Got Milk?

Remember when I said June is chock full of national food days, and June itself is home to several food related “months”.  June is National Dairy month.

However instead of telling you to run out and drink more milk I’m going to attempt to start a dialogue about the need for cow’ milk.


So there are two basic variations of milk.

1) Cow’s Milk

2) Plant based milks

Milk used to be synonymous with what came from cows.  But nowadays there is hemp, soy, coconut, almond, rice milks or “milk alternatives”.  Right now these milk alternatives only take up a small percentage of milk sales, however it’s rapidly growing market.

These milk alternatives are a God send for those who have: dairy allergies, are lactose intolerant (~12% of the population), and/or follow a vegan diet.

got milk 3

But even some of these plant based milks have a “health halo” – meaning they look healthier than they may be – some have a lot of sugar added to them (i.e. chocolate almond milk).

In the past year or so -there has been a lot of debate on if cow’s milk is really necessary for adult humans to consume, and not even necessarily adults – but anyone after the point of infancy/t0ddler-hood.

But for as long as I can remember I have always been told to drink your milk to get your calcium.  Even going through years of schooling to become a Dietitian – milk is just something that is just lumped in as something “good”, because it is such a good source of calcium.  I also grew up in a small town that was “one town over” from the dairy capital of Michigan.  So I am used to seeing cows, I remember seeing the cows on field trips as a kid.  So I have to admit – I’m pretty “pro cow”  🙂

There is no disputing that milk and dairy products like yogurt – are EXCELLENT sources of calcium.  What is being disputed is if we really NEED to get calcium from DAIRY.

I first heard this brought up pertaining to the Paleo diet – which is one of the better fad diets – in that there are plenty of non-dairy sources of calcium – which is true.  

But with milk and dairy it’s a lot easier to hit that calcium target. 

got milk

A point that was also made by a colleague is that – a majority of the research showing that milk (or rather good calcium intake)  is preventative for osteoporosis – has very strong conflicts of interest with the National Dairy Council – or directly funded by the Council.

However their are many studies and just … Basic FACTS that show milk is a good source of calcium. And adequate calcium intake can be beneficial in preventing osteoporosis … So there’s that. 

And how can I forget – there is the ever popular argument of how cow’s are fed GMO grains, and pumped with growth hormones and antibiotics etc.  I’m not opening this can of worms – but I will say – GMOs have been in our food supply since a the 90’s – and well….we’re all hanging in there…. 

Another thing to chew on- would we ever try to interfere with a doctor or surgeon trying out new technology or a new technique? Doubtful.

So why are folks so doubtful towards farmers and vets who take care of cows to keep them healthy? 

Ok.  An adult should be getting about 1,000-1,200 mg per day – women are on the higher end of this recommendations – especially when they are over 50, and this rec increases to 1,300 mg for pregnant and breastfeeding.

So where do you get calcium from (based on Harvard Nutrition Source)

>8 oz low fat yogurt – 415 mg

>1 cup Collard greens – 357 mg **green leafies in general will be good sources of Calcium

>1 cup skim milk – 306 mg

> 1 cup black eyed peas – 211 mg

> 3 oz canned salmon – 181 mg

>3 oz calcium set tofu – 163 mg

> 1 cup baked beans – 154 mg

I am admittedly making a few leaps and hops in this post – only to create a dialogue.  What do you think about this?

Do you think it really matters if as adults we consume 2 8oz glasses of cows milk a day or 1 8 oz servings and 8 oz of yogurt?

A big argument for why we don’t need “dairy” is that cows milk (and likely cow’s milk based dairy, i.e. yogurt) along with other animal proteins have positive potential renal acid loads – foods with these are “hypothesized” to leech calcium from the bones – because they are acidic in nature.  …… soooo we can’t eat meat now either?!?

Or do you think this just boils down to good portion sizes of protein based foods like milk, yogurt, meats, eggs etc?

Or do you think there just needs to be more research on this in general – (studies with good designs, large sample sizes, and no conflicts of interest)?

I personally drink both cow’s milk  and almond milk – and do not plan on giving them up anytime soon.  I also eat meat, and incorporate some type of protein into each meal (eggs, lean meats, beans** etc) – another practice I don’t plan on stopping.

I feel pretty safe consuming these foods in the portions I do ~3-4 oz protein per meal, and ~ 8 oz yogurt per day.  But this is me PERSONALLY answering the questions I posted above.

Please comment below with your feedback, and if you haven’t already subscribe to my blog, you can also find me on facebook (Half Dietitian Half Human), twitter (SarahJeanRD), and instagram (half dietitian half human).  


  1. Wow what a great post! And interesting read on things I’ve thought about before.

    Like you, I prefer alternative milk (for me, soy milk) over cows milk. I think the reason is being asian, I grew up with soy milk. I was never a fan of drinking cows milk alone but when it’s in cereal, I’ll drink (eat?) it.

    I understand why people question the push to get milk from cows- the whole we are the only mammals that drink it after birth, and get it from another mammal and I think they raise a good point of there’s a conflict of interest due to dairy farms that wouldn’t have much business if we aren’t told to drink milk all the time.

    So I think yes milk is a great source of calcium, and it’s being pushed mainly to keep dairy farms in business, but there are other ways to get calcium. I’m not sure if we need it from animals but like you I like the other products they provide such as yogurt and ice cream.

    I also agree with you on the whole treatment and gmo thing- like you mentioned in your previous post, it’s a personal decision but it doesn’t change the outcome of the nutrition the food provides.

    I hope my comment makes sense lol I really do enjoy your blog bc I like your point of view!

    1. Thank you! I love any feedback! It makes complete sense! It’s an issue I kind of keep hearing crop up, and did a little looking into. Like I said in my post I did have a difficult time finding any real evidence – but I mostly did this to just have people think about both sides of this general topic. And yeah – I don’t think I’ll ever be willing to give up ice cream 😉 Thanks again for your comment!

      1. No prob! It really frustrates me that people think things are good for them just bc there’s a “health halo” (love that word btw) around them. And it really irritates me that people don’t take the time to not only look into things themselves but to look at the source that is telling them this info- RD is a credential that shows that person not only went to school but completed an internship and worked really hard for a higher education degree. People will listen to just anyone that delivers the news they want to hear lol My biggest gripe as a nursing student is the whole vaccine thing ugh lol

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