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Are dairy products healthy—and necessary—in your ancestral diet? It depends on your personal ability to digest and tolerate them, but also, what type of traditional diet you choose to follow. Primal diets often contain raw dairy products or milk that comes from grass-fed animals. Paleo diets are completely free from dairy products. There is no one right or wrong answer, but if you do consume dairy products, the kind that you eat makes all the difference for your health.
Is Raw Dairy Safe?
Raw dairy products come from grass-fed cows and are not pasteurized or homogenized. Because of this, raw dairy contains all of its natural enzymes, fatty acids, and other nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Grass-fed dairy products contain higher levels of vitamins D, A, and K and have more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional ones. Raw dairy is also a rich source of enzymes like amylase, lactase, and lipase. Raw milk contains beneficial probiotics, too, that support gut health.
While pasteurizing is said to make dairy products safe from bacterial contamination, it also removes many of these healthful components. Research done comparing raw dairy to pasteurized dairy found that raw dairy was better at providing “naturally immunizing” dietary benefits along with being 50 percent less likely to lead to milk allergies in children.
Still, some worry that drinking raw milk will lead to foodborne infections. But the risk from raw dairy foods is substantially lower than many other foods. Deli meat and leafy greens are far more likely to lead to foodborne illness than raw milk products. The CDC’s data says that you are nearly 35,000 times more likely to get foodborne illness from something other than raw milk.
If you do decide that you want to try raw milk, you’ll have to look at local sources that are available. Some states do not allow the sale of unpasteurized milk products. Ask your local nutritionist or alternative health practitioner for sources of raw milk or cow’s milk alternatives, like goat or sheep milk products.
The Problems with Conventional Dairy Products
If you’re still on the fence about the health and safety of raw dairy products, consider the problems with pasteurized and homogenized conventional milk products. They contain around 60 different hormones, herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, and other contaminants (like blood, pus, fecal matter, bacteria, and viruses). Pasteurization is a process that sterilizes milk using either heat or radiation. Homogenization takes it one step farther, filtering milk at high pressures. This process can create xanthine oxidase, a substance that can create free radicals in the body. Free radicals can lead to inflammation and cell damage.
If you need milk in your diet and you can only find pasteurized versions, opt for non-homogenized and grass-fed options. But if you can find raw milk locally, it provides significantly more health benefits.
Should you use raw dairy? That is entirely up to you. If you notice bloating, skin blemishes, itching, or gastrointestinal upset after consuming dairy products of any kind, you’re better off avoiding them. Work with a nutrition professional to determine the best foods to meet your body’s needs.
Today’s Simple Step
If the idea of “dairy alternatives,” is new to you, there are many kinds you can try! Whether you choose raw cow’s milk or something dairy-free, like coconut, these foods can add nutritional benefits to your diet. Keep in mind that plant-based kinds of milk are often full of preservatives and other added ingredients (like sugar) that make them unhealthier than pasteurized and homogenized dairy products. Read labels and choose those that do not have any extra ingredients.
This Rosemary & Red Wine Braised Beef Shank with Sweet Potatoes & Sour Cream Purée recipe is a delicious and decadent opportunity to try out some high-quality dairy products. Plus, it’s the perfect kind of winter meal that is satisfying and nutrient-dense.