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Milk Alternatives

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This is an article that I posted over a year ago and it continues to be one of my most popular posts, so I decided to re-post.  Enjoy.

When I started on my fitness journey way back in March 2009 I never thought about changing my dairy intake.  Besides I love cheese, milk and ice cream, although the latter is not good for you, it was still a favorite of mine. 

The more I got into my P90X/Insanity workouts and started to really focus on my nutrition the more I began to realize that not all dairy is the best choice for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  

So, I began to experiment, first with fat free cheese mixed in with my scrambled egg whites and on my salads.  Then I was curious and tried some vanilla almond milk.  Now, I have to be honest, I never really liked almonds, but I loved almond milk.  At least the vanilla kind.  I began to put it in my cereal and mix it with my protein shakes.  It was awesome.  I loved it!!  Not just because of the taste, but because it was lower in calories and sugar than regular milk, while keeping the important nutrients that are found in milk.  Plus, whenever I needed a chocolate fix a glass of dark chocolate almond milk would always hit the spot.

About eight months ago I decided to try unsweetened almond milk to reduce the amount of sugar, calories and carbs in my diet.  This soon became my favorite.  I put unsweetened almond milk in oatmeal in the morning, mix with my egg whites before scrambling them and use it in my Koshi Go Lean cereal for a late night snack.

For comparison I added a chart that shows the difference between almond milk (sweet and unsweetened) vs skim milk:


 There is ALOT of debate about diary. ShaunT asks us to withhold diary from our diets in the Asylum Nutrition guide. Tony Horton doesn’t eat diary. Does that mean you shouldn’t drink it? No! You need to decide what is best for you! I will ultimately have some diary, probably in the form of cheese and for a really special treat, ice cream. But 98% of the time, I really don’t have it.   If I could make one suggestion. If you are starting out a new program, be very careful of the fat in dairy. As Steve says below, if you are eating / drinking dairy, choose low fat or no fat options.

Below I included article  from Steve Edwards.   A nationally recognized fitness expert, Steve has overseen fitness and diet program development for Beachbody, as well as its educational outlets, since 2001. Prior to this he was a fitness trainer, fitness columnist, magazine editor, and athletics coach for 14 years.

The Down-Low on Dairy

By Steve Edwards

Milk: does it really do a body good? This advertising icon is one that
most of us are familiar with. It’s also one of the most maligned slogans in
history. A quick headline search reveals a slew of parodies, ranging from
sarcastically simple “milk: it does a body bad” to the more straightforward
“” Whether or not we should consume dairy products is one of the
most common dietary issues in the news and, yet, there still seems to be no
definitive answer. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of dairy, which can
hopefully shed a little light on whether or not you want it as a part of your



I didn’t accidentally paste the end of the article into the second paragraph.
I thought it would be best to get this out of the way right up front. Whether to
consume dairy or not, as you might surmise from the intro, is a volatile issue.
Opinions tend to be black or white and dished with heaping scoops of passion.
But passion tends to come from experience, not science; and a lot of dairy lore
seemed to be based on anecdotal conjecture rather than sound knowledge.

This doesn’t mean that there’s no science—far from it. A search of The
National Library of Medicine shows 25,000 studies that have been done on dairy,
apparently none of which can give us any sort of consensus on its health effects
in humans. What all these studies do show is that dairy products are neither
going to kill us, nor help us live forever. We can consume them and be healthy,
but we also don’t need to in order to be healthy. There are millions of examples
on both sides, and this is pretty darn conclusive.

Dairy can be a fine addition to your diet, but that does not mean that it’s
right for your diet. You certainly don’t need as much as the dairy council tells
us, but it also needn’t be vilified more than any other type of food. Like all
foods these days, there are issues, particularly when it comes to human
tampering. But there are also individual considerations that should be assessed.
This article will address these.


The Bottom Line

In keeping with the reordered nature of our story, let’s look at the
most simple aspect of dairy: its nutrient profile. Of course, this varies per
product, but most are a good source of protein. Some, like yogurt and milk, have
carbohydrates. And all dairy products, in their natural states, have fat and are
great sources of enzymes. Most dairy products, especially those with the fat
removed, would appear to be a fine source of nutrition.

Dairy proteins, casein and whey, have excellent biological value profiles.
There is little reputable science to dispute this. Dairy fats are generally
unhealthy, have high ratios of saturated fats, and should be limited in one’s
diet. But some dairy fats, mainly from certain cheeses, contain enzymes that
make them a potentially beneficial part of a diet, if consumed in moderation.
Dairy’s carbohydrate source, lactose, has been the subject of a lot of scrutiny
but appears to be fine for most people, especially in its natural form. Below,
we will examine the potential benefits and pitfalls of dairy consumption.

The Issues

Too much fat. As stated above, dairy products contain
a lot of fat. Your diet needs to contain around 20 to 30 percent fat, but very
little of this should come from animal sources. The anti-dairy movement
champions a relation to heart disease as a reason not to consume dairy, but it
makes little sense to single out dairy as opposed to, say, meat or pretty much
anything you can buy at your corner 7-Eleven. All dairy products can be chosen
in low- to no-fat options where the fat is simply removed. This is recommended
for anyone who uses dairy as a major source of calories. There are concerns with
this option, also, which will be analyzed below.

Aren’t most of us lactose intolerant? Some people have
problems digesting dairy products that can lead to an unpleasant gastric
condition usually referred to as lactose intolerance. This isn’t a completely
agreed-upon condition, but it appears to be the result of pasteurizing our dairy
products, which kills the enzymes that aid the body’s digestion process. Milk
and yogurt in raw form don’t seem to cause this condition. Regardless, the
numbers here are skewed; anti-dairy pundits will often claim that those
suffering from lactose intolerance include “most” of the population. Other
studies seem to peg the number closer to 20 percent. One constant is that those
from cultures who have historically consumed a lot of dairy are not affected as
much as those who aren’t.

Lactose intolerance isn’t a dangerous condition but it is
uncomfortable. If you do suffer from it, you can know that millions (if not
billions) of people worldwide are perfectly healthy without dairy. Just be wary
of switching your dairy products to any other one source of nutrition, like soy.
Nearly all of the dairy substitutes are soy based, and too much soy in your diet
can also be problematic (Refer to Denis Faye’s article “Magic Bean or Tragic
Bean? A Closer Look at Soy” in Related Articles below.)


Does dairy cause a calcium gain or loss? This is one of the
more interesting controversies. The dairy industry champions itself as a leading
provider of calcium. The anti-dairy folks turn this on its head to say that it’s
exactly the opposite. How can this be?

The pro side is simple: dairy products contain a lot of calcium and numerous
studies show its importance in our diets. The con side is more complex. Some
science suggests that the high protein to fat ratio—along with an abundance of
vitamin A—of nonfat dairy sources somehow reduces the body’s ability to utilize
calcium. This isn’t exactly confirmed by the said studies, which actually showed
“no decrease in instances of osteoporosis.”

Does dairy cause osteoporosis? This is a fairly
common claim across the Internet but seems to lead back to a few studies on
osteoporosis, many of which used an increase in the percentages of elderly
people with broken hips as proof. In a nutshell, the studies showed that
cultures that drank a lot of milk (i.e., the USA) had a higher percentage of
their elderly population breaking their hips than those that didn’t.

If it seems odd to make this assumption on one dietary staple, consider that
the largest piece of this puzzle is being left out altogether: exercise. In the
last couple of decades, caloric increase across the U.S. has risen only around 3
percent whereas the level of exercise we get has dropped a whopping 20 to 25
percent. When you consider that the primary reason elderly people break their
hips in routine falls is due to loss of muscle that protects the bones, it
doesn’t take someone from MENSA to suspect that lack of exercise might be a

Dairy helps you burn body fat. From the flip side of
weird science came some studies out of the University of Tennessee that got a
lot of publicity showing that those who consumed dairy products lost more body
fat than those who supplemented with other types of calcium. But before you
decide that yogurt should suffice for all of your calcium needs, consider that
the study wasn’t an even playing field. The subjects were on a reduced-calorie
diet and the dairy group was given twice the amount of calcium than the
supplement group. More suspicion may arise when you consider that Yoplait funded
the study.

Regardless, one conclusion that you could make is that calcium is both
beneficial to your diet and that you can use the type you get from dairy
products to satisfy your needs.

Dairy causes cancer. Milk was singled out in an older study
that suggested that lactose could have a link to ovarian cancer. Many subsequent
studies have been done—and are currently being done—on dairy and its link with
all cancers, with no conclusive evidence either way. In fact, nearly half the
studies in the last 7 years seem to show the opposite, that dairy may help stave
off cancer. This in no way means that the research is invalid. By definition,
science works all angles before coming to conclusions. But it can probably help
us relax about the possibility of a simple and direct link between dairy and

Dairy is filled with hormones. This is a well-documented and
major issue over how our dairy cows are raised. The FDA assures us that we only
allow our cows to “dope” with safe drugs. Many dissent. It’s a subject that
transcends the dairy industry and is too broad to approach in this article. It’s
an issue for every food option that we make. On the subject of dairy, we do have
choices. We can purchase organic options or buy our dairy products from a local
farm or someone we know.

Is raw or pasteurized better? Nearly all of
the pro-pasteurization literature comes from the dairy council or U.S.
regulatory agencies. There is a passel of independent information citing the
virtues of raw dairy products.

The verdict here is theoretical but hard to dispute. Dairy, in its raw form,
is healthier, granted it comes from healthy cows. In fact, lactose intolerance
is claimed to be a nonissue for raw dairy consumers because the enzyme lactase,
which breaks down lactose, is killed during pasteurization. The flip side is
that cows aren’t always healthy. In unhealthy cows, it’s common for deadly
bacteria, such as E.coli, to show up in dairy products. Since pasteurization
kills bad bacteria as well as good and preserves much of the nutrient value,
it’s championed as the better alternative by the powers-that-be.

Is organic better? Again, nearly all of the anti-organic
literature comes from the dairy council or U.S. regulatory agencies. This is, of
course, because it’s their job to ensure us that all dairy is healthy and safe
to begin with. And, again, there are plenty of studies supporting organic as
being preferable.

The verdict can again come down to some common sense. Organic standards require that
cows live in better conditions and eat better food. We know that when we live
better and eat healthier food, we are healthier. We can suppose that this is
also true about cows. The next assumption would be that eating a healthier
organism would be healthier. If this makes sense, we could conclude that organic
is better.

But wait, there’s more. Given that we’re all aware that some think it’s okay
to lie, we must consider that some companies may not play by the rules. There
are many examples of businesses getting caught in both lying about their
products and attempting to manipulate the regulatory agencies into changing
their criteria. Again, this is beyond this article’s scope, but it’s not all
that difficult to do your own research. Organic standards are higher. This
should mean that organic products are better.

There are many healthy cultures that don’t use dairy. This
isn’t exactly true. Yes, there are many healthy people that don’t consume dairy,
but dairy (when you include all animals and not just cows) has been consumed by
most cultures forever. The most commonly cited cultures that don’t use dairy are
in the east, mainly China, but historically, much of China was heavily dependent
upon dairy. In fact, the northern regions and Mongolia have used yogurt as a
nutritional mainstay for centuries.

An analysis of the cultures that currently use little dairy yields mainly a list of
poorer and undernourished cultures. And due to the socioeconomic climate of
these regions, it seems unfair to cite lack of dairy as a reason for these
cultures being malnourished. There are many examples of healthy educated
individuals who are perfectly healthy without dairy, and many decidedly healthy
cultures, such as the Japanese, use much less dairy than those in Western Europe
and the United States.


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