Milk and Dairy Products in Ayurveda

Milk and Dairy Products in Ayurveda

Is that glass of milk you're drinking a source of nourishment or a hidden health risk? The answer: it depends! Let's see what Ayurveda has to say about this food group.


So... what IS the deal with dairy? 

Dairy is considered a Sattvic (or pure) food that nourishes the body, mind, and spirit when consumed in moderation and with proper digestion. Dairy products like milk, ghee, yogurt, and paneer (cottage cheese) possess cooling properties and often balance the Vata and Pitta dosha when consumed appropriately.

However, depending on individual constitution and digestive capacity, not all individuals benefit equally from making dairy a part of their diet. For instance, those with a Kapha constitution should avoid large quantities of dairy as it could lower their Agni and be difficult to digest.

Different Types of Dairy in Ayurveda

Dairy is known to be nourishing, cooling, and lubricating, but it has different qualities depending on the form it takes.

🥛 Milk is sweet and heavy with a cooling energy, nourishing many of the body's tissues. Often considered highly sattvic, quality whole milk is traditionally believed to support spiritual well-being.

🧀 Yogurt and cheese have a heating energy and a post-digestive effect that can be pungent or sour, depending on the form consumed.

🧈 Ghee, a clarified butter, has a sweet and cooling energy. It is tridoshic, meaning it balances all three doshas. Ghee is known to enhance Agni, the digestive fire, and helps you absorb nutrients from other foods. 

Tips for Drinking Milk

  • When to drink milk:
    • Morning - increases strength and helps with weight gain. Should be avoided if it makes you feel lethargic and heavy.
    • Midday - improves strength and appetite, and is especially good for children.
    • Night - pacifies all three doshas. Try to have warm milk around 30 minutes before going to sleep.
  • Avoid drinking cold milk for proper digestion. Instead, bring milk to a boil and then let it slowly boil for a few minutes before taking it off the heat. This changes the milk’s molecular structure, making it easier to digest and reduces Kapha.
  • Drink organic, non-homogenized milk. Milk that is not organic may contain hormones such as rBGH, which artificially increases milk production in the cow.
  • Do not mix or drink milk with sour, bitter, salty, astringent, or pungent tastes to avoid a buildup of toxins.
  • Avoid having fruit with milk or other dairy - this can lead to digestion problems and heartburn.


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Immunity Potion Dairy

Dairy, Immunity, and Disease

High-quality, unprocessed, organic dairy, consumed at the right times and with the right foods, is advocated by Ayurveda for providing excellent nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and protein.

However, research presents us with some concerns when it comes to non-organic dairy sources. Studies warn about regular milk lacking omega-3s, having artificial hormones, and even contributing to cancer risks. Below are some health comparisons between organic and inorganic dairy.

Nutrients in Organic Milk

1. Omega-3s: Organic milk contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart health, brain function, and reducing inflammation. This is largely due to the diet of organically raised cows, which typically includes more grass and forage rather than grain-based feeds. Omega-3s, which are also present in many foods and available as supplements, are known to strengthen immune function. Studies indicate that omega-3s can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve neurological development and function, with a big focus on immunity benefits [1].

2. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): Organic milk contains more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of fat that has been associated with various health benefits, including reduced body fat, improved immune function, and anti-carcinogenic properties.

3. Antioxidants: Higher levels of antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene are found in organic milk. These compounds help protect the body from oxidative stress and may contribute to better overall health.

4. Vitamins: Organic milk often has higher levels of certain vitamins, including vitamin A and vitamin E. These vitamins are important for vision, immune function, and skin health.

5. Minerals: Organic milk contains higher levels of certain minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron, although the differences are generally not as pronounced as those for omega-3 fatty acids and CLA.

6. Lack of Hormone and Antibiotic Residues: Organic milk is free from synthetic hormones such as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH/rBST) and antibiotics, which are used in conventional dairy farming to increase milk production and prevent disease. The absence of these substances is a significant factor for many consumers concerned about potential health risks associated with hormone and antibiotic residues.

7. Improved Fatty Acid Profile: The overall fatty acid profile of organic milk is often better balanced, with a more favorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. This can contribute to reduced inflammation and a lower risk of chronic diseases.

Hormones in Conventional Milk

Two substances commonly found in conventional milk are recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH, also known as BGH or rBST) and antibiotics. These additives are used to increase milk production in cows. However, organic milk is sourced from cows that have never been treated with these hormones or antibiotics. As a result, organic milk is guaranteed to be free of any residues from these substances, offering a purer and more natural product.

rBGH increases levels of IGF-1 in cows, which can also be found in the milk they produce. Elevated IGF-1 levels in humans have been linked to an increased risk of several cancers, including breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. Some studies suggest that consuming milk from rBGH-treated cows could contribute to higher IGF-1 levels in humans, potentially increasing cancer risk [2].

The additional hormones introduced by rBGH may also disrupt the delicate hormonal balance in humans, which can potentially influence hormone-related cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer.



Ultimately, integrating dairy into one's diet should be individualized, taking into account personal health goals, digestive capacity, and potential sensitivities. However, when possible, organic dairy sources should be prioritized for their additional health benefits and reduced chance of hormonal disruption.

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