In the years leading up to the “Got Milk” campaign in the 1990s and early 2000s, U.S. milk consumption was at an all time low. The American dairy lobby knew they needed to do something to stay relevant and survive, so with enough persistence (ahem, money) it convinced the federal government to step in. Here’s what happened…
How to Make Oat Milk from the Minimalist Baker
How to Make Almond Milk from Detoxinista
I should probably be embarrassed to admit this but I’m going to tell you anyway. When I was in high school there was an entire wall of my purple bedroom covered in Got Milk? Ads. I remember my mom would get People Magazine hand-me-downs (like her friend would give them to her after she was done reading) and then I would go through and cut out the pages of the different celebrities making goofy milk-mustached faces. And yes, this went on long enough for me to collect an entire wall’s worth of ads. If that isn’t a testament to an amazing marketing campaign, I don’t know what is… and that’s what we’re talking about in today’s episode, milk.
In the years leading up to the Got Milk Campaign in the 1990s and early 2000s, American milk consumption was at an all time low. There were more options for beverages than in the 1970s and people were turning to sodas and fizzy drinks instead of a glass of milk with dinner.
The American dairy lobby knew they needed to do something to stay relevant and survive, so with enough persistence (ahem, money) it convinced the federal government to step in. In 1993, the mass marketing effort of milk-mustached celebrities took over in an effort to convince more Americans to drink milk.
As a further display of support, the US Department of Agriculture updated its dietary guidelines to recommend three servings of dairy a day, despite the fact that one in four Americans can’t physically digest milk.
What people didn’t realize at the time is that drinking three glasses of milk per day doesn’t actually protect against bone fractures or osteoporosis as we were told. In fact, all of the nutrition in milk, like calcium, potassium, and protein, can be found in greater amounts in foods like black beans, kale and broccoli.
The problem was that these other foods couldn’t, and still can’t, compete against the dairy lobby. Black beans, kale and broccoli don’t have industry groups giving millions of dollars to people in Congress and lobbying for influence over the nation’s nutrition recommendations.
So, yes, the federal government has been paid off to tell us that milk is the perfect food — in spite of an ever-growing body of research showing its lack of benefits and sometimes awful side effects for the one in four Americans who are lactose intolerant.
As doctors, nutritionists and scientists have continued to speak out — they agree that yes, milk is the perfect food… for a baby cow.
There is no evidence that we need milk to strengthen our bones (if that’s hard for you to believe, I will link to all of my sources in the show notes). And yet, upon the recommendation of our government, many American babies are told to drink cow’s milk before they’re even given water.
Any parent who has brought their kid to the pediatrician has been given the one-page pamphlet with food and beverage suggestions for toddlerhood. We’re told to try to stay away from sugary juices and that for healthy fats, proteins and calcium, the child should be given cow’s milk.
When we tell people that our son is being raised vegan, from the time he stopped breastfeeding until now, very well-meaning friends and family members are visibly concerned and confused. “How is he going to get any calcium?” they ask us.
And then I go on to explain that there’s actually more calcium in arugula than there is in milk and he eats an arugula salad 3-4 times a week. That’s in addition to the black beans, broccoli and leafy greens that he also loves to eat.
So yes, if you can look past the massive big dairy marketing machine, you’ll actually hear scientists and nutritionists warning that even if you’re not lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy, milk shouldn’t be a major part of your diet.
According to several of the sources I’ll link to in the show notes, “Dairy fat in your bloodstream helps to breed viruses and bacteria. It’s also mucus producing and a major cause of inflammation and allergies. Even if it’s organic and free-range. If you’re buying conventional milk, then you’re drinking something produced by an animal that’s given hormones, antibiotics, GMO corn and soy and gluten.”
I’ll say it louder for the people in the back: Dairy and milk products do not promote healthy bones. According to a large meta-analysis, published on Pub Med, milk did not reduce risk of fractures. Other studies have shown it actually increases fracture rates. And the countries with the lowest milk consumption have the lowest risk of osteoporosis.
Okay, so if I haven’t put you over the edge yet: we’ve established that milk does not contribute to growing strong bones, as we’ve been told. But it does seem to contribute to growing cancer cells. Milk increases the hormone called IGF-1 or insulin-like growth factor, which doctors describe as a “Miracle-Gro” for cancer cells. Dairy products have been linked to prostate cancer and cows are even milked while pregnant (yes, even organic cows), which means their milk is filled with reproductive hormones that are potentially cancer-causing.
Dairy also increases the risk of type 1 diabetes, is a well-known cause of acne and of course, it causes millions around the world to suffer digestive distress because of lactose intolerance. It can cause intestinal bleeding in infants leading to iron deficiency, as well as allergy, asthma and eczema.
So, yeah, dairy, can you believe all of those celebrities were lying to us?
If cheese is your favorite food, like it is my husband’s and you can tolerate dairy, then try to stick to goat or sheep milk. The casein in goat’s milk is not inflammatory, unlike the casein in most cow’s milk that creates allergies, eczema, gut issues and acne. Goat’s milk is also easier to digest so it doesn’t cause stomach discomfort. For babies and kids who are recommended cow’s milk, goat’s milk is the closest animal milk to human breast milk and a far better choice for their developing gut microbiomes.
Again, friendly disclaimer that I’m not a doctor and your doctor will probably tell you something very different, so this is me encouraging you to do your own research.
So, what about nut milk? If you can look past the massive amounts of water that are used to grow nuts like almonds, there are still some things to be aware of.
Most popular non-dairy milks, like almond, coconut and oat milk, contain added sugar and flavors. You want to make sure you’re looking for certified organic non-dairy milks to avoid synthetic pesticides but don’t assume that all organic nut milks are healthy. Look for brands without sugar, natural flavors or carrageenan and make sure to avoid thickening agents like gellan gum.
I love a splash of oat milk in my coffee or oatmeal and I’ve started making my own in the past year — it’s shockingly easy so I’ll link to a recipe for both homemade oat milk and almond milk in the show notes at cleanlivingpodcast.com/milk
Did you know I have an email list where you can subscribe to get a weekly recap and reminder of the week’s episodes? I also share my favorite picks and recommendations for clean living with this VIP list. You can subscribe to get on the list at cleanlivingpodcast.com — I only email once a week and it’s always thoughtfully curated for you.
Thanks so much for listening to this episode of The Clean Living Podcast — I’m your host Shannon Lohr. If you’re enjoying this podcast or finding it helpful, please share it with a friend or family member– Here’s to creating a cleaner, more sustainable world for all of us.