Who Cut the Cheese?

People ask me often, “If there was one thing you could start doing for your health, what would it be?” My response is usually cut the cheese! By the way, my great grandfather was a dairy farmer, but times are changing. “Pizza and cheese” are the largest dietary sources of saturated fat[i] and neither offers much nutritional value. Cheese comes in at 8.5% of our daily saturated fat intake and pizza at 5.9%.i We eat them only because they taste good.

Why is saturated fat such a problem? High saturated fat intake is associated with heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s dementia, diabetes and even self-harm, which are some of the leading killers in our communities.

Cheese

What about the calcium in dairy? Calcium is important, but milk is not the best source of calcium. One article from Harvard elucidates this point well. “Look beyond the dairy aisle” for calcium it suggests.[ii] “Calcium-rich non-dairy foods include leafy green vegetables and broccoli, both of which are also great sources of vitamin K, another key nutrient for bone health.”ii

The powerful documentary “Forks over Knives” also draws attention to this point. The current daily recommended allowance for calcium is 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams daily.[iii] This may be much higher than is required for someone on a plant-based diet, however, due to the increased excretion of calcium with a diet high in animal protein.iii Interestingly, the Forks over Knives Blog highlights the point that animals, some that we eat, obtain their calcium through plants, which absorb calcium through the soil.iii The most reassuring piece of this article for me is this statement, “At the end of the day, the “disease” of calcium deficiency from a calorically sufficient natural whole-food plant-based diet is nonexistent.”iii

Ok, so we have established that we don’t NEED dairy in our diets, but there is no question that we WANT dairy in our diets, right? My family doesn’t. We recently took my mother out to a nice restaurant in Fort Collins, Colorado. The restaurant didn’t have one single “Dairy Free” option on the menu. The wait staff wasn’t even sure, which items had dairy or did not. Obviously, customers aren’t demanding this option…yet. I provided feedback at the end of dinner to the establishment that they may want to keep up with the times.

Restaurant

Times are changing…The USDA reported that the average person drinks 18 gallons of milk per year today. Compare that to the 1970s, it was more like 30 gallons per year.[iv]

This trend in reduction in dairy consumption has resulted in people cutting cheese. Cheese is piling up at record rates. Now up to 1.39 billion pounds of stored cheese or about 4 pounds of cheese for every American.[v] As demand continues to fall, then so too will prices for cheese. If prices fall, then farmers who produce dairy will be looking for new markets or closing shop.

For dairy farmers like my great-grandfather, problems with selling cheese will be tough on their livelihood. Changing times, call for changing foods. We must ask ourselves why the US government or tax payers are funding nearly 73% of U.S. dairy farmer’s market returns?[vi] There are things beyond my understanding with subsidies, like food independence from other countries, but we are funding waste at this point. It comes at an expense to cows too.

Consumer preference has shifted today and it’s time we all started to cut the cheese. Once we do it, there’s no turning back.

If you need help starting a dairy-free diet, check out some of our cookbook recommendations on our Doc’s Picks page.


[i] “Top Food Sources of Saturated Fat in the U.S.” The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/top-food-sources-of-saturated-fat-in-the-us/ Accessed June 29th, 2018.

[ii] “Calcium and milk.” The Nutrition Source. Harvard School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/calcium-and-milk/. Accessed on 6/29/18.

[iii] “Getting Clarity About Calcium.” Wellness. May 21st, 2015. Forks over Knives Blog. https://www.forksoverknives.com/milk-myth-why-you-dont-need-dairy-for-calcium/#gs.yU=dTx8. Accessed June 29th, 2018.

[iv] “Why are Americans Drinking Less Cow’s Milk? Its Appeal Has Curdled.” NPR. Monika Evstatieva. May 26th, 2017. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/05/16/528460207/why-are-americans-drinking-less-cows-milk-its-appeal-has-curdled. Accessed June 29th, 2018.

[v] “America Has a Cheese Problem That’s Only Going to Get Worse.” Allana Akhtar. TIME. Money. June 29th, 2018. http://time.com/money/5325694/cheese-excess-trump-tariffs-mexico/

[vi] “U.S. dairy subsidies equal 73 percent of producer returns, says new report.” Realagriculture News Team. Feb 9, 2018. Realagriculture.com. https://www.realagriculture.com/2018/02/u-s-dairy-subsidies-equal-73-percent-of-producer-returns-says-new-report/. Accessed June 29th, 2018.

[1] “Top Food Sources of Saturated Fat in the U.S.” The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/top-food-sources-of-saturated-fat-in-the-us/ Accessed June 29th, 2018.

[1] “Calcium and milk.” The Nutrition Source. Harvard School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/calcium-and-milk/. Accessed on 6/29/18.

[1] “Getting Clarity About Calcium.” Wellness. May 21st, 2015. Forks over Knives Blog. https://www.forksoverknives.com/milk-myth-why-you-dont-need-dairy-for-calcium/#gs.yU=dTx8. Accessed June 29th, 2018.

[1] “Why are Americans Drinking Less Cow’s Milk? Its Appeal Has Curdled.” NPR. Monika Evstatieva. May 26th, 2017. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/05/16/528460207/why-are-americans-drinking-less-cows-milk-its-appeal-has-curdled. Accessed June 29th, 2018.

[1] “America Has a Cheese Problem That’s Only Going to Get Worse.” Allana Akhtar. TIME. Money. June 29th, 2018. http://time.com/money/5325694/cheese-excess-trump-tariffs-mexico/

[1] “U.S. dairy subsidies equal 73 percent of producer returns, says new report.” Realagriculture News Team. Feb 9, 2018. Realagriculture.com. https://www.realagriculture.com/2018/02/u-s-dairy-subsidies-equal-73-percent-of-producer-returns-says-new-report/. Accessed June 29th, 2018.

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