In a previous article I wrote about choosing real butter, over alternative “butter-like” spreads. Unlike most health magazines that regularly contradict themselves, I am not a fan of consuming milk, however.
Allow me to explain:
Butter is produced by churning cream until the fat separates from the liquid. Butter is essentially entirely fat, containing less than .1 gram of protein per serving and very low levels of milk sugar, lactose, (if any at all).
“Gut health” is a common topic these days, but digestion is a unique process, requiring different organ systems in the body to effectively break down a food, utilize it for energy, and discard the waste.
To simplify a complicated process, fat digestion begins with bile, produced by the liver and then fat digesting enzymes, lipase, produced by the pancreas “jump in” and further the breakdown process, where they are converted into fatty acids. There are different enzymes for different types of macro nutrients. For instance, amylase helps to break down carbohydrates, bromelain and papain are two enzymes that aid in the break down of proteins and as aforementioned, lipase aids in fat digestion.
Lactase, is the enzyme necessary for the digestion of the milk sugar, lactose. Why does this matter? We are the only mammal in the animal kingdom to consume milk after infancy not to mention, from another mammal, often cows.
When a women breastfeeds, she provides her offspring with the naturally occurring essential vitamins, minerals, macronutrients and immune compounds designed to grow a healthy baby. There are many other fascinating properties of human milk but breastfeeding is not today’s topic, nor is it my expertise.
What we do want to address is how breastmilk compares to cow milk. Human milk is 87% mineral rich water, 4% fat, 7% carbohydrates and surprisingly, just1% protein. Cow milk contains 3.5% protein, 50-80% of that is casein. The protein in milk that not so ironically, many people have allergies, or intolerances to.
What is a fascinating about a mother’s milk is that it also contains many enzymes necessary for the proper digestion of said milk, including lactose (the enzyme that helps to breakdown the milk sugars). As we age, the body produces fewer digestive enzymes of its own. Without these enzymes, undigested food passes into the colon, causing digestive discomfort, so when we hear about “gut health” it goes far beyond just adding a probiotic into your daily routine.
Without discussing the often problematic dairy industry, “milk” includes a few standout properties, that as a nutritionist, I prefer my clients to cut back on and avoid.
The first is casein.
A baby calf is born weighing roughly 100 pounds and is expected to grow into an 1,400 pound mammal within months. The protein molecule is much larger than that of a human’s milk. Most of us humans are trying to watch our weight, not the other way around.
My other issue with dairy products is lactose.
We are not expected to have to breakdown milk after a certain point of growth, so the body has learned to adapt to this high consumption of lactose at a price of our health and not just weight. Dairy is often a cause of digestive issues, as well as skin disorders, most commonly acne. When the body displays any sort of discomfort, it is not a sign to pop a pill, it is a sign to eliminate and reduce the root issue.
I promise I am fun at parties. If you are looking to enjoy cheese, go for a sheep, or goat cheese. The protein molecules, (much like the animals themselves) are much smaller and easier for us humans to enjoy. Skip the yogurt and try a raw coconut yogurt with naturally occurring probiotics, or learn to make your own with a yogurt “starter kit” (a great idea for holiday gift for any wellness nerd). Coconut yogurt will be richer in fat, but contain zero lactose, or casein. If you cannot find a sheep, or goat cheese that you like, try a raw cow cheese. Raw cheese are generally much lower in lactose, often a cause of digestive discomfort.
If you have been reading my articles for long enough, you know that I am not a fan of “alternative” foods with all of their strange oils, emulsifiers and additives. I will not recommend an oat, or soy milk. Try making your own raw pumpkin seed milk, or if you are going to continue to consume cow dairy, just be sure it is from a local, grass-fed, source. Go for the full fat milk and use less. You will be glad you did.
Cut out dairy and see results? Shoot me an email: Lauren@laurengillan.com
P.S. Fun Fact: Since we are on the topic of enzymes, they are naturally available in raw fruits and vegetables (try juicing them). Bromelain and papain are two enzymes used in digestive enzymes supplements. Bromelain is found in high qualities in pineapple and papain is found in papaya. Cool, huh?