So when did it start becoming the enemy? And why? Put simply, when we stopped worrying about having enough food on our plates and started examining its contents and nutritional benefits instead. The processing of milk has turned it into a product far removed from the cream top milk of the good old days. Hormones, antibiotics, pasteurization and homogenization are just a few of the things we need to worry about when it comes to the white stuff.
Let’s have a look at the key issues when it comes to milk:
Organic vs Non-Organic
There are over 60 hormones in an average glass of milk (non-organic). Crazy huh? There’s no denying that it’s healthier to drink milk from grass-fed, organic, non-hormone treated cows. Organic milk also contains higher levels of beneficial fatty acids and 30-50% less saturated fat than normal milk.
Full Fat vs Skim
The fat in milk aids in protein, calcium and fat-soluble vitamin (ADEK) digestion and absorption. It also contains immune-boosting lipids (glycosphingolipids). Skimming the milk, or removing the fat, makes it harder to digest and less nutritionally beneficial. There really is no outsmarting nature. If it put it there, it’s generally for good reason.
Homogenised vs Unhomogenised
Homogenising milk is essentially altering its chemical structure to make all of the molecules the same size – primarily for aesthetic reasons, homogenised milk contains no lumps. Unhomogenised means milk where the fat or cream sits at the top (as intended). It’s easier to digest and easier to whip!
Pasteurised vs Unpasteurised (aka ‘raw’)
This is probably the most contentious issue when it comes to milk. Pasteurising milk simply means heat-treating it to kill any harmful bacteria. It results in a loss of some of the naturally occurring enzymes and beneficial bacteria but it also means no nasty bugs such as brucella, campylobacter, E. coli, listeria, salmonella, and yersinia. It is illegal to sell unpasteurised (raw) milk for human consumption in stores – you’ll often see it sold as bath milk or pet food! Farmers can sell direct to consumers as long as they provide a label stating that it "may contain organisms harmful to health". People even buy ‘shares’ in a cow to get their regular supply of ‘white gold’!
When it comes to milk, we recommend opting for organic, unhomogenised, full-fat milk. As for the raw issue, we prefer to err on the side of caution but this really is a personal decision.
Next week, we examine milk intolerances and allergies, and the alternatives we have to dairy. Stay tuned.