example, if a mother cannot breastfeed, or if a pregnant mom or child needs to gain weight and has trouble consuming enough calories and protein. Also, children that have been weaned but are not yet able to fully eat solids may do well with organic whole milk added to their diet. Although, in babies under one year of age, dairy can cause digestive problems and anemia. So, rule of thumb is to avoid is as much as you can under age one unless nutritiously necessary and with supervision of a pediatrician. And after 1 year old...try some dairy alternatives like the ones mentioned below.
And as a clarifying side note, I'm talking about staying away from using milk as a dietary staple. For example: filling up sippy cups full of milk when the child is already weaned and eating whole foods. I'm not talking about a little bit of organic yogurt, full-fat cheese or a little cream in cooking. For those where dairy does not bother them and shows no signs of intolerances...this can be filling and nutritious, but for those with dairy intolerances, or even worse dairy allergies...dairy products may be 100% out of the question.
What's the difference between an allergy and an intolerance? A dairy or lactose intolerance (non-IgE mediated) may lead to gas, bloating, diarrhea, skin rashes, bloody stools, sinus congestion etc. Some people with intolerances can tolerate a little yogurt or cheese every now and then but they just need to watch it. Or, for other intoleraces they can't even have a bite or else they will be doubled over with tummy cramps all night. For a true IgE-mediated allergy, dairy may lead to hives/skin rashes, trouble breathing, swelling of the mouth, vomiting or symptoms of an serious anaphylactic reaction. You may ask your primary care provider to run blood work and consider an elimination diet if you are curious as there is often some symptom overlap which can be confusing.
Instead of talking about what kids SHOULDNT EAT, lets discuss what they SHOULD.
- Bone-loving nutrients can be found in green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit and healthy sources of protein. Water is the best beverage for toddlers and of course breast milk for babies.
Some alternative cow's milk options from Naturopathic Pediatrics:
- Rice Milk – most hypoallergenic, unlikely to cause a reaction in even sensitive individuals. Not a significant source of protein or fat.
- Almond Milk – good choice, but may not be allowed in nut-free environments. Also not a great source of protein and fat.
- Soy Milk – higher in protein and fat than rice/almond, but higher allergenicity, greater potential for reaction.
- Coconut Milk – good source of saturated fat, but some aren’t fortified with calcium.
- Oat Milk, Hemp and Flax- all have similar profiles, may be harder to find.
In Happy Healthy Bellies and Tummies,
Analisa Jahna, ND
Romm, Aviva. Need Milk? Probably Not. July 16, 2013. (http://avivaromm.com/need-milk-probably-not)
Ludwig, David S. Three Dily Servings of Reduced-Fat Milk. An Evidence-Based Recommendation. JAMA Pediatrics. 2013; 167990:788-789. (http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1704826)
Michaelsson, Karl. Milk Intake and risk of mortality and fracture in women and men: cohort studies. BMJ 2015: 349: g6015. (http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g6015)