Food and Drink

What You Actually Gain From Cutting Dairy Out of Your Diet

Alexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock
Alexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock
Alexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock

Almond milk, soygurt, fermented cashew cheese… all these dairy imposters and others are slowly taking over the refrigerated food section. It’s like consumers today think they’re too good to suckle at a bovine udder or something.

Or maybe they’re onto something — that drinking cow milk is a little unnatural. Of course, just because something is unnatural doesn’t mean it’s bad, points out Dr. Michael Greger, a physician, author, and prominent vegan. “Wearing shoes is unnatural,” he says. “Lots of things are unnatural, but we should look deeper if we’re doing something that’s a little strange, to make sure it doesn’t cause negative effects.”

With that in mind, let’s see what happens when you give up on cheese and its creamy ilk.

Cutting out milk could reduce your risk of prostate cancer

A meta-analysis shows that milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer, the second-most common cancer in men. In some ways, it makes sense, since even organic milk is naturally full of hormones, which help both calves and tumors get bigger.

“Drinking milk boosts IGF-1, a cancer-promoting growth hormone,” Dr. Greger says. “It’s a bioactive growth fluid that does what it is designed to do: put a few hundred pounds on a calf. So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that drinking milk from a massive species has these effects on our own bodies.”

Almond milk, by the way, suppressed the growth of cancer cells by 30%. And it keeps longer in the fridge, too.

Alexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock
Alexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock
Alexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock

You eliminate an inferior calcium source

“But, but, but… calcium!” That’s what people scream at you when you tell them to quit dairy, right? Right?!

Yeah, milk has calcium. It also has saturated fat, cholesterol, and hormones. “There’s calcium in dairy, there’s protein in pork and iron in beef, but food is a package deal,” Dr. Greger points out. “You can’t say, ‘I would like the burger, but hold the saturated fat and growth hormones. And that’s the baggage that comes with dairy.”

Plus, the calcium that’s in dairy isn’t easy for our bodies to absorb; only 31% of calcium in milk is absorbed, compared to 60-70% of calcium in foods like sesame seeds, Dr. Greger says. Double down on the tahini, in other words.

You get more fiber and antioxidants from nondairy foods

Kale, almonds, collard greens, and other foods have calcium levels that are equivalent or superior to what you’ll find in dairy products. Plus, they have tons of fiber, which you probably need anyway.

“Ninety-seven percent of people don’t reach their minimum daily fiber intake,” Dr. Greger says. “Dairy and animal products have no fiber. Getting calcium from vegetables, you get fiber, folates, antioxidants — all the things missing from dairy that we could use more of.”

The only catch is that you have to actually eat collard greens and kale to get that calcium. “If they rot in your crisper drawer, the absorption rate is zero,” Dr. Greger points out. Eat your greens, people.

You gain stronger bones and a longer life

big cohort study that followed more than 100,000 Swedish men and women for 20 years showed that the women who drank the most milk had the most hip fractures. “More milk was associated with more fractures, higher rates of cancer, heart disease, and a higher total mortality — meaning they lived shorter lives,” Dr. Greger says. “Men also had higher rates of death.”

You help save the planet from global warming

Did you know cow farts (aka methane) contribute to global warming? It’s such a big deal that California enacted regulations to stem the tide of greenhouse gases that originate in bovine butts. That’s not even counting all the energy it takes to feed and water the livestock.

If you want to fight climate change (which, in case you haven’t been keeping up on things, is a big deal), you could swap your car for a bike. But you could also just skip the gallon of 2% and grab a carton of plant-based milk instead.

It’s a baby step in the right direction… which is a step away from drinking stuff made for actual babies.Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Missy Wilkinson used to disguise the taste of cow milk with chocolate syrup. Then she realized she could just stop drinking it entirely.  Follow her on Twitter @missy_wilkinson and Instagram @nowlistenmissy.

Food and Drink

What We Learned About Fish From Spending An Afternoon With Josh Niland

It’s time to stop putting your fish in water, you’re killing the flavour

fish in coolroom
Photo By Natasha Bazika

“How do you want your fish,” says a fishmonger dressed head to toe in black, to a customer ordering a kilo of Greenback Flounder from Coorong, SA. The customer is unsure of how he wants the fish but asks the fishmonger for advice after telling him what he plans to do with the fish. Immediately the fishmonger knows how to cut the flounder, wraps it in paper, and hands it off to the customer—but not before giving a tip or two on how to cook it. 

“This is how we sell trust and instil confidence,” says Josh Niland who appeared from around the counter, donning his chef whites and a crisp white apron. We’re in Fish Butchery, Niland’s fish shop in Paddington, 20-metres down the road from his two-hatted seafood restaurant, Saint Peter. It’s a humble fish shop that feels luxurious when you walk in. Perhaps, it’s the cased sausages hanging in the front window, or the glass cabinet with one of everything they’re selling that day on display. You won’t find piles of fish or large blue trays of ice with fish lying on top. Everything is in controlled cabinets, including the oysters.

The shop is long and narrow with exposed brick walls, which Niland explains had a previous life as a hair salon. “I never wanted the shop to be uptight, but I did want it to be beautiful, a place you could walk in, order fish and chips, or a piece of fish to cook at home,” says Niland. In the middle of the room, there is a slab of white-marble serving as the backbone. This is where the fish is descaled with what Niland likes to call a ‘beartrap on a stick’. Although some fishmongers wield the beartrap, flinging scales up their arms, others use a knife, slicing the scales in one long strip, resembling snakeskin. 

“The fish here will be used for sushi and sashimi,” Niland explains pointing at the fish being scaled by a knife. “What we’re trying to do here is to get between the scale and the fish, so we can control the texture of the fish and remove moisture from the fish.” 

Removing moisture from the fish is something we don’t see often, but as Niland explains, it is the most important step in preparing the fish. “You know that fishy fish smell you get a waft of walking into a fish market or other fish shop,” Niland asks. I briefly pause to remember smelling nothing when I walked into Fish Butchery, except the faint smell of fries sizzling in the fryer. “Well that’s because moisture gets into the skin, and when that happens water rapidly breaks down into ammonia, resulting in a fishy smell.” It’s another reason Niland often gets lost when a customer asks for a fish that’s not too fishy.

As he explains, fishy fish are only “fishy” because of the way it’s stored and handled. Which explains why the fish scaled with the bear claw are immediately hung, away from moisture. 

descaling fish
Photo By Natasha Bazika

“When the scaler rips up the scale, it leaves an open pocket where the scale used to be. This pocket is quite deep and what usually happens is the fish is washed down then dipped in water. The water sits in that pocket, and after some time creates a fishy smell,” explains Niland. 

This is the core of Niland’s philosophy. Removing moisture from the fish opens up a realm of opportunities that exists beyond the conventional method, according to Niland.

Our next step takes us to the cool room, where rows of gutted fish are hung up on silver hooks as butchers do to meat. They’re not swimming in buckets of ice or water, instead, they are dangling a safe distance from each other, careful not to touch one another. The coolroom is set to an optimal temperature, there is no fan blowing in the room, and only when the fish is ready to be served, then it will be unhooked and dealt with accordingly. 

“Every step from the catching, killing, and preparing is important in achieving flavour,” says Niland who points out a row of garfish in a dry tray. “If you kill a fish properly, there shouldn’t be any lactic acid, which you can tell by the flesh—it looks cooked.” 

So what’s the best way to humanely and effectively kill a fish? According to Niland, brain spike or bleeding the fish keeps the fish from flopping around, building up chemicals that can affect the flavour later on. 

Bringing the attention back to the garfish, Niland explains there are moments when fish tastes better. This tray of Garfish is ready to go, but then Niland points to a hanging coral trout which has until Friday before it’s served on someone’s plate. 

chef showing fish in coolroom
Photo By Natasha Bazika

“This fish arrived today, it’s been scaled and gutted, but it won’t be ready until the end of the week. That’s not the case for all fish though, this tuna I would serve on day 8 or 9,” says Niland. “There’s a point where a fish’s fat is more prominent, which again comes back to removing as much moisture as we can and controlling the handling and environment from day one.”

Niland sources produce from fisherman around Australia and he takes only whatever he can get. 

“I go to the airport to pick up fish once or twice a week from my sources, and I’ll visit the Sydney Fish Market daily to see what they have, but at my shop, I serve whatever I can get my hands on,” explains Niland. “Our customers ask for recommendations so we tell them, King George Whiting is excellent today, and we might offer tips on storing it at home, how to cook it, and if I have a recipe card, I’m more than happy to share.”

As Niland explains it, not everyone knows how to cook a certain fish, and he wants more people to choose an unfamiliar fish, something they haven’t had before or cooked before. The best way to do so is by helping his customers understand the product. “The bottom line is we want people to have a better experience with fish,” says Niland. 

This stays true to his sustainable approach to fishing and his pioneering nose-to-tail eating method for fish. “The global standard is that half goes in the bin, which breaks down to about a 45% fillet yield,” says Niland who remains unaffected after 10-minutes of chatting in the cool room. “For every two fish, we only need one. I use about 95% of the fish.”

We finally leave the coolroom, to approach a small fridge, where fish are being dry-aged, but in a different control to the dry ageing fish in the coolroom. “It’s just another way to experiment with the flavour and natural method of prolonging shelf life,” says Niland. 

“I’m always thinking, how can I articulate the flavour of fish differences between coral trout and snapper.”

cuts of fish
Photo By Natasha Bazika

Niland’s experimentation finds him continually exploring low-temperature storage, probing which fish works best for it, and noting when a fish reaches its sweet spot. More like a mad scientist, Niland is far from a conventional fishmonger, as he dives deep to push boundaries on how seafood is caught, shopped, and cooked whether at home or at Saint Peter. 

One look at his book, The Whole Fish Cookbook, is enough to convince you of his outrageous, funny, and loopy suggestions on what to cook, including coaxing delicious dishes from fish eyeballs. liver and even fish blood. 

If there is anything we can take away from spending an afternoon with Josh Niland, it would be his pioneering penchant for demystifying fish, his care and attention to preparing fish, and his sustainable seafood philosophy, that we hope catches on around the world. 

Niland enjoys the complexity of fish, yet breaks it down for us so that we can enjoy and achieve a perfectly cooked piece of fish at home. His humble approach to seafood is nothing short of inspiring. He wants to change the world, but it’s not going to be easy and you get the sense he knows that, but he continues, one fish at a time, to change how we cook, eat, and look at fish.

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