Sunday, May 31, 2015


In a few days, I proudly celebrate my first anniversary as a vegan! Well, vegan with a very small “v”. I’m still a sucker for dairy in particular – ice cream, cheese, and yoghurt. However, Alissa Hamilton’s Got Milked? proposes that I should consider cutting down on dairy. Especially in North America, children are told to drink milk from toddlerhood, preferably at every meal. Despite that, it seems that TV commercials tell us that we are still not getting enough milk and dairy. In Got Milked?, Hamilton confronts our dairy dilemma by examining dairy myths and the chilling truths of the milk industry.

While milk is great, Hamilton proposes many interesting reasons why it does not live up to the hype. Whole milk contains so much fat that even the USDA and FDA cannot consider it “healthy”. Many children (and adults) also enjoy their dairy as ice cream, flavoured, or in cereal, which contain sugar levels comparable to soft drinks. Furthermore, research points to a strange paradox in which the countries with the highest calcium intakes also have the high rates of bone fractures. Interestingly, calcium also comes from many other sources, such as many dried herbs. Basil, for example, contains more calcium per gram that milk! Why then, is milk still the food group with only one choice of food source? Hamilton provides evidence like this and much more in Got Milked?. It’s certainly enough for milk drinkers to sit up and question their dairy paradigms.

Yet despite such compelling evidence, it is certainly hard to say if we should ditch milk for good or not. While studying biomedical science, I did a research project with the human nutrition department. A PhD student was saying that it became harder for her to make conclusive statements about foods the more that she researched human nutrition. It seems that one day one might hear about a study in the news saying that Food A has shown to be good for you, only to discover a few days later that Food A in fact has been linked to cancer. In fact, even while reading Got Milked? in a coffee shop, a couple with a young son noticed my copy and said that they had heard about it on CBC news. Now, they are having their son avoid dairy. Are certain foods really purely good or evil?

I like to think that Got Milked? does not condemn milk as devil’s saliva. However, Hamilton does show us that our unquestioning reliance as a society on the milk industry for calcium is excessive and rather odd. Hamilton even includes tried and tested milk-free recipes to guide us along a more sensible path. In an age of constantly shifting evidence and murky intentions, we should certainly strive for balance, variety, and critical thinking when it comes to our food choices. The bottom line of Got Milked? seems to be: take what is thrown at you with a grain of salt (or dried basil), do your homework, and make the decisions that are best for your health and sanity.

Mike Fan is a Chinese-Canadian classical baritone. Mike plays five instruments and speaks three languages (with a few in progress). He holds degrees in piano performance and biomedical science, but it was obvious from an early age that music would win out. On the literary side, Mike wrote 365 sonnets in his teens and writes for his poetry blog Follow @MikeZFan for Mike's adventures, musical and otherwise.

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