Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dairy, dairy quite contrary

We have been drinking milk for centuries so why has it been getting such a bad rap lately? It’s high in fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as protein and riboflavin (vit B2). When we think of milk, images of the milkman and his morning delivery, free milk given out at schools, and the infamous US ‘Got milk’ campaigns come to mind.

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’!

The verdict

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.


Bec from HP said...

Hi Laura,

I was so glad to read your article as it's one of the only times I've read something positive about dairy - in particular cows milk. I don't know why it's getting such a bad wrap. I am just about to turn 40 and I was raised on fresh cows milk. I have no fillings in my teeth and my hair is strong and thick. My brother who is older has no fillings in his teeth either.
I put this down to the fresh milk and so I have been a advocate ever since but it seems to be a dirty word. I must admit finding milk that actually tastes like milk anymore is difficult which is why I do buy bath milk. The taste is out of this world and I strongly believe it is naturally good for you. I hope in time the pendulum will swing back in favour of fresh real milk straight from the cow as I believe I am living proof of it's benefits.
I find myself sticking up for milk with friends who go off it for long periods of time. I don't think that is a good thing but I'm all for moderation anyway.

thanks for your info.
Bec from HP

Anonymous said...

Hi Bec, thanks so much for your feedback. We completely agree! I have suffered from an intolerance to milk and dairy and have recently begun reintegrating it into my diet - full fat, organic, unhomogenised - and it has been fine. It is definitely a controversial topic and people tend to generalise about milk without considering the way it is produced - as with most foods, there are good and bad versions of it! Laura