Dairy gets a bad rap in the majority of the nutrition world and there is good reason. There are several unnatural nuances why many, including myself, avoid most dairy. But there are certain factors (time of year, location, breed of cow, etc…) that can make dairy, if you tolerate it well, nearly a “super food.” Understanding these nuances, in all natural foods can help you make the best nutritional choices. Below, I will use dairy as an example of why it’s important for you to explore what you eat at a deeper level, and why it’s important to know your food.
I recently was in my local, natural food store and spotted the jar of milk shown in the picture (yes, a jar!). This caught my eye immediately, for a number of reasons listed below:
Nuance #1: It’s in a jar. This means it has not been stewing in a BPA rich plastic jug for days (maybe weeks, if pasteurized). BPA is a xenoestrogen, which means an increased cancer risk and endocrine dysfunction. Avoid as much plastic as possible-look for jars!
Nuance #2: It’s grass fed. We are what we eat-so are cows. When a cow eats lush, green, carotenoid abundant grass, it produces a far superior milk. The omega-3 profile is much higher, meaning it’s far more anti-inflammatory, and the yellow tint to it proves the carotenoids are also in the milk. Choose grass-fed, and pay attention to the color.
Nuance #3: It’s raw/unpasteurized. If you look closely at the picture you’ll see the heavy cream that has settled at the top. No, it’s not spoiled; rather incredibly fresh! When dairy is homogenized/pasteurized, several chemical changes occur, for the worse. The proteins are altered, losing the naturally occurring, cancer-protective whey protein. Also, the very healthy fats (DHA, CLA, etc…) are oxidized, leading to a greater oxidative stress on your body. Of course there is always a debate on the “dangers” of raw dairy, but raw dairy has been proven to be incredibly safe when fresh. My personal experience and many of those I know correlate with these findings. Research the farm that supplies the milk, make sure it’s clean and responsible, and feel free to go raw!
Nuance #4: The milk is from Jersey cows. Yes, the type of cow matters. Jersey cows are known as type A2 cows, an older breed. Type A1 cow’s milk, from the more common and newer breed of Holstein cow, contains more histidine amino acids that are more problematic to humans than the proline amino acid in A2 cows. Dairy farms will tell you the type of cow they have- make sure they are A2 cows.
Nuance #5: It was milk from cows in late summer. The grass is really green and lush now! Once again, the milk was yellow, signaling a higher level of nutrients and antioxidants than in winter. Hay fed/grain fed cows in winter produce a less nutritious milk for many of the reasons listed above. If you’re a person that occasionally drinks milk, drink it in summer and early fall.
The five nuances above are just some of the several considerations to be researched when consuming dairy. How can each of us be expected to know every nuance?! Well, we can’t. But there is a common theme with each of these nuances: food should be as natural as possible and wild food is supreme!
You see, nature has it all figured out. It is only when we attempt to maximize production for the sake of profit and population demand that we breed-out and toxify most of our whole foods. If you don’t want to spend your evenings reading nutritional studies, don’t worry, just follow the simple rule of reconnecting with food: as natural and wild as possible for your situation.