As alluded to in a previous post about the government’s incorrect dietary guidelines, the government is not the best source of information regarding nutrition and health. Yet it is the most influential source of information because the government’s info is widely disseminated via education throughout the public school system as well as via press releases to the media. Since the source of the info is the government (and also perhaps Americans have become a “Cliff Notes” Nation that just wants the bottom line without reading the supporting evidence), the vast majority of people take it as gospel. I know because I was one of those people.
One such “fact” I assumed to be gospel was that whole milk was bad for you. After all, I had been taught in public school since I was in grade school that saturated fat is bad, and whole milk was loaded with saturated fat. Even low-fat milk had some saturated fat, so if I wanted the healthiest choice in milk, I needed to drink skim (now called fat-free) milk. So I did. As a young’un in grade school up until a few months ago (in my mid-life years now), I only drank skim milk.
But then I read Gary Taubes‘ book Why We Get Fat and learned that saturated fat isn’t what makes us fat and that saturated fat doesn’t have anything to do with heart disease. In fact, saturated fat in animal products actually is good for you. Makes sense since God designed the food chain this way. This revelation was a revolution for our diet…except for milk. Somehow, I was still on auto-pilot about drinking skim milk until one day I pondered, since we were enlightened about saturated fat, whether whole milk was better than skim milk.
I did some more reading about whole milk and discovered a few things.
Whole milk is healthier for you than skim milk
The fat part of milk contains fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Removing the fat obviously reduces the nutritional component of the milk.
What’s more, we already know that the more food is processed, the more adulterated it becomes. Whole grains are better than refined grains. Whole milk is better than refined (skim) milk.
There’s also the politics of skim milk. When dairy companies skim the fat off the milk in order to sell skim milk, they use that fat to make other, more profitable products like butter and cream. If all the skim milk drinkers instead chose whole milk, dairy companies would have less creamy fat to create those other dairy products. [You’d be surprised to know that politics plays more of a role than nutrition science in what foods the government allows and promotes to the American people…more on that in a future post.]
Non-homogenized milk is better than homogenized milk
I never considered non-homogenized milk before. Every container of milk I’ve ever drunk from proudly states it is homogenized, like it’s a feature.
Remember the phrase “The cream rises to the top”? That adage is based on raw milk, where the cream would rise to the top of the milk. Homogenization takes the cream from raw milk and forces it through tiny holes under high pressure to break up the fat so it no longer rises to the top. Instead, the fat globules are molecularly broken up so that it stays mixed with the rest of the milk.
If you’re wondering what’s the big deal about whether there’s cream in your milk, ask yourself whether you like having your products processed for you to remove beneficial content. The dairy industry decided that whole milk should have 3.25% fat when raw milk contains between 4-5.5% fat. So dairy companies are removing the fat, homogenizing it, and then injecting a partial amount of the fat back into the milk. As discussed previously, unadulterated food products are what God intended for us to eat/drink.
You can find non-homogenized milk in stores like Whole Foods and some smaller grocers, which sell milk like Kolona Supernatural (our favorite non-raw milk) or the more expensive Trader’s Point Creamery.
Raw milk is better than pasteurized milk
This might be the third rail of the milk debate. Pasteurized milk, like homogenized milk, is branded on every container of milk like it’s a feature. And to the common mind, pasteurization does appear to be a feature. After all, heating up milk to reduce harmful bacteria is a good thing, yes?
Actually, no. According to the surprisingly objective book Raw Milk Revolution by David Gumpert, pasteurization was useful in the early 1900s to reduce pathogens that were causing an outbreak due to unsanitary dairy conditions at that time when cows were being brought in to cities towards the end of the Second Industrial Revolution. But pasteurization is no longer necessary for hygenically-handled grass-fed cows in sanitary conditions. Claims that raw milk “is responsible for nearly three times more hospitalizations than any other foodborne disease outbreak, making it one of the world’s most dangerous food products” are based on unresearched cases that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has subjectively authored with a heavily negative bias. This bias has been extensively documented in Raw Milk Revolution, which provides another example of the political heavy-handedness of government agencies.
Pasteurizing milk destroys many of milk’s beneficial enzymes, as well as vitamins, although the CDC would argue it doesn’t. Which stance is correct? Clearly, if the CDC promotes pasteurization as a way of making milk safe via killing pathogens, then certainly pasteurization will kill both the good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria. How the CDC can insist that milk is no different nutritionally after pasteurization is beyond me.
Let’s extend the pasteurization concept a little further to make it even more clear. Have you heard of ultra-pasteurization? Ultra-pasteurization is an increasingly common method of pasteurization that heats milk to a minimum 280 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 2 seconds, instead of traditional pasteurization which heats milk to a 161 degrees for a minimum of 15 seconds or 145 degress for 30 minutes. Ultra-pasteurization, therefore, kills all organisms in the milk (traditional pasteurization kills most organisms but some do survive).
With that background, consider that kefir, a probiotic product filled with enzymes, typically requires milk for production. However, kefir cannot be made with ultra-pasteurized milk because there is nothing in that kind of “ultra-dead” milk which the kefir grains can ferment. Kefir can be made with regular pasteurized milk though it is markedly not as nutritious as when it is made with raw milk. This further proves that the pasteurized milk is better than ultra-pasteurized milk, and that raw milk is better than them all. Once again, unadulterated food products are best…that’s the way God intended them.
What’s more, many people who have been lactose-intolerant claim to be able to drink raw milk without any problems. Apparently, the mechanical process of pasteurizing and homogenizing milk is what’s making people lactose-intolerant. While people think the problem is their own body, a bigger part of the problem may in fact be the way commercial milk is being produced.
That’s our journey on the path to enlightenment about milk. Neither we nor anyone else we know who drinks raw milk has been hospitalized. What do you think? Are you ready to take the plunge into real milk…raw and whole…pure and ? If not, what’s holding you back?