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A while ago I talked about conventional dairy, and the problems associated with it. However, Dairy in itself is a hot issue in the world of nutrition. Pro-milk groups claim that the calcium in milk helps to prevent osteoporosis, while Anti-milk groups claim that studies show that milk actually causes osteoporosis. There are many holistic nutritionists who are very much against milk, and others that say it's great for you. This type of confusion is very common in nutrition, sadly, because studies that are done do not indicate important specifics such as milk type and the ethnic diversity of the participants in the study.

The truth is, different people react to milk differently, and in different quantities (bioindividuality!). I come from a line of dairy farmers, and I am also of European descent , so therefore I am genetically predisposed to handle milk just fine (and that I do!). In Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, Paul Pitchford writes:

Accourding to TCM, (quality) milk builds qi vitality, the blood, and the yin, which includes the fluids and tissue of the body. Therefore dairy consumption specifically benefits thin and weak people with a tendency toward dryness. However, these same teachings indicate that milk can be hard to digest by those who have mucous problems or weak digestion. Milk that is pasteurized, homogenized, and filled with chemicals is much more difficult to digest properly, even by those with strong digestion. (emphasis mine)

Milk has a bad reputation among many modern Western health advisors because most people already have an overabundance of mucus and are overweight as a result of their excessive consumption of meat, sugar, fat, and dairy. Furthermore, having lived all their lives on these highly mucus-producing foods, many have developed digestive weakness and are consequently allergic to dairy. Inherent in some allergies is an inability to digest milk sugar (lactose). "Lactose intolerance" is prevalent among Asians (80% of the population is lactose intolerant), African/Black Americans (70%), Mediterranean peoples (60%), Mexican-Americans (50%), and anyone whose ancestors did not consume dairy foods.

Now we are starting to see why we need to trust our bodies above everything else. When I first started to study nutrition on my own, I kept seeing the same thing: milk is bad, don't drink milk. Well I had a problem: I really don't care for the milk substitutes available (soy, almond, rice). Then I as I studied more, I found out how much of a difference the type of milk consumed matters. Let's break it down:

  • Conventional Milk: The average stuff that can be found everywhere. This stuff is nasty and should never be ingested by anyone! Not only are the present pesticide residues outstanding, it is also treated with RBGH growth hormones, the cows are pumped full of antibiotics and are kept in horrible living conditions. A great resource to understand this is the Meatrix cartoons; specifically, The Meatrix II: Revolting.
  • “All Natural” Milk: All Natural means that it's minimally processed, uses less pesticides, and is without the repugnant RBGH hormones and antibiotics. This is better than conventional milk products, but not ideal. Pesticides are not good for you at all; they reduce vitamin content in foods and lower our immune systems.

  • Certified Organic Milk: This is much more ideal than the previous types of milk. Organic milk has about less than 1% pesticides, no RBGH (although some companies will use legal loop holes and still claim that they sell Organic Milk. Read about it here), and no antibiotics. Unfortunately though, due to FDA regulations, Organic Milk is not perfect. All commercially sold milk products must be homogenized and pasteurized. I'll explain these processes briefly.

  • Pasteurization involves heating up milk to a high temperature in an attempt to destroy bacteria. Many beneficial components of milk are destroyed by pasteurization; specifically, immunoglobulins and the enzymes lipase and phosphatase, which are inactivated by heat. Up to 20% of vitamin B6 may be lost to heat treatment. Living bacteria which are in milk naturally such as Lactobacillus acidophilus are killed by pasteurization. These friendly bacteria aid digestion and boost immunity. RealMilk.com expands on this some

  • Homogenization is a process that involves breaking apart cells. Paul Pitchford writes that “Homogenized milk is not recommended; it allows the enzyme xanthine oxidase to enter the vascular system and scar it, setting up ideal conditions for fatty deposits in the arteries. Mercola.com expands on this some
  • Raw Milk: This is how our ancestors consumed milk, in its natural state. Raw milk contains no pesticides, antibiotics, or growth hormones and it also does not go through the process of Pasteurization and Homogenization. Raw Milk is the healthiest of all, but no thanks to FDA regulations, it is illegal to sell in almost every state (California, Connecticut, Maine, New Mexico and South Carolina are the only states where you can find Raw milk in a store). But you can still obtain Raw milk directly from farmers and RealMilk.com has put together a comprehensive list for each state for where you can obtain Raw milk if you so choose.

Many will argue that dairy consumption is simply not natural, since it is baby food for baby cows. Paul Pitchford – an ardent supporter of vegetarianism, and the Traditional Chinese Diet – tackles this very issue:

Among all wild mammals, milk is reserved for the newborn, and no other animal drinks another animal's milk. However, this does not mean that the adult human is necessarily wrong to use dairy; we do many things unique to our species. It is our feeling that milk products should not be a main feature in any diet beyond the infant stage, but are best used as a supplement, provided they are well tolerated and of good quality.

One small aspect of animal dairy that is not mentioned much is that of dairy from Goats. Goat's milk is great for those that want to consume animal dairy but either have issues with deficiency or have problems digesting cow's milk. Since a Goats diet consists of leaves, grasses, and herbs, their milk contains many nutrients that cow's milk does not.

Now of course, there are those who simply can not digest milk from animals well, or those who wish to abstain from animal products for moral reasons. There is nothing wrong with not consuming milk from animals. The most common sources are Soy milk, Almond milk, and Rice milk.

Soy milk I would recommend the least of all. I say this, because soy milk is very processed since it takes a lot to make milk from a tiny bean. My mentor, Joshua Rosenthal, has this to say in his book Integrative Nutrition:

Out of all the beans, soy is the most difficult to digest. After wheat, soy is one of the most common allergens, and people don't realize this because it is labeled as a health food. Remember, just because it's sold in a natural food store, doesn't mean that it's healthy.

Consumer Health Advocate Mike Adams mentions that soy milk is “not recommended”, because there are “too many GMO soybeans, bad environmental impact and some possible undesirable estrogen effects. The isoflavones are good for preventing cancer, however.”  In this same article, Mike Adams makes mention of Almond milk as well, saying that:

Raw almond milk is both delicious and nutritious. While it doesn't have the protein content of animal milk, it's rich in plant-based fats and various anti-cancer phytonutrients. Once you make a batch, you'll need to drink it within a day or two, since it tends to sour very quickly (it's alive, raw and nutritious, obviously), but I've found that you can preserve it in the refrigerator for several days longer by adding a couple of drops of food-grade hydrogen peroxide.

Your best option with Almond Milk is to make your own of course, as Mike Adams hints. Here's an easy 5-step process to follow. One thing to be cautious about with Raw Almond Milk (and thus Raw Almonds) however is that recent legislation passed now says that Almond Milk that has been pasteurized can still be labeled as “raw”. You can learn more about this in Mike Adams' article on NewsTarget.com.

Lastly, we have Rice Milk. Unfortunately, almost no information exists on this. I've spoken with health professionals, scoured through my library, and have looked through the Internet to no end. The only information I can really provide is that Rice Milk is supposedly pure carbohydrates, this means that it's great in the morning or in the afternoon, but you may want to shy away from it in the evening because your body may not be able to burn off the carbohydrates since we usually are very relaxed in the evening and do not need the extra energy. I've seen a few “healthy” recipes here and there that call for Rice Milk as well. Bottom line: Buy it organic or raw (or see about making it yourself!), and see how your body responds to it.

Other suggested reading:
Don't Drink Your Milk!

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I always stress how eating organic is a very healthy and important choice to make with all of your foods. However, there are a few things that are very important when it comes to buying organic. One thing I will never touch is non-organic milk. Why is that you may ask? Well, first you have to understand how these cows are treated and the condition they are kept in. In a factory farm, cows are kept in very small, cramped cages and are fed a diet of anything from meat, to feces; whatever is cheapest for the “farmer”. This is common practice on factory farms: animals will often be kept from their natural vegetarian diet. This creates…. unhealthy cows! In the British TV Documentary “Supermarket Secrets” (part 1, part 2), you can see these sickly cows that are way too skinny and if they were a dog or cat instead of a cow, you can bet that the ASPCA would be there in a heart beat and the ownwer would go to jail. Disgusted yet? It gets worse! In addition to being sickly, unhealthy, and unhappy, these cows are pumped full of rBGH (growth hormones) so that they'll produce more milk, and sooner. Dr. Samuel S. Epstein did a study on the effects of this nasty stuff which you can read on News Target.com. If you're going to switch to just 1 organic product, let it be the milk, and never look back! But be careful, because in the organic world, there are a few snake oil salesmen! Walmart, Horizon, and many other brands all tried to pull a fast one on us sometimes trying to use legal loop holes. Stay tuned for next month, when I'll be talking about what's in our conventional meats!

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