In our last post, we discussed animal products- mostly meat- and the considerations that should be made when choosing the types and quality of beef, chicken and pork that is consumed. In this post, I want to deal specifically with dairy. Before I start, if you think you may suffer from an autoimmune disorder(this could range from serious nerve conditions such as multiple sclerosis to skin conditions like psoriasis) dairy- or some types of dairy- may not be appropriate in your diet. To read more about autoimmune issues and how the diet affects it and ways to treat, read the excellent blog Nutrisclerosis.
Most dairy that we consume comes from the milk of ruminants such as cows and goats. It includes milk, cheese, yogurt, cream and butter. Dairy is safe for most people in its most basic forms, particularly dairy from exclusively grass-fed/pastured animals. When people do have issues with dairy it is usually because of adverse reactions the milk proteins in dairy(whey and casein) that are indicative of a possible autoimmune issue, or they have an intolerance to lactose which is the sugar found in milk.
Luckily most of the good stuff found in dairy is found in the fat, which is the least problematic part of milk. Like grass-fed meat, the fat from grass-fed butter and cream(which consist of mostly dairy fat) contains many beneficial vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin E, K2, betacarotene and omega 3 and has these nutrients in a much more bioavailable form(easily absorbed into the body). The nutrition in pastured butter far exceeds that found in conventional butter so I highly recommend that you travel to your local farmer’s market or high end grocer to obtain it. Organic Valley, Smjor, and Kerrygold are good brands of butter to look for. If you have access to a farmer’s market that has a creamery, ask about if their cows are grass-fed/pastured(they usually are). If you don’t have access to grass-fed/pastured butter or cream, purchase the highest quality of pure butter that you can- no blends. The same goes for cream.
Milk protein is also very beneficial for those who don’t have reactions to it. Easy sources of milk protein are traditional yogurts and cheese. Milk is also a good choice(always buy whole) but comes with a significant amount of sugar and is very calorically dense so if one is trying not to gain weight, be very wary of milk. High quality, preferably grass-fed yogurt(and kefir) is a great addition to the diet. First of all, it’s a great source of protein. If you’re not big on meat and have a problem getting the minimum amount of protein in during the day, then a serving or two of yogurt goes a long way to getting adequate amounts of protein into the diet. If it was just protein, I would still recommend it as a great food, but it has the added benefit of probiotics which help populate the gut with healthy bacteria which aids in digestion, the immune system and overall health. The fermentation process also gets rid of most of the sugar. Also, the full-fat and 2% versions of yogurt have the added vitamins and nutrients that cream and butter have.
I recommend that high quality yogurt be purchased plain, and whatever fruit and or sweetness that one prefers be added by you. I highly recommend that if you want it sweetened, sweeten it with raw honey which has a myriad of health benefits. Also, add your own fruit being that the sweetened and flavored ones out of the store don’t use the best ingredients and has high amounts of refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Brands I recommend are Fage, Stonyfield Farm and the house brands from Trader Joe’s and Whole foods. There are also many small companies that make high quality yogurt. Try to get the traditional or 2%. The 0% fat is less desirable.
Cheese is also a great source of protein from dairy- mostly casein. With cheese, look for the highest quality cheese that you can purchase and go more toward the hard cheese like cheddar and only occasionally indulge in the softer ones like brie. Do not purchase low fat cheese since it is highly processed and may contain ingredients that may not agree with many people.
Dairy can be beneficial to one’s diet if it is tolerated. The basic rules are to buy the highest quality and lean towards the cream and butter with yogurt and cheese being very good for those who have no issues with milk proteins.