Saturday
Jun152013

Drink Milk?

The quick answer:  Modern milk may not be all that healthy, especially the low-fat versions.  Until better milk is available, we use it sparingly.

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The Industrialization of Milk

In an, ahem, excellent post titled The Untold Story of Milk, we reviewed how milk, a traditional food, was industrialized into a form of questionable healthiness.  The main steps in this process:

  1. Cheap feed:  Cows traditionally eat grass; a cow needs 1-2 acres of pasture depending on the forage.  In the early 1900s, to save land and money, dairy farms were located next to distilleries and cows were fed the remains of grain used to make liquor and other waste products.  Naturally, unhealthy feed led to unhealthy cows, and diseased milk.
  2. Pasteurization:  Rather than maintaining healthy cows to get healthy milk, the decision was made to pasteurize milk, which reduced, but didn’t eliminate, the pathogens.  (It makes me shiver when I think of pasteurized milk full of the carcasses of bacteria.)  The pasteurization heating process changes the nature of milk and has never been fully accepted, for various reasons.
  3. Hormones in milk:  During the hard times of the ‘20s and ‘30s, it became common to milk cows deep into the next pregnancy, thus exposing consumers to higher levels of bovine hormones.  In addition, Monsanto introduced synthetic versions of these hormones to improve output, though this practice is mostly discontinued thanks to public criticism.   A researcher has looked at the issue of milk hormones—a suspected risk factor for prostate and breast cancer—you can read more about it here.
  4. Homogenization:  Pasteurization also extended the shelf life of milk, which allowed shipping longer distances.  Because cream tended to separate, homogenization was introduced.  Basically, homogenization breaks the fats in milk into fragments, so the fat remains mixed in the milk and doesn’t float to the top.  There are still troubling questions about the healthfulness of these man-made fat fragments.  Homogenization, the standard now, is really unnecessary.
  5. Reduced fat:  In the ‘60s the false idea was advanced that fat was unhealthy so the fat content of milk was reduced.  Because this changed the appearance of the milk, the government allowed milk processors to improve the look with additives like powdered milk and excused them from noting these substances as ingredients.  When you drink reduced fat milks, you don’t know what has been added.

Infertility and Reduced Fat Diary

The healthfulness of reduced fat milk has not been adequately studied however a 2007 study of 18,555 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II by Harvard researchers, found troubling issues with infertility due to reduced ovulation.  Women who drank two or more servings of low fat dairy foods per day, were 85% more likely to suffer from infertility, compared to women eating low fat dairy just once a week.  Women who avoided low fat dairy food had the lowest infetility risk  (25% less than the once per week group). 

What To Do

I like milk but until healthier milk is available, I’m mainly drinking water.  I try to limit myself and have started using half-and-half on cooked cereal.  I’ve tried raw milk and wish it were more available, especially from grass-fed cows.  The beautiful wife avoids milk; she even has the curious habit of putting orange juice on her breakfast compote. 

What would it take to have the healthy milk of our great-grandparents?  One answer is to get your own cow.  Another solution is to have an Amish friend who still farms the olden way.  Otherwise we’ll all have to wait until the government lets enterprising dairymen offer healthy milk from pasture-fed cows.  In the mean time, we follow this Healthy Change:

Please comment; share your thoughts about modern milk and what your family does.

 

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Reader Comments (10)

We switched to raw milk a few years ago. We love it, and my husband, who was unable to drink regular milk from the store, can now drink milk again! We are a family of six and only go through 2 gallons of raw milk in 10 days. We mostly use it in cooking, with some of the kids drinking it a few times a week. I am so glad I was able to find a decent quality milk. I hope that one day raw milk will be readily available to anyone who seeks it.

June 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

I've been leaning this direction lately as well and have been making homemade almond milk as a replacement... I'm loving the change!

June 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

I love your blog and appreciate the time you dedicate to it. I am a first time mom and my daughter just turned 1 year old. Do you have any suggestions for babies/children (1 year +)? My husband and I have limited our intake immensely, but I don't know what to do for her.

June 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanelle

It also applied to yoghurt and low fat yoghurt, right?
It will be hard to be withou those!
And about whey protein and other protein supplements? Maybe a post about those too?
Cheers

June 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIsa

Our oldest daughter is allergic to dairy and it has changed the way I see milk. I breastfed her until she was two (though I couldn't drink milk either), and I did make my own almond milk for awhile. Milk is really just not necessary for kids IF they eat other good foods. There are really high sources of calcium in other foods (sea vegetables, sardines, even some beans). Look into it and see what you're comfortable with.

June 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

I can't imagine NOT drinking milk and NOT giving my 1 year old whole cows milk. I'm also not going to spend $8 on a gallon of milk that is raw. I would guess that 95% of American's are drinking your average milk purchased from the grocer's refrigerator and all of those people are doing just fine. I won't be changing my family's habits anytime soon. I love milk and will continue to buy skim for us, whole for our kids.

June 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Not a fan of milk here! It drives me crazy when my kids' doctor asks if they are drinking their milk and eating their yogurt, cheese, etc. I breast fed all three of my babies til they were about 20 months and never gave them cow's milk in sippy cups for fear they would not get enough calcium.
Our school district (and I'm sure many others) and the YMCA offer free breakfast and lunch during the summer but you have to take a milk with your meal. Does the FDA pay the big dairies or is the other way around? Your thoughts?

June 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I recently did an experiment with milk in my diet. I stopped drinking it for one month. I didn't really miss it, I just had to find other drinks-mostly water-to replace it. After my month of no milk I took a few sips to see how I reacted. My stomach instantly started cramping up and I felt sick for an hour. That confirmed it for me. No more milk.

June 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Our family of six does not use cows milk. Like you said in the post, it is a highly processed food. We use unsweetened almond milk on our cereal or oatmeal. We drink water with all of our meals. Milk is not necessary for children. If they are eating a nutritious diet they will fatten up and grow the way they're supposed to. I did not give cows milk to any of my babies when they were weaned. The push to give children milk is a money making plan by the dairy farmers.

June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEmily S.

Milk are good source of protein which are essential for growth from children to young people..

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterwhey protein

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