Dairy products are a subject of great controversy in today’s society. Conventional dairy products are not necessarily healthy, especially in USA. The cows may be given antibiotics, hormones and gmo feed. And all of that can seep into the milk. Many cows do not graze on grassland . Most of the dairy we consume in America is not too healthy and is not easy to digest. Dairy products that are organic are better. But again, that is not always possible to find and they are expensive. If a person does not find dairy is damaging to them, they can consume it in small amounts . The Rambam was not in favor of much dairy anyway. People nowadays tend to consume far too much dairy. The amount of cheese piled on a slice of pizza is incomprehensible. It is too greasy, too hard to digest and not a very healthy product.
Dairy that is healthier is milk from goats or sheep rather than cows, and soft, fresh cheese rather than old cheese. Yogurt has some value especially for its digestive aid (particularly plain home made yogurt). Cheese is generally not very healthy because of the quality of dairy but certain kinds are good, especially if from organic sources or from Europe, rather than America. But it is preferable to consume it cold rather than melted, and in moderation. But again, it depends on a person’s constitution etc. In Chinese medicine, dairy products are considered to produce phlegm and are a damp food that is hard to digest. If taken to excess they can create a lot of problems in the joints, lungs etc. But dairy has it’s place in small quantities, at certain times (at least for many people, but if a person is lactose intolerant or reacts negatively to dairy, obviously it is not good for that person). It is not something one should indulge in and certainly not dairy products with added sugars, coloring, preservatives or chemicals (like flavored yogurts). Keep everything as natural as possible. If you want a smoothie, put some fruits into a blender with yogurt or some goat’s milk and use dates for sweetening or a bit of maple syrup. That is far better than the commercial smoothies, full of sugar and other artificial ingredients. Certainly, we should not accustom young children to eating yogurts full of sugar or artificial ingredients. Making home made yogurt is the best and much cheaper as well. It is very easy if you get a yogurt maker .
In many cultures, people eat a lot of fermented or cultured products: dairy products like kefir or yogurt, vegetables (pickled), miso and so on. Fermented products are good for digestion. Societies that utilize a lot of fermented foods tend to be healthier. In Bulgaria and in the mountains of Russia people have always consumed a lot of plain yogurt and they have good digestive systems. We should try to incorporate more fermented, or cultured, foods and drinks. I like to use miso a lot. It has many health benefits . It can be used as a soup or as a spread or sauce. This is an example of how every culture and country around the world has certain beneficial foods or recipes that we can incorporate into our own diet and yet we do not have to label ourselves strictly as adhering to one food protocol or another. We can have a balanced diet.
What about non dairy alternatives like coconut milk or almond milk? Well, I am not a big fan of those products. I do not believe they are healthy in general. Perhaps if you make your own almond milk it is okay…. but in moderation. A lot of nuts goes into making almond milk though and I do not think that is necessarily healthy in the long run. Alternative non dairy milks may have a use here or there (in a particular dessert or recipe or if a child is allergic to milk and wants a bit of cereal with “milk”) but these products should be used sparingly. Giving little children bottles of almond or coconut milk is not necessarily healthier than bottles of cow’s milk. Both may not be very healthy! Of course , if a child is allergic to dairy, they need an alternative. Everything has its place and use. I am not advocating dairy. There are many studies indicating the dangers of cow’s milk. I do think goat’s milk is healthier. But I am not completely opposed to small amounts of dairy for those who find it tolerable. It can be soothing, calming to the nervous system and provide calcium.