Which milk should I drink?

by Farmer Liz
As you know, I only drink raw cow’s milk from our house cows in my daily kefir smoothie, and I drink herbal tea during the day. Recently a friend asked me if it was ok to drink soy milk. My first reaction was “no way”, but I thought I’d better do some research first, so that my friend can make an informed decision.

Of course, if you have access to raw milk from cows or goats, and you don’t have an issue with lactose intolerance, this is the milk you should drink. I’ve written about raw milk before, in summary, raw milk contains nutrients (heat sensitive vitamins), enzymes and beneficial bacteria that are destroyed during pastuerisation. Often people who cannot digest processed milk find that they don’t have a problem with raw milk, and that it even has a healing effect. Read the other post for more details about raw milk.

Unfortunately, raw milk is not available to everyone, so a compromise may be required. Your choice will depend on your circumstances, and how much time and money you have available, don’t feel bad if you can’t get the best milk, but at least be aware of your options and what to look for.

I think that the next best option to raw milk is non-homogenised organic whole milk (unless you are lactose intolerant). Processed milk will not contain the same enzymes and nutrients as raw milk, but you still get the benefits of the protein, calcium and lactose. Even better is to use the processed milk to make fermented foods, such as yoghurt or kefir, as these will effectively replace some of the missing bacteria and enzymes that were removed during pasteurisation. If you’re only drinking a splash of milk in your tea it doesn’t matter so much, but if you’re using milk as part of a meal, try to use fermented milk instead.

One of the main arguments against dairy (and animal products) is that the amount of crops that could be grown using the same amount of land would feed more people than if used to raise cows. This is a ridiculous argument considering that cows graze land that is unsuitable for crops, especially if you can find a dairy that is pasture-fed or mainly pasture-fed (rather than feeding grain), and organic certified dairies should have a land management plan to show how they intend to create a positive environmental impact. They are usually kinder to the calves as well.   If you can, find out more about the dairy and how they manage the cows and the land.

If you can’t tolerate lactose, or you really don’t want to use animal products, there are plant based “milks” available, such as soy, rice, oats and almond. Again, go for high-quality organic products at all times. The cheaper versions will undoubtedly use inferior ingredients. Read the ingredients list. If you have been following the debate about saturated fat vs. unsaturated fats, you will want to avoid sunflower and canola oil (even if its organic). Also added sugar, including “rice syrup” (which is just fructose), is an unwanted ingredient. Even the organic products are not ideal, they all seem to have added oils and sugars. The best option would be to make these milks at home, then you have some control over the ingredients. You could make a big batch and freeze it in small containers, or even ice cubes, to use as you need it.

Another option is coconut milk.  If you can find a brand that doesn't use BPA lined cans and doesn't include additives, coconut milk is apparently a nourishing option.  Again, you can open a can and freeze what you don't use.

I hope that helps to explain the pros and cons of your milk options.  What do you use?

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