Got milk?

“In that day, a man will keep alive a young cow and two goats. And because of the abundance of milk they give, he will have curds to eat. All who remain in the land will eat curds and honey” (Isaiah 7:21-22). 

Milk, curds (yogurt, kefir and cheese), cream and butter have been highly valued in cultures around the world for thousands of years. Of course, we are talking about raw fresh milk and its products from grass-fed cows. Pasteurization and homogenization of milk may have changed the nutritional value of all dairy products to some extent, but milk and milk products still remain an important source of valuable nutrients. High-temperature/short time (HTST), or low pasteurization preserves more nutrients in the milk than ultra-pasteurization. Many organic dairies use the HTST process.

Milk and dairy products are one of the major dietary sources of calcium – the most abundant mineral in the body. Calcium is necessary for building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth; it also helps regulate heartbeat, nerve functions, hormone secretions, and clotting of blood. In addition to providing calcium, dairy products are excellent sources of zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, complete protein, B vitamins, and vitamins A and D. 

Lack of adequate calcium and vitamin D has been associated not only with risk of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, but also high blood cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disease, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), many types of cancer, and obesity.

Vitamin A from animal sources such as milk, butter, cream and organ meats is important for vision, growth, bone and teeth development, development and maintenance of skin and mucus membranes, immune function, protection from certain cancers and heart disease and normal reproduction. Vitamin A is necessary for the metabolism of nutrients in the body, including iron and beta carotene. In the body, vitamins A and D are absorbed better from whole or low-fat dairy products than from skin.

Milk with the most

The trend over the last several generations not to pasture but to grain feed cows has changed the composition of the milk that we drink. In addition to that, the homogenization and ultra pasteurization of milk over the past 60 years have made what was a once a raw, natural, nutritious whole food for many cultures into, well, let’s just say a food that is not as whole or nutritious as it once was.

Since we are way past the era of one cow per household, we must work within our present culture. Milk and milk products that are HTST pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) and not homogenized and come from organic grass-fed cows are about as close as we can come to the kind of dairy products that God intended for us to eat.

Studies show that organic pasteurized milk has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, 75% higher levels of beta-carotene, 50% higher levels of vitamin E than does nonorganic milk, and two to three times the level of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. And even though many farm families in our country still drink raw milk, it is not legal for sale in most states, except for use by animals.

Many artisanal farmhouse cheeses are handmade in small batches from HTST pasteurized or raw milk. You might be surprised how many small dairies are located near you. Raw cheese is also readily available online from many sources. However, drinking raw milk or eating raw milk products that are sold commercially is an individual decision, since we really do not “know” that cow! Fermented milk products (yogurt and cheese) that have been around since the beginning (Genesis 18:8), are excellent substitutes that offer the health benefits of raw milk. 

Friendly bacteria

Today, common fermented products like buttermilk, yogurt, kefir (similar to drinkable yogurt) and cheeses contain the bacteria that we need for gastrointestinal health – bacteria that are killed through pasteurization of raw milk. Yogurt with live cultures and especially kefir are teeming with live friendly bacteria that actually colonize in your gastrointestinal tract.

These good bacteria contribute to a healthy immune system, nervous system, and of course, digestive system. Good bacteria are especially needed during and after the use of antibiotics that kill both good and bad bacteria. Look for active live cultures on the label. You can make your own yogurt and kefir if you want to eliminate the sugars, artificial sweeteners and additives of commercial products.  Some good commercial organic yogurts are made with all-natural ingredients. If no organic dairy product source is located near you, check out the following Web sites:

To maximize the health benefits of yogurt or kefir, eat it plain (no sugar) or mix it with fresh fruit and/or a little jelly or jam. Also, plain natural yogurt or kefir may be mixed with commercial brands to dilute the sugar and other additives in the commercial brands.

As a helpful resource, I have lots of articles on healthy ingredients and recipes that you can implement into your daily life.

If you’d like to dig deeper into my journey of discovering God’s plan for health and wellness, check out my book, Made For Paradise: God’s Original Plan for Healthy Eating, Physical Activity, and Rest.