The answer to both of these questions is NO. We do not need to drink milk as part of a healthy weight loss plan or to obtain a healthy amount of calcium each day.
Consider the following facts:
1. Americans drink the most milk of any other country, yet we still have the highest rate of osteoporosis.
2. Pasteurization kills off all the necessary digestive enzymes in the milk (This is why so many people are now suffering from lactose intolerance).
3. Pasteurization also makes the major part of the calcium contained in milk insoluble, in other words making 50% of milk's calcium unusable by the body (This contributing to the high rate of osteoporosis).
4. Milk sugar (lactose) converts into sugar your body uses very quickly, leading to blood sugar highs and lows and an up and down energy rollercoaster ride for you.
How could this all be true? Isn't milk supposed to do a body good? Well, yes it does, but milk was really only intended to be consumed in its natural state (unpasteurized). Sound scary? Many states in the US and most organic farmers will ONLY drink milk if it's unpasteurized and they are extremely healthy.
The other fact we need to consider is that most cows are being given an excess of growth hormone just to keep them producing massive amounts of milk. This, in turn, makes them sick, at which time they are given antibiotics. The growth hormone and antibiotics get into their blood stream and then into the milk they produce. Who drinks this chemical laden milk? We do! (Actually, I don't and maybe you're starting to consider whether you do).
The next big concern is "How will I get enough Calcium?" As mentioned above, most of the Calcium in milk is not absorbed by the body. More calcium is absorbed from foods such as green leafy vegetables, broccoli, sardines (with bones preferably) and salmon. This makes sense that more calcium come from greens since cows preferably eat grass and they have a lot of calcium inside their bodies (Please don't eat grass. This really only works for cows).
If reducing your risk for Osteoporosis is your goal, do the #1 activity that prevents this debilitating disease: Exercise! Weight bearing exercise has been shown to be the #1 way to prevent osteoporosis. Putting small stresses on your bones via strength training helps to re-build them stronger. No one, and I mean no one, should be neglecting some exercise into their life.
Here are my tips on drinking the right kind of milk, calcium and preventing osteoporosis:
1. If you consume dairy on a regular basis, try to find raw (unpasteurized) milk. www.realmilk.com is a great resource for this.
2. If the thought of raw milk scares you, purchase the next best thing: certified organic milk products. They will be free of antibiotics and hormones.
3. Since most of milk's calcium is not absorbed by the body, make sure to get your calcium from these other sources: leafy green veggies, broccoli, sardines (with bones) and salmon.
4. Commit to a strength training routine on a consistent basis. Not just for your muscles and for the way you look in the mirror (although this does help) but for your bone's sake.
Milk and dairy do not have to be a staple in your diet in order to absorb adequate amounts of calcium and achieve an ideal level of health. You can establish and extremely healthy way of eating, reach your weight loss goals, and feel great each day without drinking milk.