June 28, 2012

Got raw milk? Part two - Is it better for you?

There are a lot of people in the health food world who, for one reason or another, question drinking milk at all. One of the most common arguments is "no other creature in the animal kingdom drinks milk from a different animal." This may be true, but I don't like to assume that's a bad thing. There are a LOT of things we do that no other creature in the animal kingdom does, and usually it's because we're MORE intelligent, not less. However, I know many very intelligent, health-minded people who've determined that drinking milk is not in their best interest. And quite honestly, I'm a pretty huge fan of several of the milk alternatives (coconut milk!) So if that's what works for you - great. But if you're a fan of dairy and the raw milk idea intrigues you, read on.

Because my goal as a real-foodie is to eat food that's as close as possible to the way God originally created it, my natural tendency is just to assume that raw milk is best because it hasn't been tampered with before it's consumed. However, since I never just "take someone's word for it," I don't expect anyone else to either. So I'll try to share with you some of the more concrete reasons why I believe raw milk is nutritionally superior to store-bought, pasteurized milk.

1. The source - typically cows from small, local dairies who provide milk directly to consumers are well cared for (of course it's up to the consumer to determine if that's the case!). They often are not subjected to the antibiotics and hormones that big-industry cattle are. They're also often fed grass, instead of loads of genetically modified, pesticide-laden grain. Anyone who has nursed a child knows that nearly everything that gets into the body can come out in the milk and cows are no different. I prefer my milk as antibiotic, hormone, GMO and pesticide free as I can get it!

2. Nutrients - are destroyed during the pasteurization process. Raw milk is rich with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and beneficial bacteria. Heating the milk during the pasteurization process destroys the enzymes, significantly diminishes vitamin content (destroying B12 and B6), and changes the structure of the milk proteins (this one reason those who can't easily digest store-bought milk often thrive on raw milk). (source)  Unlike sterilization, some nutrients are preserved, however certainly not at their original quantity or quality. But what I personally find most interesting is the destruction of phosphatase. Phosphatase is an essential nutrient for the absorption of calcium...but in pasteurized milk it's completely destroyed! Without phosphatase, all that calcium you're supposed to be getting from store-bought milk (or whatever is left of it) cannot be absorbed into your system(source)

3. Allergies - pasteurized milk is one of the most allergenic foods, nationwide, linked to all kinds of medical issues ranging from acne and rashes to colic and diarrhea. Raw milk is not associated with any of these. (source)

4. Conjugated Linoleic Acid - or CLA is a fatty compound that grass-fed, raw milk is rich with. Numerous studies are currently being conducted on this compound because it shows significant promise in fighting hypertension, obesity and even certain types of cancers. CLA is found in abundance only in milk from grass-fed animals. Meaning if you want to take advantage of this benefit, you'll have to be well aware of what your producer feeds his or her animals.

5. Beneficial bacteria - raw milk is a living food. Raw milk contains a host of good bacteria, including lactobacillus acidophilus, which aids in digestion and vitamin and mineral absortpion. You'll often see it's name associated with most types of probiotics. You don't need to purchase expensive bottles of those when they're conveniently present in a natural food. Lactobacillus bulgaricus provides the stomach and intestine with bacterial lactase which helps break down lactose. Bifidobacterium bifidum strengthens the immune system by eliminating harmful bacteria. These health-promoting bacteria are completely destroyed when heated and are not present in pasteurized milk. (source)

It's these bacteria that make raw milk so healthy and versatile. Using these bacteria to culture the milk, we can make some amazingly healthy products that are like probiotics on steroids and line our gut with a host of beneficial bacteria. If you leave store-bought milk out on the counter, do you know what you get? Stinky, rotted milk. But raw milk left on the counter will produce a variety of products that are not only wonderfully good for you, but also useful, tasty, and I might even suggest, a really great example of God's handiwork! -more on that in part 3.

One last note - please don't confuse fresh, raw milk with organic store-bought milk. Almost all organic milk in the store is pasteurized, containing none of the beneficial bacteria or complete nutrient profile of raw milk. It also often comes from factory farms just like non-organic milk, with the only difference being that the cows are fed organic grain. If there is a local source of raw milk near you, it will be well worth your time and effort to find it! And if you live near me, I have one I'd be happy to hook you up with :)


  1. Wonderful article, well researched and written. Thank you! You left out one important difference between raw and store-bought milk: homogenization. I believe there are health consequences. Also, when good raw milk gets some age on it, it 'sours.' It remains a useful product and while I don't really care for the taste I use it in cooking (and my chickens LOVE it!). When commercial milk passes its expiration date, it becomes putrid and is unfit even for chickens. I so agree with the author that the choice to drink raw milk or not should be respected. No one wants to force anyone to buy it or drink it. Just allow people to come to their own decision about what to put in their bodies. Thanks again for this really wonderful article!

    1. Thanks for reading, Gadfly! Part three is actually going to be about how wonderfully versatile raw milk is...but I'm a busy momma and haven't had time to write it yet!

  2. Great article, will be reposting!