Dairy has been given a bad name over the past few decades, and this is primarily due to farming methods and techniques used to alter it’s consistency and fat content. The milk we buy in the supermarket is a far cry from the warm and bubbly raw, straight from the cow milk that is how it is consumed in India.
Ayurveda promotes the art of food combining. In the west, we tend to consume milk cold and mixed with incompatible foods. Milk is naturally cold and heavy so drinking it warm and spiced helps us to digest it.
Pairing compatible and separating incompatible foods for optimal digestion is an Ayurvedic principle. Ayurveda never mixes milk with fish, melons, yoghurt, sour fruits, kitchari, eggs, and yeasted bread. Some of these combinations cause the milk to curdle in the stomach or simply share very different qualities, causing discomfort and toxins.
Milk and dairy are often best consumed alone and never with fruit unless cooked with dried fruits or precooked fruit in puddings. Food combining and the processes of conventional milk all add to a population with growing intolerances to dairy.
Let’s look at the different ways our milk is processed and at the most beneficial forms of consuming milk.
Raw is how most milk is taken in India. It is completely unprocessed with all of the nutrients, fats and proteins in their natural state. Raw milk is best taken when the cow has been immediately milked when it is still warm. Once the milk has been refrigerated, it is best heated to boiling point, then simmered as it’s easier to digest. Boiling milk helps to make it lighter in quality and adds warmth to its inherently cold nature. It also helps to kill any pathogens. Boiling for too long kills the enzymes necessary for digestion.
The Pros: Raw milk is completely unprocessed with all of the nutrients, vitamins, fats and protein in its natural state. It contains beneficial bacteria that help gut flora. Raw milk is usually from pasture-raised or grass-fed cows which have higher levels of CLA and omega 3’s. See the section on pasture-raised cows for more info.
Studies on the benefits of raw milk have shown that raw milk can decrease the incidence of respiratory infections and fevers in infants by 30 %.
Other studys shows it helps protects against asthma and allergies.
Cons – Raw milk can carry dangerous bacteria like E Coli, Streptococcus lactis, And infectious diseases like TB. It is important to buy local, fresh and know the farm and its processes in milking and caring for the cows.
Immunosuppressed individuals, pregnant women, young children, and the elderly should not drink raw milk or heat it to boiling point. Although the risk is small, it’s better to play it safe and heating milk to a boil will help kill bacteria.
Raw milk should have a short shelf life and should be consumed within a week to 10 days.
This process breaks down the fat particles in milk to permanently mix the cream into the milk.
The Pros: It prolongs the shelf life and is the preferred consistency for those who don’t like cream on top.
The Cons – It renders the fat particles so small that the absorption is much faster than in its natural state. Some predict that the particles are so small that they pass through the gut wall without being properly digested, causing toxins in the body.
Homogenised milk also has high xanthine oxidase levels, which some scientists think damages the protective membrane around the heart, contributing to atherosclerosis. This topic is still under debate.
pasteurized milk is heated between 61 and 72 degrees Celcius (145 F and not more than 150 F) for about 30 minutes.
The Pros: pasteurizing milk has made it safer for mass consumption by eliminating the possibility of bacterial infections. It also increases the shelf life.
The Cons: Pasteurizing does not make the milk more digestible and causes the milk proteins to break down into chaotic coils. The disorganised coils are difficult for our digestive enzymes to digest and absorb.
Pasteurization destroys lactase which is the enzyme that helps us digest the sugar found in milk called lactose.
It Reduces the vitamin content in milk and makes the calcium challenging to absorb. This is partially why some people have difficulty digesting pasteurized milk and can digest raw milk.
Organic milk is milk from cows that have not been treated with hormones, fed with grain that is GMO or laden with pesticides.
The Pros In the UK, Organic labelling is certified by a number of organic control bodies. One of them is the soil association. This means Animal feed cannot contain genetically modified (GM) crops. No routine or preventative use of antibiotics on cattle. Cows cannot spend more than one-fifth of their lifetime indoors. Animal feed must be 100% organic, with at least 60% of the cows’ diet consisting of fodder, roughage and silage. This means that your milk is cleaner and free from additives.
The Cons – Organic milk is more expensive.
PASTURE RAISED OR GRASS FED MILK
This is milk from cows who graze in open fields and are fed grass and hay.
The Pros: Pasture raise cows provide the highest level of omega-3s which is an anti-inflammatory and supports our immune system. Cows raised this way produce milk with up to 5 x more vitamin D and 50% higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a known anti carcinogen, than cows managed in confined accomodation. Studies show People who get a lot of CLA from their diet are at a lower risk of various diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cancer and heart disease.
Skimmed milk is processed to partially reduce or eliminate the fat content.
The Pros: Some people prefer the less creamy consistancy of skimmed milk.
The Cons: Many nutrients in milk are fat-soluble so when the fat is removed, it prevents essential nutrients like vitamin D from being absorbed as easily. The vast majority of the natural vitamin A is lost in milk’s skimming process.
Is pasturised milk that has been “Enriched” with vitamins.
The Pros: Longer shelf life.
The Cons: the vitamins are in a synthetic form. Ideally, we want to get our vitamins naturally as they are better recognised and absorbed by the body.