Is Milk Good for You:

Is Dairy Good for You?

By Dr. Ben Kim
DrBenKim.com

Before my parents immigrated to Canada more than three decades ago, my mom was convinced that one of the benefits of living in Canada was the amount of cow's milk that was available. Back in Korea, moms, dads, and grandparents of all ages were sure that their babies and grandchildren could be bigger, stronger, and healthier if they could only have easy access to milk.

That generation's belief in the remarkable health value of milk was most probably rooted in their admiration for the physical strength and healthful appearances of American soldiers stationed at military bases around the country following the Korean war.

While Korean soldiers ate rice, kim chee, and den jang (miso) soup for breakfast, American soldiers enjoyed milk, cereal, toast, bacon, and eggs. It was natural and partially correct for many Koreans to conclude that the difference in size and strength was due to the foods that Americans ate.

In much the same way that American influence caused baseball to become a fixture in Korean culture, milk became a symbol of all things bigger and better in the land of the morning calm.

I was born in 1973, one year after my parents immigrated to Toronto, Canada. My mom chose not to breastfeed me because she was sure that cow's milk would be far better for my health and future. She was just one of likely hundreds of millions of people around the world who considered milk to be the ultimate health food.

Today, the number of people around the world who consider milk to be a healthy food choice is most probably in the billions. True, there are relatively small groups and communities who are well aware of some of the problems with eating dairy products, but there is no denying that a large percentage of the world's population still believes that milk does a body good. Heck, if Dr. Phil is going to appear in ads wearing a milk mustache, how can the general public believe otherwise?

Let's get to what matters. Are dairy products good for your health?

Most milk that is found in grocery stores is terrible for your health for the following reasons:

  1. It comes from cows that are fed high-protein soybean meal and growth hormones to increase production. Both increase a cow's risk of developing mastitis, liver problems, and pituitary gland problems, leading to frequent doses of antibiotics. Clearly, regular exposure to synthetic growth hormone and antibiotic residues is not congruent with experiencing your best health.
  2. Conventional milk is pasteurized, a process that exposes milk to high temperatures and results in the following:
    • Denaturing of milk proteins, making them less usable and even harmful to your body
    • Destruction of enzymes, one of which is phosphatase, an enzyme that helps your body properly absorb the calcium found in milk
    • Destruction of vitamins B12, B6, and C
    • Destruction of friendly bacteria

  3. Some conventional milk is homogenized, a process that forces healthy fat in milk through a fine straining device, which allows homogenized milk to be consistent in texture and taste rather than have globules of fat float to the surface. The problem with homogenization is that it can alter healthy fat and cholesterol in milk in such a way that they are more susceptible to forming free radicals.
Milk can be a healthy food choice if it meets the following criteria:
  1. It comes from old-fashioned cows like Jerseys and Guernseys, not modern Holsteins that have been bred to produce such large quantities of milk that they typically have pituitary gland problems that result in large amounts of hormones being present in their milk.
  2. It comes from cows that have been allowed to eat foods that are natural to them: grass when it is available, and green feed, silage, hay and root vegetables during colder months.
  3. It is not pasteurized. Pasteurization was first used in the 1920s to kill micro organisms that caused tuberculosis and other diseases that were related to unsanitary production methods. With modern day controls in place to ensure clean and safe production, transportation, and storage of milk, the disadvantages of pasteurization far outweigh the advantages.
  4. It is not homogenized.

The Weston A. Price Foundation has an excellent website called realmilk.com that provides more information on what constitutes healthy milk and where to find it.

Even if you can find a local source of healthy milk, it's possible that it may not be a healthy choice for you. Many people are unable to properly digest milk because they lack an enzyme called lactase, necessary to break down lactose, the natural sugar in milk. Some people have a difficult time digesting casein, a major protein found in milk. Ongoing exposure to casein that is not properly broken down has been linked to chronic ear infections, nasal congestion, acne, eczema, a variety of autoimmune illnesses, and even cancer.

Fermenting or souring healthy milk to form yogurt, kefir, and clabber helps to breakdown lactose and predigest casein, making these foods healthy choices for many people. Please keep in mind that yogurt and kefir found in most stores is made from unhealthy milk. At the very least, you should make sure that store-bought yogurt and kefir are made from organic milk.

Butter contains very little lactose and casein, which makes it another good choice for many. Butter made from healthy, unpasteurized milk is best, but varieties made from organic, pasteurized milk is an acceptable choice for most people.

Cheese is highly concentrated with casein, so should only be eaten by those who don't show signs of intolerance to casein. It is best to eat cheeses made from healthy milk, and to completely avoid processed cheese which contains hydrogenated oils and harmful emulsifiers, extenders, and phosphates.

Please note: The guidelines in this article can be used to choose healthy goat's and sheep's milk and their derivatives.

For more information on milk and milk products, I recommend that you read Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, by Sally Fallon, or visit realmilk.com.

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