Milk: What are your options?

As I have learned more about the different types of milk--be it goat's or cow's milk, raw or pasteurized, whole or homogenized, full fat or skim, organic or not--I have realized that many people (including myself) don't fully understand what these terms mean and what choices we can make. Although I have a strong opinion of what type of milk I allow my family to drink, this post is not meant to tell you what you should be buying. The purpose of this post is to give you the information you need to make an informed decision of what you feel is best for your own family.

As with all things, I am a firm believer in doing your own research and making your own decisions, so you can be confident in the products you purchase and serve to your family (or even just yourself.)

Because there is an abundance of contradicting and biased information available, I am going to give information from both sides, which I have gathered from as many different sources as possible.

Cow's milk:

Pro cow's milk -calcium rich; needed to build strong bones and teeth -calcium helps in protecting the colon cells from the chemicals that cause cancer -calcium is preventive against migraine headaches and also reduces PMS symptoms -calcium prevents childhood obesity -calcium is beneficial against breast cancer, maintains healthy blood clotting, muscle contraction, blood pressure regulation and cell membrane function -rich in high-quality protein -rich in other vitamins and minerals

Anti cow's milk -phosphorous rich; prevents calcium from being absorbed -ineffective source of usable calcium due to lack of magnesium -impedes absorption of minerals; contains little iron -linked to illnesses, such as: diarrhea, cramps, gastrointestinal bleeding, anemia, recurrent ear infections, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and leukemia (source: Don't Drink Your Milk by Frank Oski) -one of the top allergenic foods -contains 4.7% lactose, which cannot be digested by many people -in the USA, cows are given recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone which his its health risks (this is banned in Europe and Canada) -contains pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and bad bacteria -contains xanthine oxidase, an enzyme that can cause scar tissue on the heart and in arteries -cannot be given to children under 1 year of age

Goat's milk:

Pro goat's milk -highly digestible -less likely to cause allergic reaction than cow's milk -many people who are lactose-intolerant can drink goat's milk -aids in the absorption of minerals -contains less xanthine oxidase than cow's milk; because it is not homogenized, the xanthine oxidase is unable to get to the bloodstream and cause scar tissue -helps alleviate conditions such as allergies, tuberculosis, arthritis, irritable bowel movement and ulcer -has a more similar structure to human breast milk -naturally homogenized -depending on the source, can be given to infants from birth or six months of age

Anti goat's milk -goat's milk is full fat -more expensive than cow's milk -like cow's milk, pasteurized goat's milk is not a "perfect" food; lacking in certain vitamins and minerals -humans are the only mammals to drink milk after being weaned; some research suggests humans should not consume animal milk of any kind

Raw milk:

Raw milk is unpasteurized; according to the Food and Drug Regulations, milk must be pasteurized in order to be sold (or given away) in Canada. For the sake of giving you information, I will still list the information given by those who are in favour of raw milk (in case you want to buy your own cow).

Pro raw milk -clean raw milk from pastured cows is a complete and balanced food containing all vitamins and minerals -lactose-intolerant individuals may be able to tolerate raw milk due to the Lactobacilli bacteria still being intact (this bacteria helps digest lactose) -contains good bacteria that protects against and kills any bad bacteria -when produced, handled, and packaged with proper care, the risk of contamination from bad bacteria is minimized

Anti raw milk -may contain bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria -children, pregnant women, older adults and people with a weakened immune system are more susceptible to illness and should avoid raw milk

Pasteurized milk:

Pasteurization is the process of heating the milk to a high temperature and then cooling it rapidly in order to kill bacteria that may be present.

Pro pasteurized milk -kills organisms that cause disease while maintaining nutritional properties -according to Health Canada, the number of foodborne diseases from milk has decreased significantly since pasteurization was made mandatory in 1991

Anti pasteurized milk -kills all good and bad bacteria, thereby reducing the health benefits -not all vitamins, minerals, good bacteria, enzymes, etc remain fully intact after the pasteurization process -pasteurized milk is still making people sick by being contaminated by bacteria that cause illness -if cows were properly fed and cared for, the pasteurization process would not be necessary, since the milk would contain proper vitamins, minerals and lactic acid needed to fend off bad bacteria

Whole (not homogenized) milk:

Pro whole milk -has not been processed -the fat separates and rises to the top, but mixes back in when shaken

Anti whole milk -not always available in chain-stores; can be found from local dairies -some individuals find the separation between cream and milk unappealing

*Note: because the fat molecules in goat's milk are naturally smaller than in cow's milk, goat's milk is "naturally" homogenized; meaning, the fat is naturally dispersed in the milk and does not need to go through the homogenization process

Homogenized milk:

Homogenization is the process of fat globules being forced through small tubes/holes at high pressure in order to decrease their size and ability to cluster.

Pro homogenized milk -more visually appealing without the cream separating from the rest of the milk

Anti homogenized milk -purely cosmetic; provides no health benefits and in fact, presents many dangers to our health -fat and xanthine oxidase (XO) are able to penetrate into the bloodstream, causing damage to the heart and arteries -heart disease is much more common in countries that consume large amounts of homogenized milk -link between homogenized milk and autoimmune diseases

*Note: Although the term "homogenized" has become ubiquitous for all milk containing full fat, both "whole" and "homogenized" milk contain the same fat content and are therefore both "whole milk." However, skim, 1%, and 2% are also homogenized.

Full fat milk:

Pro full fat milk -best for children and teens; aids in neurological development -Harvard study found decrease in infertility by 25% for women who ate full fat dairy twice a day -often eaten in lesser amounts due to their ability to fill you up faster -studies show significant reduction of cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke) in individuals who consume full fat dairy rather than non-fat dairy -may decrease risk for colon cancer and type 2 diabetes -high in nutrients; vitamins don't need to be added back in -has shown to reduce weight gain -most individuals prefer the taste

Anti full fat milk -increases intake of saturated fat and cholesterol -increases risk of cardiovascular disease -causes weight gain

Skim or low fat milk:

Pro low fat milk -contains the same amount (or more, depending on what you read) of nutrients than full fat milk; these vitamins are added in artificially during manufacturing -reduced calorie, fat, and cholesterol intake -reduces risk for cardiovascular disease -higher in protein -because the fat is removed, it allows more "room" for other nutrients

Anti low fat milk -lower fat intake associated with higher BMI, increased consumption of sugar, and high insulin resistance -increased risk of prostate cancer -watery taste -much higher amounts of lactose than full fat milk

Organic milk:

Pro organic milk -pesticides are not used in crops that are ingested by the cows; therefore no pesticides are in the milk itself -cows that are given antibiotics to treat infections are no longer used for human consumption (or in some documents, the cows are returned to the herd after 12 months) -produced without GMO's, pesticides, hormones, artificial colours, or preservatives -cows have access to pasture; grass-fed cows produce milk that is more nutrient rich

Anti organic milk -milk contains the same nutrients whether it is organic or not; there are no standards for how long or often cows have access to pasture -cows that are given antibiotics to treat infections are not used while being treated and for a regulated time afterward; they can then be used for milk again; guidelines are in place to ensure milk of any kind is free of antibiotic residues -cost is not worth the benefits

As I mentioned above, and I'm sure you noticed for yourself, the information available to us contradicts itself so often that it can be difficult to know if we are making the right decisions. However, I hope that this can encourage you to gather your own information and make a decision for your health that you are comfortable with.

Making your own informed decision, whatever that decision may be, is a huge step in reclaiming our health and not leaving our well-being up to corporations and ad campaigns.