If there’s one food I get asked about from a health perspective more than any other its cows dairy, (closely followed by gluten and wheat). So I want to help clear the confusion surrounding this topic because I get the sense there is actually a lot of fear when it comes to deciding whether to avoid the cow juice – milk!
Naturally this fear stems from the understanding we have around the links with maintaining healthy calcium levels and preventing conditions like osteoporosis, tooth decay and rickets.
This I understand, however consider this, cow’s dairy is not a traditional dietary staple for many cultures around the world – (like Japan – traditionally one of the healthiest and longest living populations in the world), and if you look at the statistics, these non cow’s milk drinking cultures don’t measure up with our rates of calcium deficient conditions like osteoporosis and yet we’re the ones drinking all the cow’s milk?
Furthermore, the country’s who rank as the largest consumers of commercially produced cow’s dairy, also take out the prize for the highest rate of heart disease!
So are we overlooking some pretty critical facts when it comes to our intake of cow’s milk, heart disease and the fact that we’re still in trouble when it comes to calcium deficiency related diseases?
The cow’s milk we consume as part of our staple western diet is not the same as the cow’s milk from the ‘good old days’. There are several reason for this:
1. Because we have banned raw milk (deemed hygienically unsafe) – that’s milk as mother nature intended it -un-tampered and left in its complete and natural state, after we developed some fancy production methods such as homogenisation and pasteurisation.
Homogenisation is the process used to stop the cream or fat component separating from the milk however this process denatures the natural fat in milk. So why did we decide to homogenize milk? Because we humans like everything to look pretty and perfect – aka purely for aesthetic reasons. The process of homogenization uses extreme pressure to force the milk through tiny holes to break up the normally large fat molecules into tiny ones, altering the structure of the milk fat by denaturing it. Why is this an issue I hear you ask? Well unfortunately, this unnatural (denatured) fat, is easily absorbed directly into the blood stream, carrying with it a protein known as xanthine oxidase. The debate over links with the absorption of this protein and cardiovascular disease caused by hardening of the arteries is yet to be resolved. But until then I say ‘when in doubt stay out’!
Pasteurization is a process used to sanitize or ‘clean’ the milk you could say, by heating it to a temperature high enough to kill pathogens – bacteria, followed by rapid cooling. Quite frankly if you heat the bigeezus out of anything ‘live’ you’re going to kill off more than just bacteria, namely the preexisting nutritional properties in milk – like pro biotic cultures, vitamins and minerals. So if pasteurization kills off the naturally occurring good stuff then what is the point of consuming a form of milk that is nutrient deficient and has links to heart disease?
2. Now days the bulk of our commercially produced milk comes from Friesian cow which produce milk containing a protein known as beta casein A1. But before we switched to producing milk from the Friesian cow, milk was consumed from the Jersey and Guernsey cow, which produce milk containing a protein known as beta casein A2.
The difference between the A1 and A2 proteins lies in their chemical structure, which it turns out constitutes a difference in their physiological impact on our health. Research has found mounting evidence of an increase in heart disease and the regular consumption of commercially produced A1 milk. The links with A1 milk and an increase in CVD, stems from the A1 protein acting as a catalyst for causing oxidation of LDL-cholesterol- the ‘bad’ cholesterol, linked to thickening of the arteries, resulting stroke and heart attack.
So whilst A1 and A2 milk both contain the protein beta casein, the A2 milk is at least ahead of the game in respect to the associated inflammatory responses associated with A1 milk.
3. Which brings me to my next argument against the consumption of regular A1cow’s dairy. As mentioned the A1 protein in commercial milk, has been strongly associated as a catalyst for inflammation. Aside from the links with increased risk of heart disease, it can also cause irritation of the gut or intestine. This irritation can then present in the form of excess mucous production – the reason behind why so many of us suffer sinus and hay fever, not to mention irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is rampantly on the rise and conventional medicine is yet to explain why. Could it be the foods we are putting into our body and our ever increasing stress levels? That’s a topic for another day but it seems there some serious conditions we should be concerned about when it comes to washing down our morning bowl of cereal and multiple cups of coffee with commercially produced A1 milk each day.
So what about maintaining those calcium levels I hear you say? Well the fact is, when it comes to bone and tooth decay, you’re actually at higher risk for these if your vitamin D deficient. Many of you who have seen me for a consultation will know that I test each and every patients vitamin D level and I am yet to see a single result meet the target range. So if do yourself a favour and head to your GP to get your levels checked and while you’re at it, grab some more sunshine – the natural source for Vitamin D. I’ll be writing a post on vitamin D and the worldwide epidemic deficiency we are witnessing real soon.
In addition to maintaining healthy vitamin D levels to regulate your calcium levels, here are my recommended alternatives to the commercially produced cow’s milk
Nut milks – such as almond – many brands contain added cane sugar, so be sure to read your labels for this one or better still make your own – I’ll be posting a recipe for this next week.
Goats Milk – although a little strong on the palette , goats milk makes a great high calcium alternative to A1 cows milk. It also contains the healthier A2 protein, so if your switching your bub from the boob to the bottle, try the goats milk / formula’s instead of the A1cows milk. I’m yet to find an A2 cow’s milk baby formula, so if you find one let me know!
Rice milk – whilst not the highest source of calcium, it is a tasty dairy free alternative to cow’s milk. Just be sure to avoid being too heavy handed with your pouring as it is high in naturally occurring sugar, but a little in your tea, in protein smoothies or gluten free muesli won’t hurt you.
A2 cow’s milk – Now more readily available in Australian than ever before, you can find A2 milk in your supermarkets, but before you go reaching for it, remember to test your tolerance of this compared to nut or rice milks.
And don’t forget to include plenty of fresh green vegetables, fish and raw, unsalted, preferably soaked nuts and seeds in your diet and you won’t be without enough dietary calcium.
So hopefully now that you have the facts straight on cow’s dairy so you can feel confident and inspired to give the A1 cow juice a miss.