Healthy Food Benefits Discussion Follow the instruction to write 1page summary of the given articleAll the work must be originalTurnitin report is required Is Milk a Health Food?
ARTHUR KNOPF (STUDENT)
If asked to name a typical health food, most of us would put milk high on our lists.
We’ve all seen the “Got Milk?” ads with their milk-mustached celebrities or the dairy
product campaigns entitled “Milk, It Does a Body Good” or “Body By Milk.” These
ads, featuring well known athletes or trim celebrities, argue visually that milk helps you
grow fit and strong. But if you define “health food” based on science rather than on mar-
keting claims, and if you include in your definition of health food concerns for the planet
as well as for individual bodies, then milk might not fit the category of health food at all.
My first criterion for a “health food” is that the food should have a scientifically
supported health benefit with minimal risks. Based on the food pyramid from the
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), milk at first glance seems to fit
this criterion. On the My Pyramid Web site the dairy group (milk, yogurt, cheese) is
one of the essential components of a healthy diet (United States). All elements of the
milk group provide calcium, which is important for healthy bones and the preven-
tion of osteoporosis. Dairy products also provide important vitamins. But the Web
site entry under the dairy group specifies in a footnote, “Choose fat-free or low-fat
milk, yogurt, and cheese.” One cup of whole milk, according to the Web site, contains
70 more calories than a cup of skim milk (147 calories compared to 83). The extra
70 calories are potentially harmful saturated fats and sugar, linked to heart disease
and obesity. We can say then that “nonfat milk” fits my first criterion for a health
food, but that the rest of the milk group may not.
So how do dairy products in general get listed as essential ingredients on the food
pyramid rather than just low-fat milk or yogurt? The answer to this question brings
us to my second criterion for a health food: Potentially unhealthy aspects of the food
should be widely disclosed, not hidden by marketing. Because we are bombarded daily
by conflicting nutrition claims, many people turn to the U.S. government for neutral,
unbiased information. But the place of dairy products on the USDA food pyramid may
be itself a result of marketing. The USDA’s mandate isn’t directly to promote health,
but to promote agriculture and to help farmers flourish economically. In recommending
three servings of dairy products per day, the food pyramid serves the interests of dairy
farmers by promoting the whole class of dairy products, not just skim milk. According
to the Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidies Database, the USDA spent
$4.8 billion in dairy subsidies between 1995 and 2009 (“Dairy Program Subsidies”). All
these policies invest public dollars to create a steady consumption of dairy products and
fundamentally depend on the premise that dairy products are good for us.
As we have seen, skim milk may be good for us but dairy products in general are
more problematic. When the fat in whole milk is removed to make skim milk, it is
not thrown away. It is used to make high-calorie, high-fat products like cheese and ice
cream. Revealing its true ambivalence to public nutrition, the USDA warns against
saturated fats in its food pyramid site while simultaneously working with companies
like Domino’s Pizza to increase the amount of cheese in their products. According
to the New York Times (Moss), the USDA helped Domino’s create a pizza with 40
percent more cheese and paid for a $12 million ad campaign to promote it. The New
York Times further writes that Americans now consume almost three times as much
cheese as we did in 1970. At a time of a national obesity epidemic, the promotion of
dairy products either directly or indirectly introduces high-calorie, high-saturated fat
foods into our diet while making many persons think they are eating healthfully.
Finally, I would like to suggest a third criterion for health food. A true health food
should be good not only for our bodies but also for the earth. Milk, as it is currently
produced in the United States, clearly does not meet this criterion. According to
environmental writer Jim Motavalli, both “the front and rear ends of a cow” com-
pete with coal plant smokestacks and vehicle tail pipes as “iconic” causes of global
warming and environmental degradation (27). Drawing on statistical sources from
both the United Nations and the USDA, Motavalli states that livestock in the United
States consume 90 percent of the soy crop and more than 70 percent of the corn and
grain crops-foods that could otherwise be used for people and could be grown in a
more environmentally friendly way. Not only do cattle consume much of the world’s
grain supply, the need to clear space for grazing contributes to the destruction of rain
forests. The other end of the cow, says Motavalli, is equally destructive. While chew-
ing their cuds, cows directly emit methane gas (according to Motavalli, methane has
a greenhouse effect 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide) and the concentration
of their manure in factory farm sludge ponds produces ammonia, nitrous oxide, and
additional methane. According to Motavalli, cows produce a staggering amount of
manure (“five tons of waste for every U.S. citizen” ), producing 18 percent of the
world’s greenhouse gases—more than all of the world’s cars, trains, and planes (27).
Motavalli also cites additional health risks posed by cows, including dangers of dis-
ease from unsafe processing of manure and from antibiotic-resistant bacteria (half of
the world’s antibiotics are given to cattle instead of humans ).
In sum, there is no doubt that skim milk, along with low-fat yogurt and cheese, is a
vital source of bone-building calcium and belongs on our list of health foods. But for
most people, “milk” evokes dairy products in general, all of which we tend to associ-
ate with health. What we don’t picture is the extra sugar and saturated fat in whole
milk and cheese nor the environmental dangers of the dairy and livestock industries
in general. From the perspective of the earth, perhaps dairy products should not be
considered a health food at all.
“Dairy Program Subsidies.” Farm Subsidies Database. Environmental Working Group, Jan. 2009.
Web, 21 Jan. 2011.
Moss, Michael. “While Warning about Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales.” New York Times. New York
Times, 6 Nov. 2010. Web. 2 Jan. 2011.
Motavalli, Jim. “The Meat of the Matter: Our Livestock Industry Creates More Greenhouse Gas
than Transportation Does.” Environmental Magazine July-Aug. 2008: 26-33. Academic Search
Complete. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
United States. Dept. of Agriculture. My Pyramid.gov: Steps to a Healthier You. Jan. 2011. Web. 20
Critiquing “Is Milk a Health Food?”
1. Identify the following features of Arthur’s essay: (1) his implied definition of
“health food”; (2) his criteria for determining whether a borderline case is a health
food; (3) his “match” arguments showing whether milk fits each of the criteria.
2. Do you agree with Arthur’s criterion that a true health food ought to be good for
the planet as well as good for the body?
3. Based on Arthur’s argument, do you think the inclusion of dairy products in the
USDA’s recommendations for a healthy diet is still justified? Visit the USDA’s new
nutrition Web site, www.choosemyplate.gov. Would you suggest changes to these
USDA recommendations? If so, what and why?
The second reading, by student Alex Mullen, was also written for the definition
assignment on page 238. Alex’s argument was stimulated by class discussions of prop-
erty ownership in digital environments.
250-Word Summary: “Is Milk a Health Food?” (Chapter 11)
Due Jan 29 at 1:30pm | -17 pts
Purchase answer to see full