Is milk healthy? Why I choose raw and stay away from low fat milk.

Is milk healthy? Why I choose raw and stay away from low fat milk.

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.

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

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).

Is milk healthy? Learn why low-fat milk is bad and what milk is best.

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?

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.

Um, awesome.

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.

Is milk healthy? Learn why low-fat milk is bad and what milk is best.

Run away from “Fat Free!”

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.


NOTE: Due to an never-ending cesspool of spam, I have made the tough decision to close comments 14 days after the original posting of all posts. Sorry to anyone left out of the conversation. I just needed to spend less time monitoring spam and more time with my kids. Best wishes, Robin!

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About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie

41 comments

  1. Paloma

    Hi Robin,

    I would like to first of all say congratulations because your blog is great! It’s got so much healthy stuff and I love the fact that you always back it will lots of references. You are an excellent writer as well so it’s a pleasure to read what you’ve got to say. I am already eating more natural food and doing more exercise and boy, I am already feeling the changes in my body!

    There is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and I would like to know your opinion. I really would like to be healthy in this matter and drink more raw milk but:

    1. I tried it once already and didn’t like much the flavour.

    2. Even though I didn’t like it I would mind giving it another try since it seems to be so good for you but in the place where I live (Majorca) it is a huge faff to get hold of raw milk and even more complicated, if not impossible, to own a cow!

    So nearly everyone here drinks what it’s called UHT milk and we also have available fresh milk in the supermarkets, although still pasteurized.

    What do you think about fresh milk? Is is a not so bad alternative to raw milk?

    Thanks so much!!


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Pasteurization does kill off the beneficial live enzymes… and I’m curious what “UHT” is…. I’d personally avoid anything that is ultra or high-temperature pasteurized. If you can find low-temp pasteurized milk that’s the next best thing.

      With all that said, if you really don’t like the taste I don’t think there’s any need to stress or force yourself to drink it. There are plenty of awesome “super” foods out there that we don’t need to feel like we have to get every one of them in our diet. My husband is not a huge milk drinker (he’ll have an occasional glass here and there) and he’s still healthy and vibrant. Listen to your body. :)

    2. Jaycey

      Where do you buy your raw milk in Majorca? I live there part-time and I’m trying to source some right now! :-)

  2. Shelby Decker

    in Wisconsin, where I live, you can’t get raw milk, but I drink organic whole milk and I quite like it. how different is that from raw?


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      If you can’t get raw then organic whole is definitely the next best option. It’s still been pasteurized so it won’t have the beneficial enzymes of raw, but what can you do… right? :) Just be sure to avoid ultra or high heat pasteurization.

  3. angel avina

    It floors me over and over against……this STUPID contraversy in what mike you should drink.
    HERE IS THE ANSWER: YOUR MOTHERS MILK!
    Then when you get teeth you start EATTING and no longer need milk.
    There is a good reason folks why hundreds of thousands of people are lactose intolerant.
    Hey, nobody needs to take a pill to eat a dark green salad….No one is green intolerant GET IT???
    PLEASE stop drinking milk!! It causes mucus, plague, constipation and the list goes on and on.
    It’s not about Raw VS Paturized……..it’s about not NEEDING IT AT ALL.
    NO other animal continues to drink milk after its done being a baby.
    I have had countless patients (children) with chronic ear infections and/or constipation. When instructed to cut dairy out of their diet guess what? PROBLEM(S) gone.


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Hi Angel,

      I’m feeling the passion, Angel. And I appreciate your desire to do what feels right for you. A few thoughts:

      1. I know plenty of toddlers who get teeth at six months or sooner… but the benefits of breastfeeding to AT LEAST two years (as recommended by the World Health Organization) clearly show that just because you have teeth doesn’t mean milk isn’t beneficial.

      2. As I mentioned in the post, many people who think they are lactose intolerant have no problem with raw milk because it still contains the living enzymes that help people digest it. And for those truly lactose intolerant, or those who just don’t like or “agree” with milk, that’s fine. I’m not suggesting everyone needs to drink milk. Only that it has been considered a real food for thousand of years and there are countless stories of people thriving on the benefits of milk whether mother’s, cow, goat, sheep, camel, etc.

      3. There are actually people who truly struggle to digest greens due to the high levels of insoluble fiber, among other things: http://chriskresser.com/got-digestive-problems-take-it-easy-on-the-veggies

      4. As for the argument that no other animal continues to drink milk after being a baby: If you read the article and noticed the video I linked to you’d see that this is false. Plenty of animals will drink milk if they can get access to it. And let’s not forget that we humans do a LOT of things that no other animals do: We “juice” our foods or use fancy blenders. We cook food. We live in houses. We wear clothes. Etc.

      5. I totally believe you that people find their problems gone when cutting out dairy. Processed and pasteurized dairy does damage to a lot of people. And our food system is so messed up that many have intolerances because their gut bacteria is so out of balance due to a number of things. But that’s not to say that if we balance our systems that real dairy doesn’t have some amazing nutrition.

      Again, I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to consume dairy to be healthy, but I do think it can be a truly healthy part of a diet… when consuming the right kind.

    2. Brian

      “NO other animal continues to drink milk after its done being a baby.” ??
      Actually angel…You are VERY wrong!!…I have seen other instances with horses but I have a 5 year old Shire/Quarter horse mare in the field right now who STILL suckles her Mom…and her Mom STILL has milk..Granted not a huge whole lot…But…There is just one example of it being provided and drank by and older animal..Milk is superb stuff…and the more natural the better!!

  4. Brooke

    This is such a great article. Every time someone questions me on why I drink real, whole milk, I will point them to your article!

  5. Sandy

    One day I hope to be able to get fresh milk from my own animals. In the meantime, we are renting and I have a few questions:
    1. What is your opinion about goat vs. cow milk (or other animals). I’ve heard that goat milk is easier to digest for a variety of reasons.

    2. Where do you get your raw milk? And if from a store (I think our closest is Real Foods in Orem), how can you be sure it is from a clean source without being able to see the cows?


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      I’ve heard great things about goats milk. And if we ever move somewhere we can’t access raw milk from a reliable source I would probably be more willing (and able) to have goats instead of a cow. And yes, I hear that it’s easier to digest for many.

      As for where: I get mine from the Real Food store in Orem. I love them. They test their milk so consistently and beyond what’s required. They are totally open to you visiting their farm and seeing their practice. I totally trust their milk.

      1. Andrea

        There is a place in West Jordan that sells raw whole milk (also pastured eggs, chicken, pork, and grass-fed beef. It makes it a whole lot closer than driving to Orem unless you live down there. Don’t know if I am allowed to name the place and address, so please email me with questions. We’ve been getting our milk from them for almost a year and all our meat and eggs for over 2 years now. Love it!


        1. Post author
          Robin Konie

          This is awesome news. I actually live near Orem right now, but may be moving later this year closer to West Jordan. I’ll be emailing you later. :)

    1. angel avina

      If your infant develops teeth at an earlier age then I would TOTALLY recommend goats milk since it is the closest to mothers milk.
      When people are having problems digesting GREENS I will guarantee that its because they have way to much mucus in the gut.
      Greens clean this mess up. In my career I have had a few people actually tell me that they are ALERGIC to greens. My response ? Your no more allergic to greens then a tiger is to a slab of meat.
      One other “note” is if the greens have been treated to chemicals then YES you would have an allergic reaction such as severe diarrhea .
      As far as other animals drinking milk after being a baby….not really in the realm of TRUE nature.
      Animals of the wild that live in the wild without us introducing them to milk do not ever consume it on their own but rather forage for solids after teething.
      Raw milk is intended for a BABY COW to grow up into a adult cow that far outweighs what a human would.
      I will agree that Raw milk is the lesser of two evils.

  6. Suzanne @ Frugal Organic Mama

    Thanks for the informative post. I actually wrote a similar post last week debating the differences between organic and conventional milk…I touched on raw milk, but I’ve been nervous to try it. I’ve gotten such an outpouring of comments from people who swear by raw milk, I think I have to try it. I’ll check out the website you reference to find a local source. Keep the great posts coming!
    FrugalOrganicMama.com


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Thanks, Suzanne. If you can find a clean source of raw go for it! I love it!

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  8. Judith

    I think the major reason milk was pasturised (at least in Australia) was because it carried tuberculosis and brucellosis. The lack of hygiene and refrigeration would have made it important as well.

  9. Jessica M.

    I would LOVE to try raw milk products, but it’s illegal in Iowa where I live. Makes me mad! Back when I still drank milk, I would ONLY drink milk from our local dairy. They leave it unhomogenized, and it’s much fresher too… much better than grocery store milk! But now I don’t even drink that.

  10. Brad

    Mucus production, inflammation, growth hormones, and addictive opiates…that’s what comes with milk.

    So many foods provide the purported benefits of milk without those negatives. I can’t find a compelling reason to drink it.


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Depends what kind of milk you drink, of course. My clean raw milk doesn’t give me any problems. But, like I said, if you don’t like milk don’t stress about it. For me, it gives me a wonderful complete food of fats, proteins, carbs, minerals, and vitamins. My teeth have never looked better. And during my first trimester of pregnancy it kept me alive. Those are compelling reasons for me to drink. :)

    2. Lori

      Raw milk generally is produced by cows that are hormone and antibiotic free and if your source isn’t, then you would be looking elsewhere. It has been proven in studies that milk doesn’t necessarily create more mucous production. http://www.jacn.org/content/24/suppl_6/547S.full

      As far as addictive opiates go, if some raw milk source that you have feeds the cows opiates, then again, find a new source. But, I would go so far as to say, don’t lay out an argument that is false.

  11. Ron

    Well said Robin…I just don’t understand why some people keep comparing humans with other mammals/animals! smh Well I don’t! Like you said, we can do many things with our food not like other mammals…for goodness sake, we can even grow our own food! Sheesh! Know your body and listen to it!

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  15. Hollie

    I have a 16 month old son who drinks some milk each day. I tried raw milk but found that it was hard to keep up with because I can only get it from the farmers market on Tuesdays. The milk would go bad before I was able to get more again on the next Tuesday. So I went back to buying pasteurized milk. I buy Braums whole milk, which for some reason tastes better to me than other pasteurized milk. Do you know anything about Braums milk & if it’s a good option as far as pasteurized milk is concerned? If I can ever find a way to make the raw milk work, then I will definitely do that. I wish it was more readily available where I live.

    1. Laura

      Hollie, just FYI you can freeze raw milk and it will be just fine when thawed. That might help your issue of making it keep all week. It really is great stuff, especially for growing children. Our three kids all love it. Thank heavens we have our own cows or we’d be broke with all the milk we’d have to buy!

      Karen, don’t quote me on this, but I think I read somewhere that pasteurized milk causes more food borne illness than raw milk. This is because when milk is pasteurized all the good bacteria – that would kill of any bad bacteria introduced – is wiped out. We’ve never had any issues with our milk, even cream that I accidentally left out for days culturing for butter. Can’t say enough good about raw milk!!

      1. Hollie

        Thank you for your helpful response! I didn’t realize that freezing is an option. This is good to know!


    2. Post author
      Robin Konie

      I’m not familiar with Braum’s. One other option to consider is freezing your raw milk. Skim the cream off before freezing, but it’s a simple way to extend the shelf life. (We had to start doing this since we recently moved and am further away from our raw milk supplier.)

      1. Hollie

        Thank you, Robin! I didn’t know that freezing is an option. Do you have recommendations as to what kind of container I should freeze it in? How long can it be kept frozen? Does it still taste as good when it is thawed?


        1. Post author
          Robin Konie

          I just freeze it in the plastic gallon container I get. It tastes “just about” as good as fresh… and if you take the cream out first you probably won’t be able to tell much of a difference as the cream is what got me the first time I did it (although it was still good enough to drink by itself.)

  16. Karen

    Love your website and totally agree with eating more natural, raw, unprocessed food. If I could get my hands on some raw milk I would give it a try!
    I have to say though that in your post you’ve actually supported the use of pasteurization for milk products. Since most of the population drinks pasteurized dairy products and you quote that “dairy products account for about 1.3% of foodborne illnesses each year”, doesn’t that kind of say that pasteurization is keeping food borne illnesses from dairy products down?

    It’d be nice to know the stats for food borne illnesses in people that consume only raw dairy products.
    Just sayin’…


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Even the CDC came out just recently saying raw milk was safer than they thought (which is huge for them to admit). It’s hard to get real stats because so few people drink raw milk and it’s still illegal in a few states. But if you talk to the producers of clean raw milk you can get an idea… the milk I get is amazing.

  17. C.

    I am thinking about consuming raw cow and goat dairy but I have a chronic bacterial infection (for at least 9 years, maybe 20. I am very sick.) so I am worried about not being able to handle any bad bacteria in the dairy. The farms where I would be getting the dairy have never had a problem with dangerous bacteria but I am still worried about drinking and eating the dairy because my immune system is low. If I were to boil the milk and cream to kill any bad bacteria, would that make it as bad as pasteurized milk or is it okay to boil raw milk? Thank you.

    (I don’t eat/drink pasteurized dairy. I stopped a few months ago.)


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Yeah, the boiling process will have ultimately the same effect as pasteurization. I totally understand your concern and wish I had solid advice to give you. I say trust you gut (and your research) and good luck! I’m sure it so frustrating.

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