Tag Archives: cow’s milk

Alternative Milk Options

Soy milk. Almond Milk. Hemp Milk. Coconut Milk. Oat Milk.

It’s a no brainer that consuming cow’s milk, for most people doesn’t come without consequence. 30 million to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, including 75 percent of African Americans and American Indians and 90 percent of Asian Americans. (1)

On top of that, most readily available milk products are sourced from what is referred to as a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation.) An investigation by The Washington Post revealed that even some milks from organic-labeled dairies are nothing more than CAFOs in disguise; selling higher-priced milk that is scarcely different from conventional CAFO dairy (2).

Furthermore,  with the growing trend away from whole and even 2%, to skim milk which contains 12 grams of sugar, drinking a cup or more per day adds to the insidious amount of this addictive substance consumed en masse, often unintentionally due to its tendency to be hidden in a vast array of processed food-products.

Cow’s milk is also acidic; the pH of milk is 6.7 to 6.9, making it slightly below neutral and therefore acid-forming.  What does the body do in an attempt to bring the body’s pH to alkaline? It draws calcium from bones to buffer excess acidity which, over time, can weaken bones and increase the risk of osteoporosis (3).

For all of these reasons, it’s not surprising that we sought other options to take the place of the drink that arguable might have best been left for the population it was truly meant for:  calves.

Enter the nut, seed and grain based ‘milks’.

Whether you call them milk, milked or mylk, which of these plant-derived liquids are truly the best options for us in terms of nutrient density, flavor, texture and most importantly, least potential negative impact on gut health?


Certainly Not Soy Milk

With 93 percent of the soy products we have in the US being GMO (4), milks rendered from this inflammatory legume aren’t consumed without consequence.   Soy is inflammatory with its high levels of Omega-6s  Most Americans are getting 20 times the amount of omega-6s they need which is extremely problematic, considering omega-6s are inflammation-causing, fat-storing, and weight-gain-inducing (5). In addition, with its high concentration of phyto estrogens, soy is the one of the most prolific offenders when it comes to hormonal imbalances in both men and women. Last but not least, soybeans contains anti-nutrients, including phytic acid (from phytates), which binds and prevents mineral absorption, especially zinc, calcium, and magnesium, leading to malnutrition as well as contributing to leaky gut.


Are Nut And Seed Milks Any Better?

Perhaps, but sourcing and preparation is key.   In this category we see almond and hemp milk most often, with a growing occurrence of coconut milk.

While this group doesn’t contain the harmful plant estrogens, it can still be problematic in terms of creating inflammation as almonds are also high in Omega-6s and low in Omega-3s.  Additionally, there is a growing awareness about the amount of water required to grow almonds, which in large scale can contribute to drought conditions globally. (6)

Another thing to keep in mind if purchasing commercially prepared almond or hemp milks is the addition of unfavorable ingredients.  Be on the lookout for added sugars, stabilizers such as the gums (xanthan, carrageenan and guar), all of which contain anti-nutrients of their own, as well as anything you cannot identify as a food.


How About Milked Oats?

Environmentally more friendly compared to almonds, but still grain-based and thus still with anti-nutrient properties from phytates (7), thereby contributing to inflammation and leaky gut.  Less than wheat, undoubtedly, but not without potential harm.


And the winner is… Coconut!

It’s my personal favorite as well.  When sourced properly; as in not in a can or tetra pack.   You can make your own if you happen to live in a tropical area; simply blend fresh coconut water right out of the coconut with fresh coconut meat from the same nut / seed / fruit (coconut is actually all of the above! (8).     Plus, coconut has  anti-inflammatory properties as well as vitamin E, vitamin K, and the essential fatty acids.    If you’re not in Hawaii, a good option is to buy a fair trade coconut butter, place the glass jar in a  pan of simmering water until it melts, then mix with filtered water in your blender to create the desired thickness for whatever you’re preparing.

Worried about how you’re getting calcium without drinking milk?  Fear not as all you need to do is get your greens in.  A cup of collard greens has 357 mg of calcium versus 306 mg of calcium in dairy milk, per the Harvard School of Public Health. And that’s without any of the acid forming, bone-leeching properties!

Once again, everything we need is available to us if we go straight to the source:  in season, local, plants in abundance (mostly veggies) paired with ample natural fats and a touch of mindfully sourced protein.

It’s. Just. Food.



(1) https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2005/06/lactose-intolerance-linked-ancestral-struggles-climate-diseases

(2) https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/05/16/organic-dairy-milk-may-not-be-organic.aspx

(3) https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/diets-weight-loss/the-acid-alkaline-diet-eating-to-protect-bones/

(4) https://www.huffingtonpost.com/margie-kelly/genetically-modified-food_b_2039455.html

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808858/

(6) https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2015/oct/21/almond-milk-quite-good-for-you-very-bad-for-the-planet

(7) https://draxe.com/antinutrients/

(8) https://www.scienceabc.com/nature/is-coconut-a-seed-a-fruit-or-a-nut.html

Clarification On Cow's Milk In Baby Formula | The Paleo Diet

My wife and I started eating Paleo about 9 months go. I really enjoyed your most recent book and bought extra copies to give to friends and coworkers. In your most recent book you mentioned that they stopped putting cow’s milk in baby formula in the 1980’s due colic (pg 98).

When I mentioned this to my brother he showed me that milk was still the first ingredient in his babies formula which was a major name brand. I was just wondering where you got the information that milk is no longer in baby formula?



Dr. Cordain’s Response:

Hi Aaron,

Thanks for you kind words and support of the Paleo Diet.  Also, thanks for bringing this issue to my attention.  I’ll post my comment on my blog to clarify the statement (p 98) in my book which was:

“You may ask why this information is relevant in 2011 when cow’s milk-based formula is no longer commercially available, and no pediatrician in his/her right mind would recommend giving cow’s milk to your infant”.

This statement is somewhat misleading as it currently reads and needs a caveat to be completely correct.  Pure, unadulterated cow’s milk is unsuitable as an infant formula for a variety of reasons, but the most important is that the casein (a protein) content of cow’s milk is much too high and the whey (another protein) is too low which puts a strain on the infant’s kidney and additionally may cause intestinal bleeding.  Starting in the 1920s and 30s evaporated cow’s milk began to be used in infant formulas and became the most popular formula protein ingredient by the 1950’s .  Many of these early formulas made no attempt reduce the casein content of evaporated cow’s milk and increase the whey content.  By the 1970’s evaporated milk formulas were almost totally replaced by commercial cow milk formulas in which the casein to whey ratio was altered to approximate human milk.  So to clarify my statement, pure, unadulterated cow’s milk is no longer used in infant formulas, however cow’s milk in which the casein to whey ratio has been altered represent the most common protein source in commercially available infant formulas.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus


Brady JP. Marketing breast milk substitutes: problems and perils throughout the world. Arch Dis Child. 2012 Jun;97(6):529-32.

Castilho SD, Barros Filho AA. The history of infant nutrition. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2010 May-Jun;86(3):179-88.

Koletzko B. Innovations in infant milk feeding: from the past to the future. Nestle Nutr Workshop Ser Pediatr Program. 2010;66:1-17

Stevens EE, Patrick TE, Pickler R. A History of Infant Feeding. J Perinat Educ. 2009 Spring;18(2):32-39.


Aaron’s Response:

Loren, thanks for getting back to me so quickly. My wife and I are
distance runners and have been doing great on the diet. While
following the diet I ran PR’s in 10k-Marathon on the diet, running a
2:55 marathon at Twin Cities in October. My wife has taken 9 minutes
off her Half Marathon, running a 1:43 in October. Your new book took
us to a new level of Paleo and we have been fine tunning our diets to
get the best results. I had IBS for 15 years and it has almost
completely gone away. My wife had persistent acne and intestinal
bloating that is now gone. Thank you!

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