milk: does it really do a body good?

When we first switched to eating Paleo, I literally mourned my Starbuck's caramel macchiato. I thought, but it's only 120 (or so) calories! I'm drinking skim milk! Who cares about sugar? Now, I don't even consider ordering one, and I probably haven't intentionally had milk in about 2 years {I have had ice cream, largely because I have an undeniable sweet tooth. This is on my list of wants needs after purchasing Paleo Cooking from Elana's Pantry which is full of paleo ice cream recipes.} While I'm certainly no expert on the issue of milk, my morning latte is now half full of almond milk (and made at home).

Humans are the only mammals that drink the milk of another mammal after the weaning period. In other words, cow's milk is for baby cows (aka calves). Elephant's milk is for baby elephants {you get it}. If you're a history freak buff, check out this article on Mark's Daily Apple about the development of lactose tolerance.

Milk is simply not essential to a healthy human diet. Although milk is a source of calcium, it is certainly not the best one out there. Cows do not "produce" calcium. Milk contains calcium because of the greens the cow consumes. However, cows raised on a CAFO are not eating greens for their entire lives. They are "finished" with grains. For about the first six months to a year, the cows are happily {questionable} grazing out in the pasture. The cows are then taken to a feedlot, and fed a delicious diet of corn, soy, grains, supplements, antibiotics, and hormones (yum!). Not only does the cow rapidly gain weight, it gets fat (it's also not moving much, and an un-exercised animal will get fat).

Not only are the cows fed an unenviable diet and mainly sedentary, their milk is then pasteurized. Milk from cows raised in CAFOs, however, needs to be pasteurized due to contaminants in the milk. Currently, there is much debate over food-borne illnesses stemming from raw milk and whether pasteurized milk should become a thing of the past. Of course, raw milk would have to be legalized first. {Yes, you can buy guns and cigarettes, but forget about raw milk.} The pasteurization process either kills or prevents the body from being able to absorb many of the nutrients found in raw milk. There is new screening technology that will allow local farmers who wish to sell raw milk {in Florida, for animal consumption only... of course} to screen the milk for contaminants, which may lead to acceptance and legalization around the country.

The method by which the human body digests milk is rather disturbing. Usually, the body absorbs proteins by breaking them down through digestion. In homogenized milk (the pasteurized milk you're purchasing is homogenized, believe me, you'll know if it isn't), small fat globules surround the xanthine oxidase and it is absorbed directly into your blood stream {not normal, in case you weren't sure}. This allows hormones to bypass the gut barrier and go directly into the blood stream. Sounds healthy. In addition, milk has an insulin response similar to eating a chocolate chip cookie. I'd rather have the cookie.

So, where to get that vitamin D and calcium? Unfortunately, vitamin D is not present in many foods. It is in egg yolks (not much), tuna, salmon, swordfish, and cod liver oil. Or, a supplement is a great alternative. If you live here in sunny Florida, GO OUTSIDE. Calcium is easy: kale, collard greens, spinach, broccoli, and bok choy. {A guy at Whole Foods recently told me "kale is the new rib eye" as I was buying a couple of grass-fed rib eyes; I will never be a vegetarian, and I was also buying kale. For us, grass-fed rib eyes are the new rib eyes.}

I'd describe our dairy consumption as "sparing." Try giving it up for a few weeks and see how you feel. You might be surprised.

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