There are good reasons for eliminating dairy products from a diet designed to beat type 2 diabetes. Dairy products provide you with lots of fat, cholesterol, sugar, and casein, the animal protein, all of which you need to minimise if you are serious about beating your diabetes.
All dairy products … milk, cream, yoghurt, cheese, butter and so on … are made from milk and most of them are high in fat.
Milk is mostly water. This makes measuring the amount of fat (or other ingredients) in milk by weight meaningless. Nutritionists prefer to measure the fat in liquids by measuring the calories you get from fat as a percentage of the total calories you get from a particular food such as milk.
The calories you get from fat in cow’s milk are … whole milk, about 49% … reduced (2%) milk, about 35% … low-fat (1%) milk, about 20% of calories from fat.
For skim milk, of course, you should get no calories from fat. But in fact it’s impossible to make the milk entirely fat free and you do get less than 5% of calories from fat with skim milk.
The percentage of calories that come from fat is unaffected by the water content of the milk. As you can see, even low-fat milk contains a lot of fat.
Many other dairy products are loaded with fat. If you eat yoghurt, about 47% of calories come from fat. With cheese, up to 70% of calories come from fat depending on the type of cheese. As for sour cream, almost 90% of calories come from fat … 87% for the reduced-fat version!
Butter is hardly any better. Commercial butter consists of up to 82% fat, 16% or so water, and up to 2% curd, ie milk solids other than fat. This butter may also contain up to 2% salt, another no-no if you have blood pressure problems (which are twice as common in diabetics as non-diabetics).
As a diabetic, your best plan is to give up all dairy products because, with the exception of skim milk or other dairy products from which fat has been removed, dairy-based foodstuffs will block the receptors in your muscle cells, the most likely cause of your type 2 diabetes as I explained in a previous article, and make it very difficult to beat your diabetes.
Most of the fat in milk and dairy products is saturated fat, the kind that raises cholesterol levels and ups your insulin resistance.
If you are trying to control your cholesterol the first thing you have to do is eliminate (or at least severely restrict) the cholesterol you ingest in your food. Doing this would be impossible if you drink or eat dairy products, even if you limit yourself to the ‘low-fat’ kinds.
For instance, 100g of full-fat sour cream contains 52mg of cholesterol. Even fat-free sour cream has 9mg of cholesterol in 100g, almost as much as whole cows milk (10mg per 100g, ie, only about 1/3rd of a cup). A 100g of plain yoghurt made from whole milk will deliver 13mg of cholesterol.
Besides ‘fat-free’ sour cream, other non-fat dairy products contain some cholesterol. Skim milk has about 2mg per 100g, as does plain yoghurt made from the same kind of milk.
If you have type 2 diabetes there is an 85% chance that you also have cholesterol issues. When you consider the dire consequences of clogged arteries, the need to give up dairy products becomes obvious.
The kind of sugar you get in milk is lactose. This dairy sugar occurs in the milk of mammals, and is the main nutrient in skim milk after the fat has been taken out.
Most dairy products contain carbohydrates in the form of lactose. Even high-fat cheeses and heavy creams contain a little. Only one dairy product … butter … is totally sugar free.
It goes without say that, if you are a type 2 diabetic, you do not need to take in more sugar than absolutely necessary. Drinking animal milk and dairy products certainly will not help you minimise your intake.
All cows’ milk, fat-free or not, contains about 5% sugar by weight. However the percentage of calories derived from carbohydrates runs from just under 30% for whole milk to 54% for skim milk. The figures for plain yoghurt are more or less the same.
Sour cream is the killer. When it is made from whole milk it contains 8% carbohydrates but less than 6% of the calories come from carbohydrates. However, fat-free sour cream contains 16% carbohydrates which deliver 83% of its calories.
Casein, the milk protein
Milk contains all the essential amino acids. An essential amino acid is an amino acid that cannot be synthesized by your body from other nutrients and must therefore be supplied in the diet.
The major protein in cows’ milk is casein (80%), the milk or dairy protein. Casein can damage your health in several significant ways.
Dairy protein, like all animal protein, accelerates the gradual loss of kidney function that can occur with diabetes, while protein obtained from plants does not have this effect. As far as I can tell, this is received opinion among medical scientists and nutritionists.
Casein has, in addition, been linked to problems, such as migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, and prostrate and ovarian cancers, which do not seem to occur with other animal proteins.
People who suffer from migraines and persons who have rheumatoid arthritis often experience improvements when they avoid milk and other dairy products. According to the reports I have read the problem for these people seems to be the proteins, not the lactose or fat, in dairy products.
By experimenting on animals, researchers have shown that there is a consistent correlation between the growth of cancers and the amount of casein in a diet. Indeed, statistics show that men who drink milk have a significantly higher risk of prostate cancer than non-milk drinkers. In addition, some studies (but not all) show that women who drink milk have a higher risk of ovarian cancer than non-drinkers.
Casein has a wide variety of uses. It is a major component in cheese. It is used as a food additive in, for example, non-dairy creamers and soy cheeses. In addition, casein is processed into food supplements, such as calcium caseinate, which are used to enrich foodstuffs with amino-acids, improve other nutritional features, enhance their taste and smell, and increase their shelf life.
Thus, avoiding milk, cheese and other dairy products will not eliminate casein from your diet. To do so you must read food labels closely and reject products that contain casein.
Milk is a good source of vitamins D, B2 (riboflavin) and B12, and of calcium and phosphorus; it also contains some selenium. Many of these vitamins and minerals, along with magnesium and potassium, are also found in significant quantities in cheeses, yoghurts and sour creams. It seems a pity to have to give up dairy products.
And so it is. But the benefits you get from these micro-nutrients are far outweighed by the damage fat, sugar and casein and other animal proteins in milk and dairy products can cause you, especially as you are a type 2 diabetic. You just have to take supplements instead, to replace those vital micro-nutrients.
Once of the reasons given for drinking milk regularly is the calcium it contains, as you need constant intakes of calcium to avoid osteoporosis in old age. That’s true.
However, you get plenty of calcium from green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale or broccoli) and beans and peas, as well as from calcium supplements that also contain the vitamin D needed to absorb the calcium.
Another reason to stop consuming dairy products is that they are usually low in iron and tend to inhibit its absorption from the digestive tract.
Substitutes for dairy products
There are plenty of substitutes for dairy products. Just look around your local supermarket. You have, however, to be careful that they do not contain any casein which is often sneaked in as an additive or food supplement.
Substitutes for animal milk include soy milk, oat milk, rice milk and almond milk, and a host of other milks made from plants. You can also get milk made from peas and lupins, though I have yet to try these.
Plant-based milks, like animal milks, can be low-fat and calcium-fortified and can come in various flavours. There are, however, three things you should beware of: added casein, sugar and fat.
Casein and its derivatives, eg sodium caseinate, may sometimes be added to plant milks and you need to check labels carefully for caseinates. You also need to check the sugar content (as sugar may be added to enhance taste) and fat. And any milk should contain less than 3% fat and only 10% of its energy should come from fat.
You should be equally cautious when choosing other substitutes for dairy products. Vegan ice cream, for example, may be delicious because it has added sugar. Be especially cautious of vegetarian products … many of them contain dairy proteins and/or egg whites. You should choose the vegan versions and the ones that are lowest in fat.
Personally I use soy milk to drink, put in my coffee for a latte, and for my porridge. I find it delicious and had no problem in switching over from cows milk. Then, once I began researching the matter, I discovered that soy milk does not contain the high doses of saturated fats found in animal-based milk. I also found some research that suggests that soy may be able to lower cholesterol levels.
As regards other dairy-based products, I have dropped these entirely. I don’t eat any sour cream, cheese or butter. I occasionally eat some non-dairy yoghurt which I enjoy. I regret not being able to eat cheese but not too intensely.
I had thought that I would really miss butter (I strongly dislike margarines) and was surprised to find that this was not so. In fact, strange to say, I rather enjoy dry bread or toast, especially if it has some raisins or other small bits of fruit in it.