If you were to google “reasons to avoid dairy” you’d get several results. Actually, you’d get about 16 million results from that search. I don’t need millions of reasons to steer clear of dairy, I have 3 main reasons, and that is more than enough for me. I’ll get to those in a minute.
It’s important for me to mention that I used to love dairy products, especially as a kid, but certainly up into and through my 20’s as well. I was definitely not one of those people who just didn’t really like milk, or one of the rare people who doesn’t care for cheese (they are out there!). Oh no. One of my favorite snacks used to be sliced block sharp cheddar and dill pickles. Cheese went on every sandwich I ever made. During the summer, and even in the winter, ice cream was practically a daily occurrence. I loved drinking plain milk, and in my mind a tall glass of milk went with every meal. I would drown my breakfast cereal with it. Growing up, our fridge was always stocked with milk.
It never occurred to me that I should ever stop drinking milk. Or eating ice cream. Or snacking on thick slices of sharp cheddar. It never ever crossed my mind that the breast milk from a cow might not actually be good for a human body, or that there was anything ethically wrong with drinking cow’s milk. Milk and dairy products are right there prominently on the food pyramid after all! Pediatricians recommend it to all children starting at one year of age (my daughter’s pediatrician gave us the whole milk spiel when she turned one. In my mind I was making puking noises and rolling my eyes, but I remained very polite on the outside). Not so long ago advertisements used to tell people that 3 servings of dairy would help them slim down and lose weight. Everyone I knew drank milk, put cream in their coffee, and was as obsessed with ice cream and cheese as I was. It’s the best source of calcium, right? It’s loaded with protein! It must be nutritious. Right???
I could go into a long diatribe of all of the nasty attributes of milk, and why I won’t touch dairy now. I could share some of the many horrors of factory farming. I could discuss how Harvard declared dairy products NOT part of a healthy diet. I could go into the reasons the government continues to bend to Big Dairy and milk remains a recommended food for optimal nutrition, even though it’s been proven not to be beneficial to human health and is actually harmful (studies have strongly linked dairy consumption to cancer). I could write about three long blog posts (or 10) listing the compelling reasons that nutrition experts, animal rights advocates, and others have given for avoiding dairy. Maybe one day I’ll do that. For now, here are my three biggest reasons.
- After giving up dairy completely, my skin has never been clearer. No more hormonal, cystic acne which plagued my chin right up until I stopped dairy for good.
- Dairy-free milk alternatives like almond milk, sesame seed milk, etc. taste delicious.
- Cow’s milk was designed for one thing, and one thing only: feeding baby cows. Period.
If you’re fed up with your skin and acne, you’ve tried everything, and it just won’t clear up, please consider eliminating dairy. Especially if you have adult acne, and/or cystic acne that seems hormonal (you’re breaking out with deep, painful bumps on your chin, especially certain times during the month). It doesn’t matter if your milk is organic, labelled hormone free, is raw, etc… there are hormones in that milk! LOTS of hormones. It is a bodily fluid from a mammal, designed by nature to make a tiny baby cow huge in a short amount of time. Surges in hormones help make lactation possible ( I knew this firsthand as a breastfeeding mom), so of course cow’s milk naturally has hormones. Check out this interesting article for more on hormones in milk and the dairy/acne connection.Not only did I experience those surges in hormones while I was breastfeeding, I experienced the emotional and physiological, all-encompassing bond with my newborn daughter. It’s an indescribable feeling really, one I wouldn’t have completely understood if I hadn’t experienced it. Your focus is entirely on your baby; your baby is your whole world now; you want to immediately comfort any distress, feed them when they’re hungry, and keep them close at all times and at all costs. This is exactly how a mother cow feels. They have the same innate need and strong drive to take care of their babies. In order to profit from the mother cow’s breast milk, however, calves are typically separated from their moms a day after they are born. These babies, if female, are raised to endure a lifetime of yearly artificial (and forcible) impregnation and painful milking as soon as they are old enough. If they are male, they’re put in tiny crates alone, unable to move around or feel grass under their feet, destined to be sent to the slaughterhouse at about 16 weeks of age (for veal). Mother cows mournfully cry out to their babies after they are taken away, and the babies cry out for the mother, for days. In some cases prompting calls to the police from worried neighbors, as in this case.
This isn’t just the practice of some small minority of evil factory farms, this is the norm, even in organic so-called “happy cow” farms. Very small family farms may do things a bit differently, and many claim to be kinder and love their animals. This may be true, but even if it is, hardly anyone is drinking the milk from one of these farms. If you buy your milk at the store, you’re definitely not. The fact remains, even on those small dairies, that male baby cows are seen as byproducts and are almost always going to be sold for veal. Also, in order to get enough milk to sell, even on a small scale, there is almost certainly going to have to be a forced separation of mother and calf, which is incredibly painful and traumatic for both mom and baby. I don’t believe in sharing any video that is graphic, and I promise to never to that, but I do want to share this video of a mama cow and baby cow being separated, as watching it was a pivotal factor in my decision to stop consuming dairy (it is non-graphic, though very sad). My chest still gets tight when I watch this video. If you drink or buy milk, consider if this pain is worth supporting the habits of your tastebuds. As a long-time milk enthusiast, I finally decided it was not.
You could go to the ends of earth, or at least scour all your neighboring cities and counties looking for a truly “humane” dairy farm to buy milk, but why go to all that trouble when dairy isn’t part of a healthy diet anyway (and is most likely harming your health), and there are so many delicious dairy-free options out there? If I didn’t have a slew of tasty alternatives to take the place of all my favorite dairy foods, giving up dairy may have been more difficult. In truth, I did a lot of flip flopping the first three years after deciding to switch to a plant-based diet. One month I was dairy-free, the next I was slowly sliding into my old ways, usually in social situations. The more I learned, and read, however, the more I wanted to change. Seeing how much better my skin looked was a huge motivator, but the big catalyst for going dairy-free was experiencing motherhood, breastfeeding, and the bond with my daughter firsthand. Immediately I saw the bigger picture. After becoming a mom, I no longer had to “try” to give up dairy, there was just no way I could consume it and support the dairy industry anymore.
Now that I have poured my heart and soul into this post, let’s get to the recipe, shall we?? I realize I rarely ever divulge personal information, and I don’t like to get too much into the nitty gritty of ethics, or the vegan lifestyle, but sometimes I feel like there are things that I need to discuss. If I can help just one person who is thinking of giving up dairy, or convince just one person to question their habits, then I am happy to share my thoughts and experiences. I also want you to know that I’m coming from a place of understanding, after all, I was consuming dairy only 3 years ago, so I do not judge anyone. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine not eating dairy foods, and the practice of cutting it out completely seemed extreme. Please believe me when I say I do not feel deprived, of anything! Dairy-free products at the grocery store keep getting better and better, and if you can’t buy it, make it! (see my All Recipes page for more dairy-free alternative milks, cheese sauces, and desserts, including cheesecake!)
I love this sesame seed milk because it’s rich, creamy, and unexpected. It has a unique flavor that I find irresistible. I use this milk in everything from iced coffee to oatmeal. I especially love it in a thick, banana-based smoothie. I wrote a lot about sesame seed benefits in my maple tahini dip post, but here is a quick recap of the nutrients you’ll find in sesame seeds (and sesame seed milk):
- B vitamins
Think strong bones, healthy hair and clear skin. Sesame seeds are also said to be beneficial in preventing heart disease, cancer, and even anxiety. So what are you waiting for? Ditch the cruel, acne- and cancer-causing dairy, and start blending up your own plant-powered milk. Starting with this super easy, delicious and nutritious sesame seed milk.
Sesame Seed Milk
- 1 cup of raw sesame seeds (soaked in filtered water overnight)
- 3 cups of water
- 2 dates (optional)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
- tiny pinch of salt, pinch of cinnamon (optional)
- Drain your sesame seed in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with water. Add to a blender along with remaining ingredients and blend on high for about a minute.
- Strain the milk using a nut milk bag (it’s worth every penny!) or a fine mesh strainer. If you’re using it in smoothies you have the option of skipping the straining step and you can just use it immediately.
- Store in the fridge in a jar with a lid, and use within 3 days.