“Is milk healthy?” It’s a common question I hear, and not the easiest one to answer.
Let’s talk about milk. Low-fat milk. Skim milk. Whole milk. Raw milk. All of it. Milk is another one of those controversial foods where some people think it’s the best thing since sliced bread and others will argue to their death that it is killing us.
I personally love milk. Real milk, that is. During both of my pregnancies it was the often the only thing that sounded good. As a nourishing source of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates it helped keep me going through those first few weeks. But is milk really good for you? And what kind is best?
You’ve probably heard the argument that cow’s milks is for baby cows; not for humans. And by the design of nature I can see that point. But like any animal, we humans have a history of searching out foods wherever we can get it. Food isn’t always species appropriate. Our bodies evolved to digest lactose after our ancestors (thousands of years ago) started drinking and fermenting milk. And trust me, other animals will drink the milk from other species if they can get their paws on it. (In fact, check out this video of some pigs going to town on a cow’s udders.)
Of course the majority of the American population doesn’t think twice about consuming milk, as evident by the large portion of space dedicated to it in any grocery store. But not all milk is created equal. Milk is another example of how real food has been altered into a fake food counterfeit.
So is milk healthy?
Depends. What kind of milk are we talking about?
Is low-far milk healthy? That’s a big fat NO.
Why I don’t trust skim or low-fat milk
I grew up in a home that usually had 1% or skim milk in the fridge. I didn’t think anything of it because almost everyone I knew was drinking the same stuff. In fact, it wasn’t until I was talking to a friend in college that I heard of anyone drinking whole milk. And I thought she was weird.
And when we think about the battle against fat it makes sense that we’d be afraid of full fat milk. Once upon a time milk was prized and purchased for its cream. As soon as fat became a villain, however, the dairy industry scored big as they could now make mega bucks on a product that was once considered useless. Simply skim the cream (and use it to sell higher priced items like butter and ice cream) and sell the leftovers as “health food.” Awesome…. for them, not you.
But the sad story of skim milk goes beyond a desire for increased profit. Processed milk doesn’t really pass as milk by anyone’s standards.
Skim milk has an off color, chalky taste, and the water-like texture is anything but milk-like. Another win for big dairy is that they can add powdered milks solids to make it more normal. And since it’s still technically “milk” they don’t have to label anything.
The problem with powdered milk
So what about powdered milk? Is that kind of milk healthy? Remember how vegetable oils oxidize easily which contribute to all sorts of bad things in the body? Well the process of “powdering” milk is much the same. Liquid milk is forced through tiny holes at very high pressure. This causes the cholesterol in milk to oxidize. Toxic nitrates then form. This is a problem for many reasons:
- The oxidized cholesterol contributes to the buildup of plaque in the arteries (instead of helping fight inflammation like unprocessed cholesterol.)
- Powdered milk is so denatured that the proteins are actually unrecognizable by the body, contributing to inflammation.
- Most commercial milk comes from ill-treated animals in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) which produce products full of hormones, antibiotics, and puss.
Plus, skim milk (and even low-fat milk) is missing that glorious butterfat that is a great source of Vitamin K (something many Americans are highly deficient in). Remember, your body needs fat to process fat-soluble vitamins. Although the diluted nature of skim milk leaves very nutrition left anyway. Studies continue to show that low-fat milk is actually making us fatter (source).
The real deal: Why I drink raw milk
Sounds like you should avoid milk, right? Not if you can get your hands on REAL milk. My favorite is clean, unpasteurized, unhomogenized (read: processed FREE) raw milk. There’s plenty of scare tactics being used by the FDA and CDC to keep you away from the good stuff (including plenty of laws that make it illegal in some states), but if you buckle down and do the research you’ll realize this is the gold mine of real food goodness.
Raw milk has not been pasteurized so all its beneficial enzymes are still intact. This is one of the reasons why people who have a hard time digesting pasteurized dairy products have absolutely no issue with raw milk.
Many believe that pasteurization is the key to a healthy civilization, and it’s true that it probably saved a lot of lives when it was first introduced. Keep in mind that at the time industrial practices were so filthy that milk and other products needed to be heated at high temperatures to kill the many pathogens that resulted from poor animal treatment and bad sanitation practices. But again, if we get back to REAL food that is grown in the ground, on clean farms, and in pastures instead of factory food then the problem becomes very minimal.
But is raw milk safe? Is raw milk healthy?
Despite government agencies trying to scare everyone away from raw milk, the facts paint a different picture. In fact, you are much more likely to get sick from produce than dairy.
According to Chris Kresser:
Produce is responsible for the greatest number of illnesses each year (2,062), with nearly twice as many illnesses as poultry (1,112). Dairy products are at the bottom of the list. They cause the fewest outbreaks and illnesses of all the major food categories – beef, eggs, poultry, produce and seafood.
According to the CDC, during the period from 1990 − 2006, there were 24,000 foodborne illnesses reported each year on average. Of those, 315 per year are from dairy products. This means dairy products account for about 1.3% of foodborne illnesses each year. That’s not exactly an alarming number, considering that more than 75% of the population consumes dairy products regularly. It’s also important to note that the outbreaks and illnesses associated with dairy products are generally mild compared to other foods.” (source)
Raw milk passes my “real food” test. It’s a living food with beneficial bacteria, enzymes, and full of vitamins and minerals. Its butterfat is rich in Conjugated Linoleic Acid, it’s easier to digest, and if left alone at room temperature it doesn’t go “bad” like pasteurized milk. Instead it clabbers and can be turned into a pro-biotic rich yogurt-like food.
Of course you’ll want to ensure that your raw milk comes from a clean source. Look for grass-fed cows that aren’t fed hormones or antibiotics. You can always visit realmilk.com to find reliable sources near you.
Go to the farm. Ask questions. See the process. Be involved in your food.
Run away from “Fat Free!” This milk is NOT healthy.
No even a little.
Fat-free is generally another term for “highly-processed.” If food naturally has fat, eat that. Don’t pay for chemical-laden, washed-down garbage that your body can’t recognize. Also, this is generally true for similar labels that read: “Sugar-Free!” Don’t forget: If something has to promoted as a health food, it generally is not.
Trust nature, not labels. And that goes for both the food that ends up in your home as well as the process by which it was created. And definitely, do not be afraid of fat.
What do you think? Is milk healthy or not?