Look at this picture above of the glittering pitcher of milk upon the green and lush outdoors. Does it remind you of childhood, of cookies, of good memories? Yes. Does it give you thoughts of disease and death? No, the majority of the world would say.

However, others like Dr. Shanti Rangwani say that milk is poison and causes cancer.  So then is milk truly a hazard or is it like we always thought that it was, healthy and delicious?

The milk for human consumption originates from various domesticated species. Cows, sheep, and goat milk are the most prominently consumed and most known to be affiliated with milk consumption. And the less predominately ones known to come to mind are the “milk alternatives” that are accessible, for example, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk and hemp milk. The real debate is behind the milk produced by domesticated animals.

The Case For Milk

The USDA’s dietary guidelines recommend milk servings (for an adult) of two to three cups a day. This is to ensure that you get all the nutrients your body needs for the day. So what healthy nutrients are in milk? Well, first of all, milk contains nine essential nutrients, making it one of the most nutrient-rich beverages you can enjoy. Only one 8-ounce serving of milk puts you well on your approach to meeting your daily value for calcium, protein, riboflavin, and other key supplements. These nutrients help the body in various ways like Calcium and Vitamin D, critical for bone structure and development. Another is the nutrient protein which helps build and repair muscle tissue, making it serve well during high-performance workouts. Milk is also packed with vitamines like Vitamin B12, which helps manufacture red platelets that carry oxygen from the lungs to working muscles.

Milk is even more essential when you are young, especially as a baby. For the first months of a baby, all they rely on is milk from their mother. The nutritious package of milk they receive assists directly with their growing and is essential that they get. Milk is also very helpful later as the child grows up. Professor of Food Science at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, H. Douglas Goff gives his reasons for this.

The role of milk in nature is to nourish and provide immunological protection for the mammalian young. It contains nearly all the basic nutrients that a growing child needs: fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals (except iron). While it is true that most of the nutrients in milk can be gotten easily from other sources, such as vegetables, legumes, and seafood, milk puts them all together in a convenient package.

This milk can also help in later life if it is consumed early as a child. According to Dr. Heidi Kalkwarf, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center writes in the ‘American Journal of the College of Nutrition’ that “milk intake in childhood and adolescence is associated with increased bone mass and density in adulthood.”

Besides essential for basic nutrition, studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine have shown that drinking milk throughout childhood provides the best defense against developing osteoporosis later in life. Another study at The Organic Center found that milk is a major dietary source of CLA [conjugated linoleic acid]. The “magical properties” of CLA include reducing the ability to store fat (especially abdominal fat), inhibiting tumor development, promoting sensitivity to insulin in cells, and increasing the immune response against viral antigens. And milk from dairy cows on organic farms, particularly pasture-based operations, contains significantly higher CLA levels.

The Case Against Milk

Even though milk from cows, goats, or sheep looks like one of the best items to consume at your local grocery store, it has its dark secrets. On every billboard, milk’s main selling point is calcium, and milk-drinking is praised for building strong bones in children and preventing osteoporosis later in life. However, clinical research at The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bones.

Milk is not necessary for the diet and can, in fact, be harmful to health. Milk proteins, milk sugar, fat, and saturated fat in milk pose health risks for children and encourage the development of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Prostate and breast cancers have been linked to consumption of dairy products, presumably related to increases in a compound called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I).

Other studies by Dr. Benjamin Spock in his article ‘Good Nutrition for Kids‘, has found more nasty disease and health problems originating in milk.

That milk can impair a child’s ability to absorb iron and in very small children can even cause subtle blood loss from the digestive tract. …and now the American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded that there is evidence that cow’s milk may well contribute to childhood-onset diabetes. Some children have sensitivities to milk proteins that show up as respiratory problems, chronic ear problems, or skin conditions.

Evidence even from other mammalian species, except for the human (and the domestic cat), points out that milk consumption is discontinued after the weaning period [the period of breast-feeding]. Calves consume cow milk but no adult cow wants cow milk. In many countries, most particularly in East Asia, Africa, and South America, people regard cow milk as unfit for consumption by adult human beings and they are not getting obtaining these illnesses.

The Common Ground on Milk

Consuming a cup or two of milk or equivalent dairy is fine, but you can find alternative kinds of milk to consume from your standard cow milk without missing out on the nutrients you need. For people who are lactose-intolerant and people who don’t choose to drink milk, it is important for them to get calcium through other sources. This includes lactose-free dairy, and leafy green vegetables such as collards, spinach and bok choy, beans, and calcium-fortified orange juice or soy milk, and vegetables.

The point isn’t to give up dairy. But it’s also important for people to know that they don’t have to drink milk to be healthy.