Nowadays it's hard to know what's good for you and what will turn your health onto the wrong path. As far as dairy goes, there's a lot to decipher. Here's a handy guide to make it easier for you:
Top of the Line:
Raw, grass-fed, whole (full-fat), fermented dairy.
Raw milk is a whole food. It’s the unprocessed milk straight from the animal, into a bottle, then into the fridge. That's it! Raw milk has not been pasteurized, so it retains probiotic bacteria that are beneficial for your immune system and digestive enzymes to help absorb nutrients.
Grass-fed animals are allowed to graze on a pasture and eat their natural diet. Their milk is rich in healthy vitamin K2 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
Whole milk is rich in butterfat. Found in the best milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, and butter, it helps the body absorb the vitamins A, D, E and K. The milk also contains water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and many B vitamins. Minerals in milk include calcium, phosphate, sodium, magnesium, sulphur, and potassium.
Fermented/cultured products like kefir, yogurt (real), and crème fraiche are made from raw dairy. They are especially rich in beneficial, probiotic bacteria that foster good gut health.
Could be Great, or Not:
Organic milk comes from cows that have NOT been given growth hormones (including rBGH or rBST), nor antibiotics. They are grass-fed for at least 3 months of the year, given 100% organic feed if not on pasture, and living conditions allow movement and access to outdoors and sunlight.
*Some farms may not pay $ for the organic symbol, but their products may be “top of the line”. *Read labels… you may want to “think twice” about organic dairy that has been pasteurized or is low-fat/skim. However, it’s still a better option than conventional dairy.
Conventional, Pasteurized, Homogenized, low-fat/skim dairy.
Conventional dairy is commonly found in grocery stores. It comes from cows that may have lived in crowded pens, fed non-organic grains, and have been given hormones and antibiotics.
Pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized milk has been heated in order to kill pathogens, however that process degrades the vitamins and minerals, kills the friendly bacteria, and destroys the important digestive enzymes. This makes milk a processed food!
Homogenized milk has undergone a process to have the creamy, fat molecules (which usually rise to the top) distributed evenly in the milk. This causes oxidization, which can cause spoilage and is linked to heart disease in humans.
Low-fat and skim milks are refined junk foods. They are void of the fat that necessary to absorb vitamins and help children’s brains and bodies develop. The disproportionate sugar and protein stimulate an insulin response which can provoke hunger and lead to weight gain.
Print the Guide:
If you decide dairy is okay for you, here is a handy PDF for you to easily remember this information and decipher the good vs. the bad in the grocery store or at the farmers market.
Read all the articles in the Got Milk? series on dairy:
Part 1: RAW MILK & DAIRY - THE HEALTH BENEFITS
Part 2- THE PROBLEMS WITH MODERN DAIRY
Part 3- DAIRY - DIGESTIVE ISSUES & ALTERNATIVES
Part 4- A HANDY GUIDE TO CHOOSING DAIRY
Part 5- GHEE, WHAT THE HECK IS IT?
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