Thursday, August 26, 2010

What To Drink Part 3: What is Right with Milk? (Part A)

Picture courtesy of Flickr

This is our fourth installment in the What To Drink series.  We already tackled juice: 
and the detriments of milk:
What's Wrong With Milk? (Part A)

We've already made a strong argument NOT to drink pasteurized milk if at all possible.  And I think Dr. Cordain (author of The Paleo Diet) makes a good argument to NOT include ANY dairy in your diet.  You'll be fine without it as long as you eat your vegetables as part of a healthy paleo-style diet.  

But let's play devil's advocate and say you want to drink milk.  I know I do on occasion, may the paleo gods smite me for it.  There is nothing in this world like a breve latte (it's a bowlful!) from Santa Cruz's finest: Verve.  Seriously chill place.  And a life devoid of cheese?  Not.  Worth.  Living.  So without a bona-fide dairy allergy making it impossible to partake, I do perchance partake.  Is that okay?  

Today, let's turn the milk debate around and ask:

Can You Be Healthy WITH Milk?

Although the Paleo Diet (as Dr. Cordain envisioned) doesn't advocate milk or any other dairy, many paleo dieters categorize themselves as paleo + dairy or Lacto Paleo.  Mark's Daily Apple's Primal Diet doesn't promote, but isn't against including dairy.  The Weston A. Price Foundation definitely advocates raw dairy.  There is a kaleidoscope of possibilities for inclusion or exclusion of dairy in your diet, such as only raw, grass-fed, organic or from only certain animals (cow, goat, sheet, etc.), or certain forms like butter and/or cream but not milk.  Take your pick. 

The best answer to this question comes from YOU.  My suggestion: give up ALL dairy for at least two weeks.  Then, introduce it back in slowly, one type at a time and see what happens.  If you get all phlegmy and symptomatic, then guess what?  You are sensitive to dairy!  So maybe it doesn't make you as healthy as you can be.  You might find that you digest certain forms of dairy better than others.  Congratulations, now you have choices!  You can't say it makes YOU healthy or not unless YOU give it the old N=1 self experimentation.  Believe me, it is eye-opening! 

Why Drink Milk?

If you read our last installment, What's Wrong With Milk? (Part A) and (Part B), you may question whether or not anyone really needs milk in their diet.  Well, here is one reason: putting on the poundage.  Weightlifters know the benefits of milk for mass gaining and many practice GOMAD: gallon of milk a day.  According to them, it is ideal for putting on weight.  That is something to keep in mind if you are an adult who drinks milk daily and might be watching your weight.  If you are trying to lose weight, milk is definitely NOT what you want to be drinking.  

But what if you just want to drink milk and aren't on a weight loss plan?  Is milk healthy?  The answer is: it depends on whether or not it's pasteurized (heated to kill bacteria) and homogenized (squeezed through a fine strainer to break up fat and eliminate separation).  Hint the more processing, the less nutrition.  That is true of everything.  It also matters whether or not the milk comes from grass-fed or grain-fed cows, just like beef.  Grain-fed cows are NOT healthy, so guess how healthy their milk is?  It isn't all that surprising that if we feed cows and other milk animals what they evolved to eat, we get a superior product.  And that product is a real food on its OWN.  It doesn't need any enriching or processing to make it better than it already is.  

Conclusion: If you choose to partake, raw milk is the way to go!

What are the Potential Benefits of Raw Milk?

Dairy proponents like the Weston Price Foundation and raw milk producer Organic Pastures extol the benefits of raw milk to your digestive system and health.   Dr. Mercola interviewed Organic Pastures founder Mark McAffee and describes the benefits of raw milk, including:
  • Valuable enzymes that are destroyed during pasteurization. Without them, milk is very difficult to digest. So if you have lactose intolerance, it may very well disappear once you start consuming raw dairy products.
    • It also contains phosphatase, an enzyme that aids and assists in the absorption of calcium in your bones, and lipase enzyme, which helps to hydrolyze and absorb fats.
    • Enzymes are deactivated when you get above 120 degrees. By the time you get to 150, 160 degrees, almost all of them are completely inactivated, which is why you will not get ANY of these benefits from pasteurized milk.
  • Natural butterfat, which is homogenized or removed in pasteurized milk. Without butterfat, it becomes very difficult for your body to absorb and utilize the vitamins and minerals in the water fraction of the milk. Butterfat is also your best source of preformed vitamin A, and contains re-arranged acids with strong anti-carcinogenic properties.
  • Healthy unoxidized cholesterol
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and may help reduce your body fat.
  • High omega-3 and low omega-6 ratios, which is the beneficial ratio between these two essential fats

The website Raw Milk Facts adds to that list:
  • Proteins, including all 8 essential amino acids and heat-sensitive whey (interesting factoid: denatured whey is what turns milk white, which is why raw milk isn't bone white)
  • Carbohydrate in the form of lactose which becomes lactic acid at the end of its digestion, an antibacterial substance that improves absorption of minerals and proteins  
  • Fats, including CLA, saturated fat, and butyric acid (find out more about this important fat at the Whole Health Source--the article that prompted me to add butter back into my diet again!)
  • Vitamins: A, C, D, K, E, B1, B2, niacin, B6, pantothenic acid, B12, biotin, and folic acid
  • Minerals:
    • Calcium
    • Phosphorus
    • Magnesium
    • Potassium
    • Sodium
    • Zinc
    • Chlorine
    • Iron
    • Copper
    • Sulfates
    • Bicarbonates
    • Trace Elements

Fat is listed by both sources, so don't be afraid of full-fat dairy.  Fat is NOT what makes you fat.  That fat in milk helps you absorb the fat soluble vitamins in milk.  And milk has the beneficial fat CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which fights cancer and has been linked to weight loss.  Since grass-fed cattle have 3-5 times as much CLA as feedlot cows, here is just one more reason quality matters.  For more on CLA and grass-fed animals (as well as where to buy grass-fed meat and dairy and pastured eggs) check out Eat Wild. 

Can pasteurized, even organic pasteurized milk compare with the nutritional bounty of raw milk?  Check out Organic Pastures's Why Raw chart comparing Conventional, USDA Certified Organic, and Raw USA Certified.  Still not convinced?  Check back for our next installment on the safety of raw milk.  It'll be eye-opening!

In the meantime: At least do your body a favor and buy organic, full-fat, grass-fed dairy.  And open your mind to at least TRY raw dairy.  What does it taste like?  Milk.  Real milk.  The milkiest milk you've ever tasted.  For me, I'll exchange watery, conventional milk for rich, creme anglaise raw milk any day!   

Bottom line: If you are going to drink milk, choose raw, organic, full-fat grass-fed, dairy, otherwise known as Real Milk.  

Keep reading the series for more on raw milk and questions about its safety!


  1. What are your thoughts on full fat Greek yogurt? In another 2 weeks (after a month off dairy) I thought about trying it as a post-workout snack and seeing how I felt. I MISS greek yogurt! :(

  2. I tried full-fat greek yogurt again a few months ago and while I absolutely loved it's cheesy taste and the texture with fruit, it gave me the sniffles an a mild sore throat. I seem to tolerate cheese just fine, but other dairy I've tried doesn't agree with me. It's a shame because I would love to have it occasionally!