Last Friday night, as a houseguest, I witnessed the following:
A loving grandmother, whose cooking options were limited due to the recent demise of her stove, fed dinner to an 18-month old, a 4-year old, and a 12-year old. Cereal came out first. Cheerios and something along the lines of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Cow’s milk (especially for the baby — good god, what is she, a calf?). Orange juice — oh goody, liquid sugar! And (blessedly), a salad with black olives.
As soon as the new stovetop was working, Grandmother heated water for Kraft mac n’ cheese. She usually makes it from scratch, she told me, as if that excused shoveling gut-damaging pasta down the children’s unsuspecting throats. It seems the grandchildren regularly visit on Fridays, so they always have dessert and “kid food.”
“Kid food,” apparently, is what one feeds to little brats whose parents have been too lazy to feed them real, healthful food. Or maybe the parents just assume that kids “won’t” eat healthful food, so there’s no point trying. Or maybe Grandmother just wants to make the little children smile. Whatever the case, surely anybody in their right mind (even if their only health information comes from quacks like Dr. Oz and the USDA) knows that cheesy hotdogs and macaroni isn’t going to build healthy individuals.
Think the easy, cheap food choices don’t matter? (After all, they’re young and resilient!) Just look at the eldest grandchild. She has fat rolls and weighs more than I do. Her belly hangs over her waistband and bulges out beneath the hem of her shirt. She has more than one chin. She is clearly metabolically deranged and insulin resistant. Type II diabetes nips at her heels. She is twelve years old.
Does anybody else feel sorry for this kid? Does anybody else wish that, when exposed to information about how to effect better heath through proper nutrition, the adults in her life would listen? Does anybody really believe that feeding her even a single swallow of muffin or juice or cereal isn’t killing her? Her situation is dire, folks. Without major nutritional changes, this kid is doomed to a short and painful life. And how many years will it be before her young cousins exhibit similar symptoms?
Oh, I know this isn’t all Grandmother’s fault. She doesn’t provide most of the kids’ meals. But really, are “treats” that kill really treats? Are they okay because they kill slowly, over decades rather than minutes? Is “just a little” french toast drenched in sweet pancake batter and topped with powdered sugar acceptable because it’s…What? Saturday morning? Company is here? We have a new oven? Am I missing something that would make this decision appropriate?
Grains create holes in the lining of the small intestine. The more you eat, the worse it is, but even small amounts cause some damage (worse in some people than others). These holes permit foreign or incompletely digested substances to enter the body. There, they aggravate the immune system, resulting in inflammation and allergies, and they contribute to autoimmune conditions ranging from eczema and rheumatoid arthritis to acid reflux and IBS to Parkinson’s and MS.
Whole grains also feature phytates in their bran. These substances bind the minerals in the grain (and whatever is consumed with it), making them unavailable for use by the body. So, while it is true that “healthy whole grains” contain some nutrition, your body can’t use it. It may as well not be there. (Get your fiber from a butternut squash, dummy.)
Finally, grains represent a calorie and carbohydrate dense, nutrient poor, food source. Sure, they’re cheap and yummy and will make you feel good as their morphene-like compounds reach the pleasure centers in your brain, but they’ll also send your blood sugar skyward, demanding the release of insulin to bring it back into a safe range by storing it in the tissues…bodyfat tissues, unless you just completed a substantial amount of high intensity exercise. As a result, you get a blood sugar crash (and cravings for more carbohydrate) about 2 hours later. Over time, excessive carb intake and resultant excessive insulin release leads to insulin resistance, type II diabetes, obesity, systemic inflammation, and high triglyceride levels. Enter cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune conditions. Hooray! Just what we want for the grandkids we adore.
So…remind me why anyone would want to feed a child cereal, pasta, and toast. Anybody? Anybody???
And if your answer was “it’s all they’ll eat,” just shut the hell up and spare me the whining. Cut the crap. Grow a backbone. When they get sufficiently hungry, they’ll eat real food. Until then, at least you won’t be killing them with stabs and scoops of their spoons and forks.
Pass it on.
I’ve been busy. It has been all I could do to jot down my food journal, which you’ll find below. You’ll see how I navigated the ubiquitous “work food” problem, elected for less physical stress in the face of other stressors, and thoroughly enjoyed a week of food and motion despite the frenzy. I’m finally learning.
PBC Day 7
Fuel: Coffee with heavy cream. Grassfed burger (no bun) with grilled tomatillo salsa, sauteed onions, and cotija; sweet potato roasted in coconut oil; grilled asparagus. Grilled lamb ribs with homemade barbecue sauce; baked sweet potato with butter; squash ribbons with sizzled garlic and sage leaves.
Workout: None whatsoever. I was busy checking out my new camper, plus I was dealing with a minor cold on top of seasonal allergies. AaaaCHOO! It’s nice that farm life requires at least forth minutes of general activity per day, no matter what else is going on.
PBC Day 8
Fuel: Scrambled eggs with hot sauce. The meat and lettuce off a Quiznos sandwich (I was at an all-day meeting, with lunch provided. In anticipation of the usual lunch boxes, I brought a plastic fork and was able to dissect my sandwich with relative grace. I donated my chips and cookie to my endurance-athlete friend and colleague, wincing sympathetically as I did so.) Nuts and dried cherries. (Supplementary lunch supplies!) Kippered herring. Primal enchiladas (beef and sauce, no tortillas, topped with cheese); plantains oven-fried in grassfed butter. Shiraz.
Workout: Bodyweight. 4x rotation of pushups, thrusters, pullups, planks, side planks. Toss in some farm chores and an evening walk with my staghound, Wyrsa.
PBC Day 9
Fuel: Coffee with heavy cream. Eggs over easy with primal enchiladas (beef and sauce) topped with grassfed cheddar. Watermelon. BBQ lamb ribs, roasted sweet potatoes, grilled asparagus and garlic. Blackberry, mango, and banana with cinnamon and heavy cream. Gin on the rocks.
I find it interesting that I’m eating more fruit lately than I normally do. Usually, I come in around 2-3 servings per week — not per day! I’m guessing it’s due to the end-of-summer abundance of fresh, local fruit combined with an uptick in my workout schedule. No biggie. Fruit isn’t the devil, especially for individuals who are already lean, but it’s an observation worth noting.
Workout: Heavy day! 5x rotation of backsquats, military presses, deadlifts, and bench presses. Also, a generally active day as I prepared for next weekend’s 5-day endurance race and moved around some hay bales to make way for another delivery.
PBC Day 10
Fuel: Coffee with heavy cream. Four scrambled eggs with hot sauce. (Easily ignored pile of bagals and sweetened cream cheese at staff retreat.) BBQ pulled pork, potato salad, fresh fruit, and a few veggies. (Passed on the buns, chips, cookies, and brownies. Relatively easy to navigate, as catered lunches go, though I’m sure there was plenty of sugar in the pork.) Raw nuts and a few dried cherries. Ground lamb curry and coconut-roasted sweet potato. Gin. (Ahhh, so nice to be home alone after all that slow-paced, touch-feely team-building, tools-for-idiots-who-don’t-know-how-to-plan stuff.)
Workout: Just farm chores and a long, barefoot walk with Wyrsa. Wore as little clothings as possible to soak up the evening sun.
PBC Day 11
Fuel: Coffee with heavy cream. Breakfast (at 11:00am — back on my own schedule, thank heavens! Leftover bagals in the breakroom held little appeal. The addiction is broken!) of leftover sweet potatoes and enchilada sauce with ground beef. A few nuts and berries in late afternoon. Lamburger with onions sauteed in butter, sliced tomato, sweet and yukon oven fries with seasoned salt and primal barbeque sauce. Gin.
Workout: Just chores and another walk with Wyrsa, again barefoot-ish (with Soft Stars) and wearing Vitamin D gear. Part of me wanted to do more, but the other (smarter) part recognized that I’d had quite a stressful day at work, less-than-ideal sleep, and a weekend of hay stacking ahead. Just walk, dummy! So I did.
A Facebook friend of mine recently posted something to the effect that, in order to achieve optimum health, people need to learn to be hungry. That is, they need to accept temporary hunger as a natural and even beneficial state.
The thought stuck with me. I tossed it around for a couple weeks and eventually realized that I believe my friend is onto something with regard not only to hunger, but other physical states as well. Modern society seems determined to disconnect us from the world, with its attendant unpleasantness, as much as possible.
We have vehicles to minimize the obstacles of terrain and distance; convenience stores, refrigerators, and plastic wrappers to ensure immediate access to food; heavily padded furniture, floors, and shoes to minimize our contact with natural surfaces. We have high-tech clothing and HVAC systems and insulated homes to shield us from weather’s whims; machines to dig our holes and raise our beams; drugs to quell the unpleasant side effects of our own immune systems hard at work.
I’m not saying we should all go live in the woods. I like my automatic dishwasher and flush toilet as much as the next guy. I’m just saying that, given the extraordinary ability of our bodies to adapt to adverse conditions, perhaps we would be healthier if we actually asked our bodies to deal with more discomfort than our modern environment strictly requires.
Which leads me back to hunger. Just because food is available on every corner doesn’t mean we are best adapted for a lifetime of full bellies. Even if we take Chik-fil-A and Peanut M&M’s out of the equation, and assume a squeaky-clean paleo diet, we still don’t need to nosh constantly. Like many paleos, I have discovered the unique pleasure (yes, pleasure) of hunger. (I’m talking intermittent fasting, people, not anorexia or Auschwitz.) It’s a kind of fasting that comes naturally when you really start listening to your body. I talked about appropriate IF in this post.
But hunger is only one form of healthful discomfort. What about physical effort? I once read a Fitness Black Book article hypothesizing that fitness levels tend to correspond with pain tolerance. That is, elite athletes have an unusually strong ability to push through pain (not injury, ideally) while unfit people are prone to “wimping out.” Interestingly, exercise may increase pain tolerance over time. Even if you’re the type that hates physical effort, whether it be occasional white-buffalo-in-the-sky hill sprints or 1RM tests under the bar, it seems you can improve your feelings about exercise by doing more of it. You can certainly improve your health.
How about temperature? I’ve mused lately over a series of posts at Critical MAS, in which the author experiments with cold exposure and its role in improving leanness, adaptability to stress, and more. It’s interesting stuff, particularly since the nights are dropping into the 50’s now and I’m sleeping with the windows open, waking to invigorating chill, choosing to head outside with fewer layers than would keep me perfectly cozy. Doing so encourages physical activity and, over time, broadens my comfort zone. I behave similarly in the heat of summer, eschewing air conditioning in favor of letting my body experience the seasons in all their (ahem) glory.
There are other things. I choose to sleep on an unusually hard surface. I often avoid backrests in favor of core-enhanced posture. I delay dinner for an hour or two while I do the farm chores and take an evening run. I carry a box of tissue instead of swilling Dayquil.
It’s nothing major. Certainly nothing dangerous. And as discomfort goes, it feels surprisingly good.
You see, physiological benefit notwithstanding, we stand to gain mental and emotional fortitude by bearing up under — even seeking out and embracing — discomfort. Call it “building character” ala Calvin and Hobbes, if you will, but it seems to me that improving our ability to deal with stressors makes us stronger. And I really like being strong.
Just something to think about.
PBC Day 5
Fuel: Coffee with heavy cream. Eggs over easy, bacon, spaghetti squash fried in bacon fat, blackberries. Coconut cream concentrate. Tomato-cucumber salad topped with cotija, oil, vinegar, and dill. Ground lamb and onion cooked in coconut milk with garam masala; sweet potato roasted in coconut oil. Chardonnay. Apple with almond butter. (And wow, that apple did me in. Waaaay too much sugar. I went to bed early, feeling as though I’d eaten a pint of Tin Roof Sundae. Ugh. I haven’t eaten a whole apple in so long that I’d fogotten how they affect me!)
Workout: Barefoot trail run. I also rode 16 miles on two horses and generally kept moving most of the day.
I have weird feet.
It’s an unfortunate fact that severe bunions are not particularly attractive. I’ve had mine so long that I remember when I didn’t realize that my feet were the abnormal ones, and all those people with people with perfectly straight feet weren’t cursed with an absurdly boring podiatrical condition.
It’s another unfortunate fact that severe bunions typically result in early and severe arthritis, as bones jammed together in unorthodox ways wear through the cartilage that is intended to slide between them. I remember many nights during my undergrad work when my late-night studies were accompanied by burning pangs in my the large joints of my big toes. There was nothing to do but grimace and let it pass.
Years of running (nothing impressive, just 4-6 miles most days, and a half-marathon in my early twenties) did the arthritis no favors. It continued to stab at me almost daily, growing worse in winter and at night. Fortunately, I have a high pain tolerance and didn’t figure the fiery pangs compared to the 3-month incapacitation associated with bunion surgery, which involves the chiseling away of large amounts of scarlike calcification, plus the intentional severing and re-setting of several bones. No thanks.
So here’s the cool thing: I’m 33 now, I’ve been primal/paleo for over two years, and the arthritis pain is gone.
Erm…isn’t arthritis supposed to get worse with age?
I still run sometimes. In fact, I ran yesterday — just a couple miles along the rutted and rocky irrigation road that runs along the downhill side of my farm. And get this: I did it “barefoot.” (I wore Soft Stars, which are comparable to the better-known Vibram Five Fingers but lack the toe-shoe feature that I suspect would not accomodate my bunions.) Barefoot running requires a toe-first landing that I would have dreaded three years ago.
While I’ll never be a yogi, I now make a habit of performing exercises that require the kind of extensive toe flexion that was impossible in my twenties. Walking lunges. One-legged barbell squats heavy enough to make my glutes sore for days. Planks. Pushups.
Winter still comes and goes. I’m very active, spending entire weekends and weeknights on my feet. I wear heels to work, though nothing steep or featuring pointed or narrow toeboxes.
And I hardly ever feel the arthritis. Maybe once every 4 months. Really.
I don’t fully understand this. Alleviation of rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory condition related to autoimmune problems, is a well-documented benefit of paleo nutrition. However, osteoarthritis caused by a mechanical defect, like bunions, would seem to present a different challenge. My bones are still crunching past each other at awkward angles, right? So why is the pain gone? Decreased inflammation? Improved healing capacity? Mark Sission shares some ideas here.
Whatever the details, I’ll take it!
PBC Day 4
Fuel: Coffee with heavy cream. Grassfed ground beef sauteed with bacon and onions; eggs over easy. Grassfed ground lamb in coconut milk with onions, garlic, garam masala, and sundried tomatoes served over sweet potato roasted in coconut oil. Chardonnay. Banana with almond butter and coconut cream concentrate. (Yes, I often carb up a bit on Friday nights.)
Workout: Nothing official. I took a dog and my nano (yay!) for an hour’s walk/run along the canal. Barefoot running is amazing for calf development. You gotta try it.
I’m thinking about entering Wednesday’s MDA contest. It involves submitting my Primal success story, with photos. The thing is, my success story isn’t dramatic. I didn’t lose 100 pounds or put MS into remission or reverse type II diabetes.
On the other hand, I did get strong and sexy, and I solved a bunch of minor-but-persistent health issues that I was previously conditioned to accept as “they way things are.”
So many people accept eczema, GI issues, heart disease, diabetes, acne, arthritis, hypoglycemia, mood swings, cravings, and myriad other conditions — not to mention the supposed age-induced creep of bat wings and spare tires — as “normal.”
These things are not normal. They are common.
My story is about being the exception.
PBC Day 4
Fuel: Coffee with heavy cream. Grilled lamb chop and shrimp with pesto (no dairy) and garlic butter; herb-roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions. Buttered spaghetti squash; stuffed pasilla. Grilled grassfed burger (bunless) with smoked salt, avocado, bacon, and sauteed onions; cucumber-tomato salad with olive oil, vinegar, and dill. Coconut cream concentrate. Red wine.
Workout: 5x backsquats, bench presses, one-legged barbell squats, and military presses. Feels fantastic to be back under the bar! I also scurried about the farm for a while as soon as I got home from work, preparing for tan incoming thunderstorm that lasted half the night. Rain! And, I did a Feldenkrais lesson before bed.
I got a nano!
Yeah, yeah, everyone else on the planet already has one. But you have to understand, I am SO not the music or technology type. But I like podcasts. And audiobooks. And it’s so teeny-weeny cute!
I ordered it a little, red jacket for clipping to my shorts for long walks or hill sprints. I set up speakers in my gym so I can listen while I lift. Now I just need some good music and a pair of earphones that don’t 1) fall out or 2) hurt my ears.
#2 applies to both the music and the headphones. Any suggestions?
PBC Day 3
Food as Fuel: Coffee with heavy cream. Eggs scrambled with pulled pork, peppers, onions, and tomatoes; plantain roasted in coconut oil. Coconut cream concentrate. Grilled lamb chops with walnut-pecan-mint-sundried tomato-raisin-olive oil pesto; grilled shrimp with garlic butter; herb-roasted purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions; anaheim peppers stuffed with cheese, jalipenos, and sundried tomatoes. Gin on the rocks.
Workout: Play day. Took my endurance horse out for a quick, 8-mile ride. Did the usual farm chores. Set up iTunes and nano. (Hey, for me, that was a workout.)
…but I’m going!
By lucky coincidence, yesterday’s MDA post broke through my ongoing status of Paleo on Autopilot. Lo and behold, the annual Primal Blueprint 30-Day Challenge is just getting underway, and I’m on board. I was already planning on a Whole 30 from October 20-November 20; the PB Challenge will just be a warmup.
It’s time. As is typical, I’m at my lowest fitness level for the year (in terms of strength as measured by weightlifting) because I’ve spent the summer being active in other ways — farm work, endurance riding, horse training, whitewater rafting — instead of officially “working out.” That’s all well and good. It gets “play” points from Mark Sisson and “periodization” points from Robb Wolf. But I’m ready to shift into a higher gear.
The PB Challenge sets up a perfect opportunity for this transition. In my contribution to yesterday’s mini-contest, I committed to the following: 1 bodyweight workout, 1 heavy lifting workout, and 1 sprint workout per week, plus 100% Primal eating.
Sure, it’s minimal. That’s the idea. I still have some decent horse training weather ahead, and I still have 150-250 miles of races to ride. I’m not giving that up in favor of my full-on, winter workout schedule. This is just to prime the pump.
As for the food, check out the PB Challenge link above for the rules. They’re standard Primal, which is rather more hedonistic than Paleo. (Note particularly the inclusion of moderate alcohol and dairy.) I’ll simply steer around the rare exception (like corn tortillas) and eat as I usually do. Finally, I’ll try to keep a little food and workout journal going here, for those who like to see examples of what this lifestyle looks like in practice.
Who else is doing the challenge? Why not give it a shot?
PBC Day 1
Food as Fuel: Black coffee. Pulled pork with grilled tomatillo salsa and cotija. Ceviche. Coconut cream concentrate. Grilled sirloin tip with grilled onions; roasted sweet potatoes; cucumber and tomato salad dressed with olive oil, vinegar, and chopped cilantro. Gin on the rocks.
Workout: Bumped to another day due to errands and extra farm chores. Did a couple sets of pushups (max 33, which isn’t bad considering how long it has been) and pullups while cooking dinner.
I am not Catholic. I am pissed off. I am giving up Monsanto for Lent.
This is Day 19.
…but it’s Sunday, which isn’t counted in Lent, so I’ll take a little holiday from talking about Monsanto. I’ve been experimenting with some new sources of nutrition lately, including grassfed beef liver (fail) and raw milk yogurt (win).
I talked last week about the benefits of raw dairy, primarly to dispel the government-promoted myths about the “necessity” of pasturization. Incidentally, did you know that pasturization destroys phosphatase, making calcium unavailable to the bones? Said calcium is instead deposited in muscles, joints, and blood vessels. Great.
Raw milk, on the other hand, offers not only a panoply of vitamins and minerals, but also beneficial enzymes and bacteria. Better yet, the health benefits of raw milk are multiplied by the process of lactic acid fermentation — which is why I went hunting for a source of local, grassfed, whole, raw milk in the first place. I wanted to make yogurt.
At first, the idea of intentionally leaving a quart of milk in a warm place for half a day sounded insane. And disgusting. But consider this: Beneficial bacteria trump pathological bacteria every time.
Here’s an experiment for you: Set out a pint each of raw milk and pasturized milk. Smell them after 48 hours. Which would you rather eat?
Not only is raw, fermented dairy safe, it actally confers magnified benefits including enhanced nutrient bioavailablity, reduced lactose content (the friendly bacteria eat the milk sugar during fermentation, which is why yogurt tastes sour), improved intestional health, and strengthened immune system. Read more on the subject in this excellent post by Emily Deans, M.D. No wonder fermentation has been used for thousands of years not just for preservation, but for healing.
I took my first shot at homemade yogurt last Saturday, following this recipe from Nourished Kitchen. The resulting product was tasty, flavored very much like the Greek yogurt I used to innoculate it.
However, it wasn’t particularly pretty. Unlike the thick, creamy product you buy at the grocery, my yogurt was rather runny, featuring small, white lumps floating in whey. I gathered from a bit of googling that this is common. Suggested solutions included:
Add powdered milk to the yogurt. (Eww. No thanks, for so many reasons.)
Use less starter, because the bacteria need elbow room to grow and using too much is counterproductive. (Sounds reasonable.)
Add gelatin to the yogurt. (Many reject this on textural grounds, and so did I.)
Use half milk, half cream to make yogurt. (Sounds delicious, but expensive, and raw cream is hard to find.)
Add pectin to the yogurt. (Ah. There’s a thought.)
For yesterday’s batch, I modified my technique to implement #2 and #5 above. I used 3 Tbs of live yogurt to innoculate the 1-quart batch (I didn’t measure last week, but probably used a bit more). And, I added 2 teaspoons of pectin, dissolved in a tiny bit of warm water, to the heated milk just before putting it in the jar to ferment.
This morning, I have an improved product. The flavor is milder (maybe a little too mild — I think I’ll let it ferment a couple hours longer next week) and the texture more consistent. The lumps and watery whey are gone, replaced with a still-thin, but smooth and white, perfectly respectable yogurt. (Next time, I might try adding a little more pectin to thicken it up more.)
I love how simple this is. Active time? About 20 minutes per batch. Cost? $3.99 for a half-gallon of raw milk. That’s the price of a quart of pre-fab Greek yogurt around here. Benefits? Myriad.
I should note that fermented dairy is still insulinogenic (all dairy is), so it may not be the best choice for someone whose primary goal is loss of bodyfat. In a metabolically healthy person, however, it looks like an ideal post-workout snack…which is exactly what I’ll be doing with most of mine. It’s delicious over a few berries, topped with chopped, raw almonds.
Up next? I have my eye on cultured butter ala Mark’s Daily Apple, maybe some goat cheese, and other fermented products like saurkraut and preserved lemons.
Tomorrow, though, it’s back to the Monsanto Project. Be sure to check out the coffee posts if you missed them over the weekend.
I am not Catholic. I am pissed off. I am giving up Monsanto for Lent.
This is Day 16.
One of the pleasant side effects of this Monsanto Project is that it has refocused my energy on finding new sources of safe, affordable, nourishing food. This has led me to experiment with raw dairy, fermentation, and my most recent interest: organ meat.
I started with a 2.34 pound hunk of local, grass-fed beef liver. Slicing the shuddering, bloodred, gelatinous mass was entertaining, and the dogs enjoyed lapping up the raw milk I used to marinate the meat. Ugly as it had been in its raw form, the liver looked pretty decent fried it up in plenty of bacon grease with caramelized onions and garlic. It was crispy on the outside and tender to the knife.
Ironman and I really wanted to like it…but we didn’t. The flavor was tolerable, but that “creamy” texture? Eww. I’m pretty sure meat should not be creamy.
Or as Ironman called it, “glipey.”
Fortunately, I’d been listening to Chris Kresser podcasts and borrowed his plan for ingesting the 1.89 pounds of liver we didn’t care to choke down. (Sure, I could “hide” liver bits in meatballs and marinara, but why bother? I want to enjoy my food, not simply bear it.) I chopped the cooked organ into tiny pieces and froze them in a single layer on waxed paper.
Now, all we have to do is swallow them whole. Voila! All the nutrition and none of the pain. Liver pills!
…not to be confused with Carter’s Little Liver Pills, a form of the laxative stimulant bisacodyl that was popular up through the mid-1960’s. Want a giggle? Check out their radio ad from the ’40’s.
I am not Catholic. I am pissed off. I am giving up Monsanto for Lent.
This is Day 12.
Ahh, Sunday. Technically, Sundays are not counted in the official number of days that comprise Lent. Opinions differ regarding whether one’s Lenten fast may be broken on Sundays. Not that it matters; I’m not interested in a weekly Monsanto splurge. I will, however, take advantage of this opportunity to write a post about something other than Monsanto.
I bought a half-gallon of raw milk on Friday.
Yeah. And the earth is flat. It is also the center of the universe. Furthermore, our government says raw milk is toxic. Our government says pasteurized, homogenized, skim milk is a health tonic. Our government cares about us. Our government wouldn’t lie. Let us bow before our government’s greatness.
Okay, okay. I’ll take off my bitch wig for a moment. I understand the difficulty of looking beyond a lifetime of education about nutrition and food safety that says things like “fat is bad” and “raw milk is dangerous.” But as the flat earth theory illustrates, the mere fact that a belief is dominant in society — and supported by the authorities — does not make it true.
I, myself, have largely avoided dairy (with the exception of organic butter and heavy cream) for many years. At first, this was due to concerns about the carcinogenic effect of casein, milk’s predominant protein, thanks to the well-debunked China Study. More recently, I learned that dairy is insulinogenic (causing a greater insulin spike than its sugars alone can account for) and capable of exacerbating an already-leaky gut. All things considered, it seemed a substance best avoided.
The more I investigate the issue, however, the better I understand that pasteurized, homogenized, skim milk is as different from whole, raw milk as carrot cake is from carrots.
Let’s look at the issues:
Dairy Intolerance — We’re all aware that many people don’t tolerate dairy well. The products that upset their stomachs, erupt their skins with acne, and even spark allergic reactions are nearly always commercially mass-produced, pasteurized products. It turns out that most individuals who are allergic or intolerant to pasteurized milk have no problems whatsoever with raw milk.
Why? One of the predominant reasons is that pasteurization kills the enzymes present in raw milk. These enzymes, left alive, produce lactase — precisely what is needed for the digestion of lactose. Amazing.
Food Safety — The FDA would have us believe that a sip of raw milk is bound to infect us with E.coli, listeria, salmonilla, or other harmful bacteria. But guess what! Various enzymes in raw milk, such as catalse and lysozyme, actively protect the milk from unwanted bacterial infection. Pasteurization not only destroys these enzymes, but also kills beneficial bacteria in the milk, leaving it vulnerable to the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria.
Speaking of pathogenic bacteria, that’s exactly what you’ll find in milk intended for pasteurization. Here’s why:
Large, commercial dairies typically feature “supercows” selectively bred to have overactive pituitary glands. These cows are then treated with artificial hormones such as Posilac (a Monsanto rBGH). The result is increased milk production of up to 13 gallons per day, which is more than twice the natural quantity. The cows are not built to handle this overproduction. Their udders become infected (mastitis), which results in the need for extensive antibiotic use — not to mention pain to the animals and pus in the milk.
Raw milk, on the other hand, usually comes from small, local, responsible, farmers who provide their cattle with natural feeds and avoid the use of hormones and the antibiotics that are subsequently required. Cleanliness standards at a quality dairy are considerably higher than those at a commercial dairy producing milk intended for pasteurization.
You might be interested to know that most outbreaks of disease related to contaminated dairy involve pastuerized dairy — and the pathogens involved sometimes show resistance to antibiotics. Ouch.
Basically, the only raw milk worth worrying about, from a safety perspective, is raw milk that was mishandled or intended for pasteurization.
Nutritional Benefits — Remember the carrot vs. carrot cake analogy? When it comes to nutrition, there’s simply no comparison between raw and pasteurized dairy. Raw milk is a whole, natural food. Pasteurized, homogenized dairy is a highly processed food whose benefits are largely replaced with costs.
— Raw milk contains all 22 amino acids, including the 8 essential ones; every known fat and water soluble vitamin (including A, C, D, E, K, B1, B2, B3 (Niacin), B6, B12 pantothenic acit, biotin, and folic acid); and numerous minerals (including sodium, potassium, chloride, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, manganese, iodine, selenium, cobalt, chromium, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and calcium). Pasturized milk contains many of the same nutrients — but it lacks the carrier proteins that make them bioavailable.
— Homogenization modifies the structure of milk such that its proteins can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream (leaky gut), the end result of which is autoimmune disease. Raw milk is not homogenized.
— Enzymes in raw dairy aid digestion of the healthful proteins and fats naturally present in milk. Pasteurized dairy lacks these enzymes.
— Dairy’s predominant protein is casein, which is demonstrably cancer-promoting. However, milk also contains whey, which is anti-carcinogenic.
— Grassfed dairy is a rare source of Vitamin K2 (also present in goose livers, but who eats those regularly?), which is necessary for proper processing of calcium. Basically, it helps the body direct calcium to the hard tissues, such as bones and teeth, rather than to soft tissues, like arteries, where it doesn’t belong. K2 deficiency is common, and it is linked to heart disease and osteoporosis.
— The beneficial bacteria (aka probiotics) present in raw dairy but absent in pasteurized dairy have been demonstrated to relieve conditions ranging from irritable bowel syndrome to psoriasis to depression.
It’s this last benefit, the probiotics, that led me to purchase my half-gallon of raw milk. I’m not going to drink the stuff; I’m going to ferment it.
More on that next Sunday.