Dairy: Do or Don’t?

If you haven’t heard, the FBI and other agencies are routinely raiding operations that sell raw milk (here and here). I’m normally a keep-to-myself kinda person, but this shit makes me mad. In a gesture of solidarity, I went out and bought my first quart of raw goat’s milk. Luckily for me, Oregon’s food laws are a little more relaxed than some states.

Yes, yes. I realize dairy is controversial in the Paleo community and less-so in my Primal tribe. My stance on it from the beginning of this journey was that a) I don’t have any obvious intolerance to dairy, b) my husband would mutiny, and c) I can’t eat eggs without butter and cheese. Okay, maybe I could if I tried, but why?

Well, because. If you need a more thorough analysis, I recommend Mark Sisson’s run-down here.

  1. Pasteurized and homogenized milk is bad for you. In a nutshell, the molecular structure gets messed up and then our bodies can’t process it correctly.
  2. Milk creates an insulin response. Not what we’re going for here.
  3. If you’re not buying it from a local farmer, you’re giving money to the Industrialized Food Complex. Even if its organic, that money flies up the chain. For example, Horizon organic milk is owned by Dean Foods, a large food and dairy conglomerate. Though I haven’t thoroughly checked this out, the one exception appears to be Organic Valley. They operate as a co-op that sells its milk regionally. I poked around and it appears they try to keep grain feed to a minimum and prioritize pasture for their animals. I’ve been buying their non-homogenized milk for our morning tea and coffee, but, of course, it’s still pasteurized.

So how was that raw goat’s milk? When ice cold, it tastes nice. Lightly sweet and a bit grassy. But warm, as in a latte…ermmm…it gets a bit goaty. The aftertaste was a bit much for me. And let’s face it—I’m not a milk drinker. There are some dietary philosophies that advocate drinking lots of raw milk, but that’s just not my style. I never could get my daughter to drink milk either.

So where does this leave me? When we went Primal, our dairy intake dropped dramatically. Without bowls of cereal, plates of pasta, and sandwiches, the need for it just isn’t there. I no longer need mid-day snacks of yogurt. Cheese became mostly a garnish, except for my husband who likes to snack on it. Milk, as mentioned, is usually only seen in morning beverages.

I’ve been wrestling recently with whether or not to drop dairy. It was a nice crutch to get us where we are now, but it feels a little extraneous at this point. I have a Whole30 coming up in October, and I think that’s a perfect time to give it a go. But I suspect that unless I feel remarkably different, I will be returning to my morning chai with milk in November. After thinking about it, I think this is where I am with it:

  • Milk — Only seen in morning beverages and the occasional recipe. Heavy cream makes extremely rare appearances on substitution-style desserts and in soups. The raw milk didn’t work, so I’m okay continuing with Organic Valley’s non-homogenized whole milk for now.
  • Cheese — Here’s where there’s room for improvement. I have access to locally-made raw goat’s cheese, and I get it when I need it. Which just isn’t that often, since Brian is not the biggest fan of it. I also have access to raw cheddar, jack, and blue cheeses. I currently buy Organic Valley’s shredded cheese for eggs in the morning for simple convenience, but I think I’d be better served buying raw cheddar and jack and shredding it in batches in my food processor.
  • Yogurt — I don’t partake much other than when it makes an appearance in a salad dressing or recipe. My husband and daughter enjoy it frequently, so I buy Fage’s full-fat Greek yogurt (23 g of fat and 90% of your RDA of saturated fat in one cup!). But why can’t you get the stuff organic?!
  • Butter — Even if I went with no other dairy, I’m afraid this one would still be around. Too good to pass up, especially in my daily eggs.

Not too bad. The only issue is that sometimes it’s easy to overdo it without realizing it. So bringing some consciousness to consuming dairy will be a good thing.

How do you dairy? A lot, some, or none at all? Thoughts? Observations?

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6 Responses to “Dairy: Do or Don’t?”

  1. Well, I gotta say Karen – I’m almost exactly where you are with Dairy… Mostly, it’s just used in my coffee… and like you, with no pasta, or grilled cheese on our menu of late, there just isn’t much need for it. We do have the occasional Greek yogurt – but that’s not often.

    The other morning, I decided to have a smoothie for breakfast made with milk, frozen berries, spinach, and whey protein powder (I was in a HUGE hurry, about to teach 4 fitness classes in a row, wasn’t going to be able to eat for at least 5 to 6 hours – I needed something… it seemed like a good option – *seemed* being the operative word there…). I paid for that smoothie all day – lots of reflux, upset stomach… it had to be the dairy.

    I was actually wondering when the next Whole30 was so I could try eliminating it all together and see how I felt. But, like you, I have a feeling dairy in small amounts (morning coffee, cheese in eggs) would still be part of my diet…

    • Well, I don’t know when the next official Whole30 is, but mine starts in October! ;) September doesn’t work for me because I have a Warrior Dash race and how can I pass up the free beer at the end? :)

  2. We’ve significantly cut our dairy consumption, too – me in particular. My daughters drink organic whole milk, and sometimes I buy an organic grassfed milk brand to when I manage to make the 40 minute trip to Whole Foods. Organic plain whole yoghurt is still in fairly regular rotation, especially for my daughters, and I prefer occasionally making minimally sweetened ice cream at home with organic grass fed (though homogenized) cream from Whole Foods to buying ice cream in the store. Kerrygold’s pastured cheeses are also a staple, since we can get them for a decent price at Sam’s Club, and we get Kerrygold pastured butter at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.

    I don’t think we’d completely eliminate dairy as a family unless we were able to afford/locate good pastured animal products (meats, fats, tallows, etc.) As it is, though, it isn’t in our budget for the time being – and pastured dairy offers us an accessible, lower-cost option for healthy animal fats.

  3. Just because it is a co-op it doesn’t make it bad. Fonterra is a co-op. they are the processed dairy monopoly of New Zealand–a country with one of the most restricted access to raw milk. Organic Valley recently decided not to let its producers sell raw milk direct to consumers on the side. Producers who chose to stick with Organic Valley probably reduced their quality by cutting costs. This hurt raw milk access in states even where sales are legal.

    Raw soured milk is very Paleo in the nutritional sense (although not necessarily in the traditional sense) because the good bacteria convert lactose–the milk sugar–into lactic acid. All acidified (cultured) raw dairy is very Paleo.

    • Oh no! I wasn’t implying anything about the co-op. If anything, I was using it as an example of a non-corporate organic food producer. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a company whose products I buy frequently was so well run.

  4. At this point, I can’t imagine giving up the tbsp. of cream in my morning coffee, or cheese and butter. Granted, I don’t use much butter (maybe 2-3 pats a week), but ohhhh cheese. Cheese is IT, as far as I’m concerned.

    That said, I’ve cut back significantly in the last two weeks. When I started lower-carb, cheese became a go-to snack, and perhaps something I needed to get over the initial humps. Now I try to keep it to no more than 3 oz. a day.

    Yogurt, milk and other products aren’t an issue for me as I use them very rarely (if at all).

    P.S. If you do shred your own cheddar/jack, keep in mind it Freezes Beautifully. Get a huge hunk, shred it all at once, pop in freezer, then just grab a handful when you need it. You don’t even have to defrost it.

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