I love milk. I think it’s because when I was a kid, we had a milk machine. You know, one of these:
We use to tell our little friends that there was a real live cow in there, and they’d watch wide-eyed as we lifted the lever and filled up a cold, bubbly glass of fresh milk.
Too bad you can’t actually get milk machines with real cows, because based on what I’ve been learning recently, raw milk is the way to go.
The best kind of raw milk is taken from grass-fed cows, cooled, and bottled. Some forms come from grain-fed cows, but grass-fed is ideal. Raw milk is not processed or treated in any way.
The type of milk you and I buy in the grocery store is processed cow’s milk. It is pasteurized and homogenized. Pasteurization uses heat to slow the growth of bacteria. The USDA standardizes and controls pasteurization methods. Homogenization is a treatment used to break up fat globules, preventing the cream from separating in the milk. It also spreads the bacteria and white blood cells killed off in pasteurization throughout the milk.
So why is raw milk healthier for us than processed milk? The key word that should have raised a red flag is “processed”.
The pasteurization of milk not only helps control bacteria, but it also kills many important nutrients. For example, lactase is an enzyme, or catalyst, needed for our bodies to digest lactose (milk sugar). Pasteurized milk kills all lactase, which is why so many people have trouble digesting milk and are therefore lactose intolerant. If you are lactose intolerant, give raw milk a try. You will be surprised at how much easier it is to digest! Pasteurization kills some of the vitamin C in milk and makes most of the calcium insoluble, meaning your body cannot benefit from it. And although pasteurization can kill some of the bad bacteria, there is also good bacteria being killed. Our bodies need this bacteria for digestion and absorption, and to help fight off bad bacteria that enters the body.
Homogenization artificially modifies dairy fats to the point of not being beneficial to us anymore. Without milk fats, our bodies cannot absorb and utilize the vitamins and mineral found in milk. In addition, milk fats cause our stomachs to release a hormone that not only helps with digestion (by releasing more digestive enzymes), but also tells us when we are full.
Raw milk has many other healthful qualities as well. It contains all essential proteins that our body needs for life but cannot produce on its own (ie we have to get them from our food). In addition, raw milk has both water and fat soluble vitamins and many important minerals.
To find out if and where you can find raw milk in your city, click here.
I know what you are thinking. This all sounds great, but what about those of us that can’t get raw milk? What should we be drinking?
While I do recommend raw cow’s milk over anything else, I also realize it is difficult to obtain due to strict food regulations. So if you don’t live on or near a farm, here’s what I think:
• Buy organic or local, no exceptions (some local dairies match or even exceed organic standards, like Royal Crest Dairy in CO)
• Kids will really benefit from the fats in milk, so I would give them whole milk
• Adults also benefit from milk fat and can drink whole milk or 2% milk
Some adults prefer skim or 1% because they want to watch their fat intake. Before I started nutrition school, Ed and I would rotate between the two. But now I am researching raw milk distributors in our area and in the meantime, I will switch us to 2% or whole milk. I do think that if you are drinking milk that is not raw, you should consume it in moderation and be aware of how it is affecting your body. This is also very important in kids, as they often experience difficulties digesting milk. There are many good arguments for why pasteurized, homogenized milk is detrimental to your health. However, I think that in moderation it is fine to include in an adult diet.
Oh, and if you’re not into cow’s milk altogether, I recommend choosing almond milk over soy milk… check out my Facebook page for a good article on soy and why you should consume it in moderation.
And that milk machine I was talking about earlier? It really did exist! My parents weren't crazy... it actually just came with the house we moved into. But it did lead to a love of milk for all my siblings and me. I mean, I even dressed as Tim the Milkman for Halloween in 4th grade!