mozzarella. Mouth-watering milkshakes. Sinful chocolate sundays.
Most of us are emotionally attached to psychologically soothing
dairy products, so it can be difficult to evaluate them objectively.
I was no exception.
I followed a lacto-vegetarian diet for fifteen years before I was
willing to seriously consider life without dairy. Michio Kushi,
one of the country's leading macrobiotics teachers, suggested that
dairy products were contributing to several of my health problems,
including serious digestive difficulties, endometriosis and a chronic
candida yeast infection. At this point, I was ready to try anything,
even giving up feta cheese and yogurt!
Only two months after eliminating all dairy products and following
a more balanced vegan diet, most of my symptoms magically disappeared
and others diminished dramatically. I was convinced! However, I
was left wondering exactly how dairy products contribute to health
Kushi cites casein, the protein in dairy products, as the culprit.
Because it is not easily absorbed, it accumulates undigested in
the upper intestine, producing toxins and leading to a weakening
of body systems and an increase in mucous deposits. He theorizes
that the body attempts to isolate this excess, creating cysts and
tumors. In addition, these deposits can accumulate in the kidney
and gall bladder, leading to stones.
Kushi also believes that dairy products are a major contributor
to endometriosis, infertility and systemic yeast infections.
But don't we need to consume dairy products to get sufficient calcium?
According to Kushi, dairy products like milk and cheese can actually
draw calcium from bones and teeth. This is because dairy consumption
produces an excess of protein in the body. Excess protein causes
an acidic condition requiring an alkaline buffer, calcium, to neutralize
Thus, the body's attempt to balance high protein, acid-forming
foods depletes calcium reserves from our bones.
Herman Aihara, another well-respected macrobiotic teacher, believed
that cow's milk is unsuitable for human consumption for several
reasons. First, milk is highly processed, containing many chemical
additives such as antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and preservatives.
Second, milk is high in saturated fats, predisposing us to cholesterol
deposits in the arteries.
Finally, the protein in cow's milk is seven times larger than human
milk protein, causing digestive problems.
John Robbins, author of Diet for New America, agrees. In his book
he states, " Dairy cattle are fed such 'delicacies' as sawdust
laced with ammonia and feathers, shredded newspaper (complete with
all the toxic colored ink from Sunday comics and advertising circulars),
'plastic hay,' processed sewage, tallow and grease, poultry litter,
cement dust, and cardboard scraps, not to mention the insecticides,
antibiotics, hormones and tranquilizers."
Creamy, white dairy products are not as pure and wholesome as they
The Western medical establishment is now confirming the connection
between dairy consumption and illness. The Physicians Committee
for Responsible Medicine has concluded that milk, cheese, butter
and yogurt contribute to diseases such as cancer, allergies, digestive
problems and heart disease.
There are many healthy alternatives to dairy products. For calcium,
try eating dark leafy greens such as broccoli, collards, spring
greens, kale and bok choy. Other good sources are beans, sesame
seeds, sea vegetables, tofu and soy beverages. To satisfy the desire
for rich foods, choose seed and nut butters, oil-sautéed
vegetables and tofu dressings. Natural food stores sell non-dairy
sour cream, butter, cheese and ice cream. Lastly, Amasake,
a sweet rice drink, makes a delicious "milkshake."
Whether you are experiencing health problems or would simply like
to eat for optimal health, there are a wide variety of delicious,
dairy-free foods to choose from. Here is one of my favorite recipes
to help you get started on the road to greater well-being.
Savory Tofu Spread
-excerpted from Lenore's
Natural Cuisine cookbook
This quick, high-calcium spread is a memorable alternative to margarine
or butter. High in protein and low in fat, it can
be plopped on salad instead of cheese. Try it as a substitute for
cream cheese on a bagel.
1/2 pound soft tofu
1/2 TBS. tahini, or more to taste
1 TBS. barley miso, or more to taste
1. Steam tofu for 4 minutes.
2. Crumble into a suribachi or mixing bowl.
3. Add tahini and miso. Mix well.
4. Store refrigerated in a glass jar. Keeps one week.
variation Add a pinch of dried oregano, basil, thyme or dill to
Author Lenore Baum, M.A., has 30 years of experience
in natural foods cooking and instruction. She is a graduate of Columbia
University and the Kushi Institute. Baum has participated in countless
seminars, workshops and cooking classes with respected natural foods
experts including Aveline Kushi, Cornelia Aihara, Wendy Esko and
Baum founded and managed a successful natural foods deli and vegetarian
cooking school in Phoenix, Arizona for ten years. After moving to
Farmington Hills, Michigan, she operated her cooking school there
from 1991-2002. Baum and her husband, Joe, then traveled on book
tour with her two cookbooks for over a year. They settled in Weaverville,
just outside of Asheville, North Carolina where they built a mountain
retreat and cooking school.