Embracing Raw Milk: A Perfect Food

Reader Contribution by Nicole Wilkey
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When you hear the term ‘raw milk’ does it scare you or does it make you think of one of natures perfect foods?  What is raw milk anyway? Raw milk is unpasteurized and unprocessed milk that comes from either cows or goats that are fed a grass-based diet. Pasteurizing is the heating of a food with the intention of killing microbes that could potentially lead to spoilage or make us sick.  So how is that a bad thing, you ask? While the heating process damages or destroys potential microbes, it also damages or destroys much of the nutrition such vitamins A, C, E, iron, zinc, B vitamins, calcium, enzymes, immunoglobulin, whey proteins and beneficial bacteria such as lactococcus lactis. Raw milk containing good bacteria such as l. lactis has been shown to kill or reduce the bad bacteria, and many people could benefit from a dose of a good probiotic.  Raw milk can absolutely be a safe and delicious addition to your diet.

Making Raw Milk Safe       

The animal husbandry practices used in raw milk production are incredibly important.  You would never want to drink milk from a commercial dairy operation. They are often dirty, overcrowded and possibly have sloppy milk collection procedures.  Milk from a mainstream, commercial operation requires pasteurization for safety where a raw milk production usually entails open pasture space, fewer animals, a cleaner environment and safe procedures for milk collection. After collection, raw milk must also be immediately filtered and chilled. If raw milk is the best choice for you, you would want to investigate the living conditions, diet and health of the animals before consuming. We have a small herd of dairy goats and in our family we choose to drink raw rather than pasteurize, because of this choice, I also have my animals tested for zoonotic diseases (disease that can be passed between animals and humans). A clean herd of happy, healthy animals will lead to delicious raw milk!

Health Benefits

When milk is left raw, all of the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and electrolytes remain intact and active. It is also left unprocessed in any way, leaving the fat included, so you aren’t going to find ‘skim’ or ‘nonfat’ raw milk. Raw milk has been shown to potentially reduce allergies, improve immunity and improve skin to start. It is a nutrient-dense food full of omega 3 fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)…making it a complete food you could survive on alone.  When left raw the enzyme lactase is left intact.  When milk is pasteurized, the lactase is destroyed, which could explain the high levels of lactose intolerance among some people. When these enzymes are destroyed via pasteurization, the vitamins and minerals are not as available for our bodies to absorb during digestion.  So you may be drinking milk, but if you can’t absorb the nutrients, you miss out on a lot.  Raw milk has nothing removed, nothing added, no enriching, just a whole food.

Downside to Raw Milk

The main downside to raw milk is availability, it can be hard to find.  If you don’t have your own dairy animals to milk (if you have the space and the desire, I highly recommend this option!), you can contact your local dairy farmer, check your farmers markets, do an online search for raw milk shares or your local health food or grocery may carry it.  It is often labeled ‘for pet consumption only’ depending on your areas laws. Again, it is important to know the environment where and how the milk is being collected. Another downside is it does have a shorter shelf life, but so does any real food when left unprocessed. You would want to consume your raw milk within 7-10 days. 

I am a big advocate for making informed personal choices. Raw milk is controversial, but based on my own research I have decided this is the best milk option for our family.  Do your own research, and based on your own health goals you can decide if raw milk is for you. You wont be disappointed.  Cheers!

You can read more of Nicole’s blog postshere.

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