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Raw Milk, Pasteurization & Homogenization

image of raw milk

According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, an organization that I highly respect and trust, the best way to consume milk is in its whole, clean, full fat, raw form from certified healthy, grass-fed animals. Cow milk should come from old-fashioned breeds that produce high fat milk, such as Jersey or Guernsey cows. Typically this type of milk must be purchased directly from a farmer or through a cow-share program or co-op. I personally get my raw milk through a local co-op that is sourced from an Amish farm.

Health Benefits of Raw Milk

The health benefits of drinking raw milk from grass fed cows and goats are “utterly” amazing! Per Nina Planck in her book “Real Food: What to Eat and Why,”

The (raw) milk of cows and other mammals is nutritionally complete. All milk is made of the three macronutrients— protein, fat, and carbohydrate— and humans are equipped to digest all three. A good source of complete protein, milk contains all the essential amino acids in the right amounts. Milk contains enough carbohydrates for energy and has a good balance of fats, both saturated and unsaturated.

A note about Skim Milk
It goes to reason that since the fat in real milk is needed for proper digestion and absorption of its accompanying vitamins and minerals, then imagine what happens when that fat is removed AND the milk is pasteurized! To be quite blunt, skim milk is NOT a beverage that anyone should drink, period. When it comes to milk and fat, we’ve once again been led down the wrong path. Fat is not our enemy. If you’re going to drink milk, whether raw or not, drink it in its most natural, full fat form!

The simple fact is that real, raw, grass-fed milk, in and of itself, is a complete food. And the fats in whole, real milk enable the body to properly assimilate and digest its accompanying proteins and nutrients quickly and efficiently. In fact, unlike polyunsaturated fats which the body tends to store, milk fats are easily burned for energy, as they do not have to be emulsified first by the liver. It is because of the FAT (such as saturated butyric acid) in raw milk that proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients is possible.

Reasons to Drink Full Fat, Raw Milk:

  • Complete protein to build and repair tissues and bones
  • Vitamin A for healthy skin, eyes, bones, and teeth
  • Vitamin D to aid calcium and phosphorus absorption and for bones and teeth
  • Thiamine to help turn carbohydrates into energy and aid appetite and growth
  • Riboflavin for healthy skin, eyes, and nerves
  • Niacin for growth and development, healthy nerves, and digestion
  • Vitamin B6 to build body tissues, produce antibodies, and prevent heart disease
  • Vitamin B12 for healthy red blood cells, nerves, and digestion; and to prevent heart disease
  • Pantothenic acid to turn carbohydrates and fat into energy
  • Folic acid to promote the formation of red blood cells and prevent birth defects and heart disease
  • Calcium to make strong bones and teeth; also aids heartbeat, muscle, and nerve function
  • Magnesium for strong bones and teeth
  • Phosphorus for strong bones and teeth
  • Zinc for tissue repair, growth, and fertility
  • CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) causes cancer cell suicide
  • Helps to reduce oral acidity which leads to tooth decay

Overview of Milk Pasteurization

When milk is pasteurized, particularly to high temperatures (which is the case in most commercially avaliable milks), the crucial enzyme “lactase” is damaged or destroyed. It’s important to note that without this crucial lactase enzyme and the beneficial bacteria in raw milk (also destroyed in the pasteurization process), processed milk becomes indigestible and/or allergenic for many people. The lactase enzyme is crucial for proper digestion of the sugar (lactose) in milk. If you have indigestion, reflux, nausea, frequent burping, gas or diarrhea after drinking pasteurized milk, you’re most likely someone who is lactose intolerant or possibly allergic. Pasteurized milk can be particularly troublesome to people who have autoimmune issues or weakened immunity. The damaged proteins in pasteurized dairy are known to contribute to leaky gut, which exacerbates inflammatory conditions in Crohn’s, IBS, spastic colon, psoriasis and the like.

Recently, Dr. Josh Axe published a simple and informative article on his website about pasteurized milk and why it was not good for your health. Since we drink so much milk these days, I believe this information to be vitally important to our wellness. Therefore, I’m posting his information on pasteurization below (with a few of my recommendations).

Image that describes Milk Pasteurization

High-Temp Pasteurization

Milk is heated to 161º for 31 seconds in order to sterilize the milk. The problem is that this also kills enzymes, much of the healthy microorganisms, and more importantly it denatures the proteins. Essentially, high-temp pasteurization kills the milk and makes it much more difficult for your body to digest. This can typically lead to inflammatory bowel disease, among others. I never drink high temperature pasteurized milk and do not recommend it. If it’s my only option, I choose NOT to drink it.

Ultra-Pasteurized

This is the majority of our milk today, what you would typically find in a grocery store. Ultra-pasteurization heats the milk to 280º for only a few seconds. The reason for using ultra-pasteurization is because it kills everything. Ultra pasteurization not only kills potentially harmful bacteria in the milk, but also damages all of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients originally contained in the raw milk. This process also kills healthy enzymes which would otherwise help your body digest the milk. Drinking it without these enzymes can lead to lactose intolerance, as well as other inflammatory conditions. Like high-temp pasteurized milk, I also recommend NOT drinking this type of milk, even if it’s organic.

Low-Temp Pasteurization

Milk is only heated to 145 degrees. This is important to understand since 145 degrees is a bit below the temperature that kills most of the beneficial enzymes, while allowing the proteins to remain in tact. The downside of low-temp pasteurization is that some of the enzymes and probiotics can be damaged. However, by culturing this dairy (fermenting with good bacteria) and making yogurt, kefir or amasai, many of those probiotics are added back. This greatly improves the digestibility of the dairy. Low-temp is the closest to raw milk products that many in the U.S. can get. If I can’t get raw milk, this would be my next best option. I primarily recommend consuming raw milk dairy products. However, if unavailable, I would first choose fermented dairy (such as Yogurt or Kefir), then choose other milk and dairy products that have been low temperature pasteurized.

What About Homogenization?

image of raw milk unhomogenized with a creamline

Raw milk, fresh from the cow or goat, has a natural cream line. This is due to the fact that the milk fat molecules naturally rise to the top of the storage container because of their light and fluffy nature. Homogenization is the process by which the fluffy milk fat molecules are unnaturally broken down into smaller particles and evenly dispersed throughout the milk liquid. This is done mainly to give the milk an even consistency when bought in the store. Here’s a slightly more scientific explanation…

“Homogenization is not good,” says John Bunting, a dairy farmer who researches and writes about dairy for The Milkweed. “The milk is pumped under high pressure which smashes the milk molecules so hard. Homogenization splits and exposes the molecules.” The hard science goes like this: A raw milk molecule is surrounded by a membrane, which protects it from oxygen. Homogenization decreases the average diameter of each fat globule and significantly increases the surface area. Because there’s now not enough membrane to cover all of this new surface area, the molecules are easily exposed to oxygen, and the fats become oxidized.

(excerpted from Kristin Wartman in her article “Not Your Grandma’s Milk.”)

There’s a lot more that can be said about the homogenization of milk, but it seems clear to me, since homogenization is not a natural process (the milk doesn’t come out of the cow or goat homogenized), it should not be consumed. If homogenizing milk causes damage to the fat cell membranes (as quoted above) causing them to easily become oxidized, then homogenized milk should be avoided. We all know (or at least we all should know) that oxidation is known to cause free radicals in the body, which in turn, cause inflammation or damage at the cellular level. This leads to chronic diseases such as cancer, heart problems, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, autoimmune problems, etc. To my knowledge, most pasteurized milk is homogenized – yet another reason to NOT DRINK it. There are a few good brands that are not. You’ll know them by their label and creamline.

A Final Note About Milk

I haven’t used the word much here, but when choosing your milk, go for the word “ORGANIC.” I realize that many of you will not be able to easily access the best milk out there, nor will you go to trouble of finding it. If this is the case for you, at least buy the least harmful – an organic, full fat milk. Organic Valley comes to mind. Their milk is still ultra-pasteurized and homogenized, but at least their cows are pastured. In my opinion, to choose any less will be sacrificing your health. And if you buy conventional, non-organic, store-bought brands, keep in mind that conventional dairy typically comes from cows that are processed in feedlots, pumped with antibiotics, steroids and other medicines to keep them lactating and “well” long enough to produce milk time and again. Is this really the kind of milk that you want to be drinking?

Grass-fed, raw and organic milk will cost you more monetarily, but consider the tradeoff for your family’s and your health. In my eyes, it’s a no brainer. If you drink it, drink the good stuff and nourish your life and health. To drink the cheap stuff will do the opposite.

To find real, unpasteurized, non-homogenized, raw, grass-fed milk in your area, go to RealMilk.com.

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