This article is part of a series on Discovering the Word of Wisdom. To view all the articles in this series, see Discovering the Word of Wisdom in Meridian Magazine.
Last time, I explored “Wheat for Man,” which concluded my discussion of the third dietary pillar of the Word of Wisdom: All grain is good and ordained to be the “staff of life.” I hope these articles helped readers feel greater confidence in making whole grains, including wheat, the foundation of their diet. I realize some people cannot tolerate wheat, but all of us can find one or more grains that we can make the “staff of life.” In this week’s article, I address the question of dairy and eggs.
Dairy and Eggs: Where Do They Fit In?
Dairy and eggs are not specifically mentioned in the Word of Wisdom—neither are Twinkies or Junior Mints. I conclude that none of these are as important to our health as are plants. Here, however, I rely more on the spirit of the law than the letter of the law to form an opinion. Suffice it to say, anyone who thinks God is perfectly fine with us drinking Coke because “caffeine” is not specifically mentioned in the Word of Wisdom is probably not going to be convinced by the reasoning I present in this article.
While it is true that the Word of Wisdom does not specifically warn against dairy or eggs, it also includes nothing to promote their consumption. Instead, the Word of Wisdom counsels us to rely on wholesome plants (vegetables, fruits, and grains) and avoid the flesh of animals (except in times of need) for optimal health and spiritual blessings. Given the emphasis on the importance of plant foods and the admonition to use the flesh of animals only in times of need, on what basis would we conclude that consuming dairy or eggs would be wise for our well-being?
Dairy and Eggs: Liquid Meat
While there are some distinct differences, the nutritional profile of dairy and eggs is so similar to meat (and so distinct from plant foods) that we can consider them liquid meat. Let’s compare the two:
- Plants are the original source (the creators) of the following vital nutrients:
- All the essential amino acids in protein.
- All the essential fatty acids in fats.
- All carbohydrates (the body’s preferred fuel source)
- All the essential vitamins (except Vitamin D and B12) 
- All the essential minerals (the plants pull them up from the soil and make them available in dietary form for humans and animals)
- All fiber (a type of carbohydrate essential for digestion and many bodily functions, eliminating toxins, and healthy weight)
- All the amazing phytochemicals that play such important roles in our health
Because the animals eat the same plants we do, we can find many of these same nutrients in meat, but animals are not the original source. What about dairy and eggs? The same! They are not the original source of any of these vital nutrients. They all come from the plants the animals eat. This means we don’t need any animal foods to get these nutrients; we can go straight to the plants, the source the Lord ordained for our “constitution, nature, and use” (D&C 89:10).
Importantly, meat is missing some of these very important nutrients. Meat is deficient in certain vitamins and minerals and there are virtually no carbohydrates, fiber, or phytochemicals in meat. What about diary and eggs? The same! There are a few more carbohydrates (in the form of the sugar lactose) in dairy, but for the most part, dairy and eggs are missing all these important nutrients.
- While we can get some of the plant nutrients by eating the flesh of animals, these will then come packaged with lots of stuff that is NOT good for us, including:
- An abundance of dietary cholesterol
- An abundance of saturated fat
- Relatively high amounts of hormones, antibiotics, microbes, pesticides, and other pollutants
- Much higher risk of bacterial contamination
Plants, by contrast, contain virtually no dietary cholesterol or saturated fat. Plants are also very low in pollutants (which get concentrated in the animals as they are higher in the food chain than plants). Bacteria on plants comes from nearby animals and their waste. What about diary and eggs? Again, the same as meat! They are high in all these things that are not good for our health. Dairy and eggs, like meat, are not health foods; they directly contribute to chronic disease.
- Not only do all animal foods contain substances that are harmful to human health, animal food production is also relatively harmful to the environment, and of course to the animals! This is true of meat, dairy, and eggs. Plants are much easier on the environment, and I bet the animals would campaign for all of us to go plant-based, if only they could!
In summary, dairy and eggs are much like meat in that they are not the original source of any of the macro- or micronutrients humans need. Like meat, the nutrients they do contain are packaged with much that harms our bodies. By forgoing animal foods and eating the plants, we get the positives without the negatives.
There is no nutritional need for animal foods during times of plenty, but of course in times of need, what a lifesaver they would be! No wonder the Lord ordained plants for our “constitution, nature, and use,” but only ordained animals for our “use” (D&C 89:10, 12).
What About Organic Dairy and Eggs?
Organic animal products produced by well-treated animals are better in some ways, but not in the most important ways. I hope cows who are ‘grass fed, poetry read, and tucked in bed’ are happy cows, but even happy cows produce organic milk that is too high in protein, fat, cholesterol, pus, calories, and cow hormones.
We could avoid some excess calories by sticking with low-fat dairy and egg whites, but then the concentration of animal protein is even higher. Unfortunately, the animal protein may be just as unhealthy as the fat. In fact, after a lifetime of publishing original peer-reviewed research on the subject, Colin Campbell came to the conclusion that the protein in milk “may be the single most significant chemical carcinogen to which humans are exposed.”
What About Calcium?
We certainly do not need milk to get enough calcium! This is one of the best-funded myths in all of nutrition. Dairy consumption does not do the body good or even result in stronger bones. The majority (approximately 65 percent) of the world’s population is lactose-intolerant, physically unable to properly digest milk. This includes “up to 15 percent of persons of northern European descent, up to 80 percent of blacks and Latinos, and up to 100 percent of American Indians and Asians.” Literally billions of people around the world grow strong and healthy without consuming any dairy (as I witnessed firsthand during my mission in Taiwan). We Americans, on the other hand, consume an enormous amount of dairy products, and yet we have one of the highest rates of osteoporosis (weak bones) in the world.
Increased calcium intake does not protect against osteoporosis. Calcium comes from the soil to us through plants (and the animals that eat the plants). When we consume foods with calcium, our body tightly regulates how much it absorbs.
Milk is a Perfect Food . . . For Only for a Baby Cow!
With all of the evidence against milk consumption, what keeps us from making a culture-wide dietary change? Sadly, it seems anti-American to not consume milk. We are often told that milk is nature’s most perfect food. I used to think this way until others reminded me that it is not entirely “natural” for adult mammals to consume the secretions produced by another species for her young, especially well past the time we are weaned. We no more need cow milk than we need cat or rat milk. Dairy is the highest source of saturated fat in our diet. Cow’s milk is designed to help the newborn calf gain 2–3 pounds a day and grow to over 500 pounds when weaned. It is nature’s most perfect food . . . for a baby cow. And yes, eggs are also a perfect food . . . for the unhatched chick.
Most whole food, plant-based (WFPB) experts agree that if they had to choose just one category of food Americans should eliminate from their diet, it would be dairy, in all its forms. Yes (oh so sadly!), this includes all 31 flavors of Baskin Robbins’ ice cream. Now there is a food I wish were perfect!
WFPB experts tell us that of all the changes they recommend to patients, giving up dairy seems to make the most difference in the quality of their health. Since we know we don’t need dairy or eggs for any of the nutrients we need, why not “experiment on the word” and try going a month without them? It is not as hard as it seems at first:
- With so many Americans who are lactose intolerant, almost every store now carries LOTS of milk alternatives: soy, rice, oats, almond, hemp, etc. They come in many different flavors. Find one (or more) you like the best!
- Learn to bake without eggs: See “To Replace Eggs in Baking”
- Make awesome “nice cream” by blending frozen banana with other frozen fruit (add a bit of non-dairy milk, if needed, to the blender).
Wouldn’t God Have Told Us?
If dairy and eggs are so unhealthy, why are they not specifically mentioned in the Word of Wisdom? One obvious answer is that not everything that is unhealthy or harmful to the body is specifically prohibited in the Word of Wisdom. Illicit drugs, for example, are nowhere mentioned, yet no one doubts that cocaine and heroin are more harmful than coffee or tea. In response to those who would excuse the use of illicit drugs because they are not specifically prohibited in the Word of Wisdom, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
What a miserable excuse. There is likewise no mention [in the Word of Wisdom] of the hazards of diving into an empty swimming pool or of jumping from an overpass onto the freeway. But who doubts the deadly consequences of such? Common sense would dictate against such behavior.
I agree that the Word of Wisdom does not specifically dictate against dairy and eggs, but I believe once people understand the evidence against them, common sense will dictate against their widespread consumption.
God’s Beautiful Animal Creations
There is actually something glorious and sacred about the flesh of animals as well as the milk and eggs they produce. From a tiny egg emerges one of God’s beautiful animal creations, a true miracle by any measure. Milk is the perfect vital nutrient created by the mother animal for her young. Animal flesh is the physical tabernacle for God’s amazing creatures. Further, God has ordained and made it possible for humans to obtain nutrients from these creatures in times of need.
But in normal times, we can easily get all the nutrients we need (and more) from plant foods without killing the animals or eating their eggs or drinking their milk; and since they are packaged with much that can harm the human body, there are no good nutritional reasons to consume them. Let’s save them for times of famine.
Next Time in Discovering the Word of Wisdom
If the dietary principles in the Word of Wisdom are so clear, why don’t our Church leaders tell us these things? Next week I will begin to discuss this interesting topic.
Jane Birch is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective and many articles on the Word of Wisdom. She can be contacted on her website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom.
 Certain mushrooms are a rare exception as they can transform UV light into Vitamin D. Otherwise, neither Vitamin B12 nor Vitamin D are created by plants or animals, though they can be found in some animal foods. Much better to get these nutrients through fortification or supplementation!
 Health risks of DAIRY: John A. McDougall, “Dairy Products and 10 False Promises”; “Marketing Milk and Disease” and “When Friends Ask: “Why Don’t You Drink Milk?” (see also a very informative 43-minute video presentation by Dr. McDougall, “Marketing Milk and Disease” where he discusses the problems with dairy, especially as they relate to children); Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “Health Concerns about Dairy Products.” EGGS: Michael Greger, “Who Says Eggs Aren’t Healthy or Safe?” (this helpful 8-min. video, describes that “Freedom of Information Act documents reveal that the U.S. Department of Agriculture warned the egg industry that saying eggs are nutritious or safe may violate rules against false and misleading advertising”); Susan Levin, “What’s Wrong with Eggs?”; Michael Greger, “Eggs and Arterial Function” and “Debunking Egg Industry Myths,” “The latest meta-analysis of studies on egg consumption and heart disease risk found that even less than a single egg a day is associated with increased risk of both cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”
 David Pimentel and Marcia Pimentel, “Sustainability of Meat-based and Plant-based Diets and the Environment,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 78(suppl) (2003): 660S–3S; Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options” (2006). John Robbins, The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World (San Francisco: Conari Press, 2011).
 Swagerty, D.L., Walling, A.D., & Klein, R.M. (2002). Lactose intolerance. American Family Physicians, 65(2), 1845-1850.
 Campbell’s The China Study offers a good discussion of this topic. A more in-depth analysis is in Joseph Keon, Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth about Cow’s Milk and Your Health (Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2010). This is one of the most detailed resources on dairy. (See also short video of Joseph Keon on risks of cow’s milk.)
 Amy Joy Lanou, “Should Dairy Be Recommended as Part of a Healthy Vegetarian Diet? Counterpoint,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89, no. 5 (May 2009): 1638S–1642S. See also Keon, Whitewash, pp. 166–171 and “Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis,” Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website.
 Scott P. Greiner, “Cow Herd Performance and Profitability: Measuring How You Stack Up,” Virginia Cooperative Extension, March 29, 2010.
 Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Scourge of Illicit Drugs,” Ensign (November 1989), 50.