For thousands of years, humans have been collecting milk. Maybe because we knew that drinking our mother’s milk was such a great idea, we figured we’d start gathering it from animals, too. Then we turn it into cheese and butter and we’ve got a whole array of dairy goodies! Regardless of how our milk fixation began, we can’t deny that it’s a big part of many people’s daily diet nowadays. But as Paleo adherents, should we be cutting out the milk or adding more?
One thing is for sure—milk consumption is a hot topic in the Paleo community, and many people have different opinions. Some believe that milk is inflammatory and even causes cancer (this has been examined in a number of studies, which do seem to indicate a possible correlation). Others claim that milk is a great addition to the diet because of all its nutrients. These advocates cite studies that found links between milk and reduced vascular disease (hardening of the arteries), lower triglycerides, and more blood sugar control.
One of the major reasons that some people advise against dairy consumption is because of casein and lactose, two major chemical elements of these products. Casein, a protein found in cow’s milk, sticks around in cheese and many other dairy products, so even if lactose isn’t your problem, many people have an issue with casein. In fact, some studies suggest that casein may behave in much the same way as gluten, and if you’re sensitive to that, your body will react to dairy in the same way. Naturally, this starts an inflammatory cascade that might be the cause for you to ditch the milk-based products altogether.
On the other hand, we’ve all been told that milk is great for us. What’s the deal? Let’s take a look at what some leading Paleo experts think about dairy as a regular part of the diet.
What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?
The Paleo Mom says: “So, what do I recommend? Caution. I believe that dairy is probably okay for many healthy adults, especially full-fat, grass-fed dairy. In fact, for healthy individuals, the benefits likely outweigh the risks. However, for those battling autoimmune disease or other conditions where a leaky gut is a potential contributing factor, it makes the most sense to omit dairy from your diet for now. As is my standard recommendation for all of the gray-area foods, I suggest leaving it out of your diet for at least 1 month, then try reintroducing it and see if you notice any obvious symptoms (this is the best way to determine if you are allergic or sensitive).”
Mark Sisson says: “Bottom line: don’t consume non-organic dairy if you can help it. Avoid homogenized milk if you can, and try not to purchase pasteurized milk (organic or not) on a regular basis. If you’re out getting coffee or something, the regular half and half or heavy cream are fine, and Kerrygold makes a great pastured, pasteurized butter that’s available nationwide.”
Is Dairy Paleo?
Strict Paleo: No!
Not-so-strict Paleo: Probably.
This one doesn’t have a straight answer. If you find yourself sensitive to dairy products, then they’re not the right choice for you, even though they might be completely fine with someone else. Remember that a large part of the problem with dairy—the bit about how it causes cancer and other diseases—comes from studies (like the one earlier in this very article) that were conducted on “standard” milk. You know, skim, homogenized, pasteurized milk. So in that sense, the Paleo mindset holds just as true now as ever—get it the way you find it in nature. Don’t mess with it and it’ll be better for you. If we keep that in mind, we can make a decision about dairy based on our circumstances and what our bodies are telling us.