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Milk is unhealthy only if you skip it

Raise your hand if your New Year’s resolution was to be healthier? Me! Me!

I’m going to imagine that every hand on every reader just shot up. Well, bad news — your ability to be healthier by doing something so small it is almost insignificant was just hurt a bit more.

The second major milk producer, Borden’s Dairy, is filing for bankruptcy. This falls closely on the heels of Dean Foods, America’s largest milk producer, filing for bankruptcy two months ago.

Listen, I heard all the excuses: “I feel better when I don’t drink milk”; “I don’t like the calories”; ” I think I’m lactose intolerant, but man, I love ice cream.”

I listen, scratch my head and then spend hours wondering at the odd way people justify things to themselves.

Those same people who give me that litany of excuses are the same people frequenting the farmers markets for the freshest produce and meats straight off the farm, sharing posts about the benefits of knowing your farmer and generally being pro-agriculture even though they don’t know it.

Yet, the minute it comes to milk, suddenly, cows aren’t good enough. No sir, those sweet, beautiful, black-and-white gentle souls that want nothing more than to chomp grass, drink fresh water and provide milk for us to drink are suddenly the devil in disguise.

I am not sure when it became popular to drink alternative milk sources. I was raised on good old, whole vitamin D milk. My mom used to keep three to four gallons in the house because it was nothing for my brother and me to go through a gallon in a day or two. A glass for breakfast with our eggs, a glass for a snack when we got home from school, one or two for dinner and then one before bed and — wham! — gallon gone.

I believe that this milk habit paid off. The only broken bones I ever suffered in high school were fingers (darn floor) and one toe. My brother has never had a broken bone that I know about.

When I went to Penn State, all female athletes were required to receive a bone density test to evaluate our risks of broken bones and osteoporosis. I will never forget the look on the doctor’s face when she read my scan. Her direct quote to me was, “Your bones are insanely thick! You couldn’t break one if you dropped a cow on it. How did you get those?”

I have found that few compliments in my life have measured up to that, but I sheepishly replied that I drank tons of milk. She laughed, told me I was good to go and that she expected me to have a long, prosperous career. She wasn’t wrong. Never once at Penn State did I break a bone, and I lifted some heavy weights during my time there.

Back to these alternative milk sources, though. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, tastes better than an icy cold glass of milk, except maybe a slightly warm glass that has been sitting on the counter for a few hours. Now you know my dirty little secret. I like my milk room temperature.

No offense to almond milk, oat milk, cashew milk or coconut milk, but they are like drinking water mixed with a bit of Wite-Out.

Milk is not the evil that so many health nuts proclaim it to be these days. In fact, a recent study by the National Institute for Health says that milk actually decreases the risk for childhood obesity, improves adult’s body composition (think more muscle, less fat), lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, especially strokes (Thorning, Raben, Tholstrup, Muthu, Givens & Astrup, 2016).

If a gosh darn glass of cows’ milk can help lower that statistic, you better believe I’m going to be sipping my glass of milk. Now, like all things, moderation is key. No need to go overboard here. Anything is harmful in large quantities.

Milk is especially important for children 9 to 14 years of age according to American Bone Health Association. This is when children are building their bone mass for life and also during their peak physical activity. Kids need milk to build strong bones that will carry them into adulthood.

While you might be able to replace all those nutrients with other foods, I don’t know about you, but I’m lazy. I would rather walk to my fridge, grab the gallon of milk and pour myself a glass and let it sit on the counter to warm up and then sip my superfood while completing my never-ending pile of work.

So don’t mind me, I’m going to go sip on my superfood, milk, and do my part to be healthier, happier and support America’s dairy farmers one warm glass of milk at a time. I strongly encourage you to do the same and maybe you’ll be happier and healthier in 2020 and just maybe, we can save our dairy farms one healthy person at a time.

Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and completed her Ph.D. at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca.

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