Dairy (Part 2): What kind is best?

July 10, 2011 | Comments Off

Homemade Crème Fraîche

PART I addressed what kind of dairy is
- the least problematic ethically.
- the most beneficial/least harmful nutritionally.

Dairy (which generally refers to cow’s milk) is composed of water, milk sugars (lactose), protein (casein and whey), and butterfat.

Our aims are:
- to reduce our overall dairy intake
- source it from local, sustainable family farms that make animal welfare a priority

From the nutritional standpoint, the aim is to minimise the downsides and optimise the benefits That is,
- minimise lactose intake
- minimise casein intake and impact
- minimise the levels of IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor)
- optimise the CLA and vitamin content of consumed dairy

To that end, we restrict our dairy intake mainly to
- whey (of the undenatured kind)
- dairy fat (butter, cream and ghee)
- fermented dairy (creme fraiche, yogurt, kefir, some kinds of cheeses) in limited amounts
- no matter what form of dairy, it’s whole, never skimmed or low-fat

If possible, we use
- dairy from grass-fed animals (preferably goat’s milk)
- from a local farm that meets Animal Welfare standards
- raw or pasteurised, NEVER ultrapasteurised or UHT (ultra heat treated)
- from animals never given hormones or antibiotics.

We’ll try to explain briefly the rationale behind our choices.

Strawberry-Rose Lassi

GRASS-FED

Most supermarket dairy in North America comes from animals raised in confinement under extremely cruel conditions. They are fed a toxic cocktail of genetically modified corn and dried forage, hormones and antibiotics. A high percentage are diseased from their diet, lack of exercise, stress and having to stand in their own manure.

Saffron Frozen Yogurt

Milk from exclusively grass-fed animals has nearly five times the amount of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (Link), and the perfect balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. (Grain-fed cows produce milk skewed heavily towards Omega-6). Grass-fed animals give a lower output of milk. Hence, it has a much higher concentration of vitamins and nutrients than that from animals pumped with growth hormones and fattened on grain. (Link) Most local dairy farms that raised grass-fed animals do not administer growth hormones or antibiotics.

Since 2010, all dairy labelled “organic” must come from cows that have had access to pasture for at least 4 months in the year. Plus, That’s a good start, but not good enough ‘cos organic dairy is often processed just like regular dairy (explained a bit further down this post).

WHOLE DAIRY

Most of the heath benefits of dairy are concentrated in the dairy fats – it’s where the Vitamins K2, E and A are. It’s where the omega-3s are, it’s where the anti-carcinogenic CLA in found in higher quantities, it’s where the butryric acid is. (Link). It’s what enables the calcium to be well absorbed.

In addition, whole milk (4%) has more more monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and short-chain saturated fatty acids (SCFAs) than in 2% milk, both of which are considered heart supportive.

NEVER SKIMMED

Ever notice how low-fat milk in the U.S. is fortified with vitamins A and D? ‘Cos it came out with the dairy fat and had to be synthetically added back. Why consume synthetic vitamins when you had the natural version to begin with? How are the fat-soluble vitamins going to be absorbed in the absence of fat?

There’s a more important reason to avoid skimmed milk and fat-free yogurt. We’ve checked the calorie counts on many low-fat and zero-fat yogurt and cream cheese brands. They actually have more calories than plain whole milk yogurt or cream cheese.

6 oz. of plain whole milk yogurt – 130 calories

6 oz of Yoplait 99% Fat Free Harvest Peach Yogurt – 170 calories with 27 grams of sugar.

Milk Low-Fat Pasteurized Cultured, Sugar, Peach(s), Corn Starch Modified, Corn Syrup High Fructose, Whey Protein Concentrate, Gelatin Kosher, Flavor(s) Natural, Citric Acid, Tri Calcium Phosphate, Pectin, Annatto Extract Added for Color, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3 (foodfacts.com)

As for regular, unflavoured skimmed milk and other fat-free dairy products, they are often thickened with milk powder, which contains oxysterols (oxidised cholesterol), which leads to the hardening of the arteries. (Link)

HERE‘s a typical example of the absurd rationale employed to demonise whole milk from one of the leading nutrition sites.

The gist of that article: On every parameter, full-fat dairy proves to be more nutritious than low-fat, but it must be avoided ‘cos the American Heart Association says it will make you fat.

Now, we know what happened to those who actually followed the AHA’s recommendations. The same American Heart Association that endorses Coco-Pops with a “heart-healthy” label on the box. What if people started pouring full-fat milk on their Coco-Pops instead of skim? May be they’ll eat less Coco-Pops ‘cos they’ll feel full faster. What if they ditch all the sugary cereals officially endorsed by the AHA for a fee? Just wondering.

HORMONE-FREE AND ANTIBIOTIC-FREE

Strictly speaking all dairy has natural hormones present. Even dairy without added bovine growth hormone has very high estrogen levels because nowadays animals are milked even in advanced stages of pregnancy.

Bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is banned in Canada and Europe. All organic dairy is rBGH free. All regular non-organic dairy in the U.S. has rBGH unless otherwise specified.

Dairy with rGBH has unsafe levels of IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1) and is implicated in increased risks of breast, prostate and colon cancers. (Link) It is also believed to promote aging.

Full-fat dairy has higher levels of naturally occurring hormones than skim.

GOAT’S MILK

We prefer it to cow’s ‘cos it’s much easier to digest. One of the major cow’s milk allergens is A1 beta casein, found primarily in the milk of Jersey and Holstein cows, from which the majority of milk in the developed world is derived.

Gjetost: Goat Milk Cheese

Goat’s and sheep’s milk contain A2 beta casein.

A1 beta casein is only produced by cattle belonging to the Bos taurus subspecies which predominately exist in the western hemisphere. The Guernsey breed tends to produce about 10% of their beta casein as A1, the Jersey breed tends to produce about 35%, and the Ayrshire, Holstein, and Freisian breeds tend to produce 50% or more. Goats don’t produce A1 beta casein which makes their milk and the dairy products derived from it an excellent alternative.

Even if produced from milk containing A1 beta casein, butter isn’t much of a concern because it contains very little protein. However, recent research has found that the simulated digestion of cheese, yogurt, and fermented milk can produce about the same amount of BCM7 as regular milk which makes them just as much of a concern. (naturalbias.com)

Amalthea and Jupiter’s goat. The marble statue at the Louvre was commissioned for the Queen’s dairy at Rambouillet, France in 1797. Wikimedia Commons.

Goat’s milk does not contain agglutinin and has lower levels of lactose than cow’s milk. Hence, it is a better option for those with lactose intolerance as well as casein sensitivity.

AVOIDING GLUTEN

A1 beta casein is increasingly implicated in a host of disorders like diabetes, autism and other autoimmune conditions, especially when the person’s digestive health has already been compromised by a leaky gut caused by gluten. Bottomline: If you want to limit the damage from dairy protein on your gut, avoid gluten, especially concentrated sources like wheat.

Goat’s milk casein is more similar to human milk, yet cow’s milk and goat’s milk contain similar levels of the other allergenic protein, beta lactoglobulin. Going gluten-free makes dairy consumption of any kind much safer and easier on the digestive system.

RAW OR PASTEURISED

Milk from grass-fed animals in its raw form contains beneficial bacteria, enzymes (including lipase, protease. and other), lactase forming bacteria, and many enzyme based pathogen killing systems that aid its digestion.

Pasteurisation is the process of heating milk to 72 degrees Celsius (161.6 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 15 seconds to kill harmful pathogens like e-coli and campylobacter. In the process, it also denatures the proteins in milk, destroying enzymes and the beneficial effects of heat-sensitive compounds such as glutathione. (Link) Pasteurised milk therefore has much lower antioxidant, immune-boosting properties than raw.

Raw milk is much more expensive than pasteurised, and while we think it’s less risky to consume a glass of cold raw milk out of the fridge, we aren’t brave enough to risk fermented raw dairy like yogurt or kefir. (More about that in another post.) So though we buy raw goat’s milk (that’s the only grass-fed kind we get), we boil it before fermenting it.

As for whey, the raw, undenatured kind is the best.

Occasionally, we get raw cheese from grass-fed milk, preferably goat or sheep’s milk. Raw cheese is either made from raw milk and aged for 60 days, or never heated above 102F.

NEVER ULTRAPASTEURISED OR UHT

Most supermarket milk and cream (including organic) is ultrapasteurised or UHT (ultra heat treated) to prolong its shelf life.

UHT is the process of heating milk to a temperature exceeding 135 degrees C (275 degrees F) for one or two seconds. UHT fats are more prone to oxidisaton (Link).

Dairy is ultrapasteurised if
- it’s in the refrigerated section and has an expiry date about 3 weeks away
- it’s organic and doesn’t state “raw” or “pasteurised”
- it clearly states “ultrapasteurised” or UHT
- it’s in a carton or can in the non-refrigerated section and has an expiry date six months away
- it’s sold in packets in tropical countries (like India)

NEVER HOMOGENISED

Ultrapasteurised dairy is almost always homogenised, which means it is subjected to another process to break the fat globules into much smaller particles.

During homogenization there is a tremendous increase in surface area on the fat globules. The original fat globule membrane is lost and a new one is formed that incorporates a much greater portion of casein and whey proteins. This may account for the increased allergenicity of modern processed milk. (Source)

In the case of many small local dairies, whole milk may remain non-homogenised, with its fat content remaining largely unprocessed.

WHEY

Non-denatured whey protein concentrate has only trace amounts of lactose and casein. Whey isolate has none. If you’re trying to limit lactose and casein consumption, whey is a good choice.

DAIRY FAT

As is dairy fat – butter, cream and ghee, as well as cultured dairy fat (cultured butter, sour cream, crème fraîche). These comprise mostly fat and have only trace amounts of lactose and casein. Harder cheeses like parmesan have more fat than softer ones like ricotta.

FERMENTED DAIRY

Those who have difficulty digesting lactose (milk sugars) because of the inability to produce enough lactase (the enzyme needed to digest lactose) – that’s about half the world’s population – find it much easier to digest fermented dairy.

Kefir

The bacterial cultures that convert dairy into fermented form – yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sour cream, creme fraiche, etc. – consume the lactose and convert it into lactic acid. It makes the dairy much lower in carbs. Note: Labelling of plain yogurt in the U.S. is misleading. It usually shows the carbohydrates in the milk before it was converted into yogurt. The actual number is lower.

Homemade plain yogurt made with whole (4%) milk without starchy thickeners or sweeteners would have about 40% less carbs than whole milk.

Some people swear by raw yogurt and kefir, but we make these with heated milk. Bee can’t digest raw milk, but digesting fermented dairy is no problem. Fermented dairy populates the gut with beneficial probiotic bacteria.

Casein is still an issue with fermented dairy, so fermented cream – sour cream, crème fraîche etc. are good choices since they are mainly fat and have very small amounts of casein.

LIMIT DAIRY

Despite its varied health benefits, dairy poses several issues that revolve around casein and IGF-1.

Whey, which is dairy without the fat and the casein, has the most limited risk. In its raw, undenatured form, it has a host of health benefits as well.

In addition, we consume small amounts of dairy fats (cultured butter, ghee, cream, some cheeses).

We limit fermented dairy – homemade fermented yogurt, creme fraiche, sour cream and kefir from goat’s milk – to less than 8 oz a day.

We avoid plain milk, processed cheeses, and any regular factory-farmed dairy. When we eat out, we try not to consume dairy at all.

Coming up: Homemade Cultured Butter

Sources:
Undenatured whey protein (plain, unsweetened in bulk): Nutrabio.com
Raw cheeses made from grass-fed organic milk in the U.S.: Pastureland, Little Cheese Shop, Swissland

The Jugalbandits.

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