The Scoop on Dairy

This week at the market, I made grilled cheese.  I made a whole bunch of different combos, which included several different local raw milk cheeses, tomatoes, basil, pickles, scallions, roasted red peppers, and of course great local bread (not all in the same sandwich!!). It was so much fun that I think that I should open a grilled cheese stand at the market and use all the local market products to cook up all kinds of amazing creations.  Isn’t that a great idea??

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So here is the article that went with grilled cheese this week:

Do you eat dairy products?  There is and has always been much controversy over whether consuming dairy products is healthy.  Frankly, I don’t think anyone could give a definitive answer, and I think it probably depends a lot on the person.  Some people digest dairy very well, others not so much, and still others don’t digest it well but eat it anyway!

Though some people do have a true allergy to milk protein, most people who say they are “allergic” to dairy simply have a lactose intolerance, which means there bodies, either genetically or due to age, do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase.  These people usually have a hard time digesting milk, and sometimes cheese and yogurt to a lesser extent.  Yogurt is usually somewhat easier to digest because some of the lactose is broken down in the fermentation process.

Some believe that dairy products are an important part of a healthy diet.  Others proclaim that it is just plain weird for humans to drink the milk of another animal after infancy since no other species does this.  Either way, it is true that dairy products are a good source of protein, fat, calcium, and vitamins A and D, but there are certainly other sources of these nutrients in the diet. So who’s right?

I think the jury is still out on the subject, but want to mention that the milk we drink today is much different than the milk our ancestors drank, also known as raw milk.  Raw milk is milk from pastured cows that is in its original state; unprocessed, unpasteurized, and unhomogenized.  This type of milk contains all of the fat as well as all of the vitamins and nutrients that are killed when milk is pasteurized, or heat-treated, which all milk on the grocery store shelves are today.   Just a few of the beneficial components in raw milk that are lost to pasteurization are:

  • A complete spectrum of amino acids, the building blocks of protein
  • Immunoglobulins; antibodies that help our bodies fight off bacteria and viruses
  • Lactobacilli bacteria that can help people who are lactose intolerant digest milk
  • Fat soluble vitamins A and D (which are added back after pasteurization)
  • Enzymes

So why are we all wasting our time drinking pasteurized milk?  Good question.  Well, for one, pasteurization kills any bacteria living in raw milk that could make you sick, but unfortunately kills a lot of the good properties of milk too.  Since raw milk is not treated in any way, it is very important to know that the cows that produced your milk were healthy and that all precautions were taken during the milking, chilling, and storage process.  Secondly, it is very hard to get raw milk in New York. Sales of raw milk are only allowed on the farm, directly to the consumer, which means that you can’t find raw milk at any store or even at your farmers market.  Unfortunately, many people believe that the risks of drinking raw milk are greater than the benefits, and therefore make it very hard to obtain.

And now the good news: though it might be difficult to get raw milk, it is much easier to get raw cheese, which has many of the same benefits as raw milk.  New York State requires the aging of raw milk cheeses for a minimum of 60 days, which would kill off any pathogens and make it safe for consumption. So look for raw cheese at your local farmers market, and tell me, what’s your take on the dairy controversy?

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