I used to think I was lactose intolerant. I literally one day decided that nope, milk wasn’t my thing (even though in Russia I couldn’t get enough of the stuff as Milk or Kefir) so I started having soy this, soy that and soy everything. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t right. So I did some research. The more I read and experimented with real food, and more importantly real milk for that matter, I realised that I wasn’t allergic at all, in fact quite the opposite was true. My body, skin, hair, nails, teeth and digestive system LOVE the stuff. The real stuff. Short of milking my own Jersey cow I now buy raw milk. It’s actually illegal to sell raw, unpasteurised milk, so it’s called bath milk and is recommended for cosmetic use. I drink it, I know a lot of other people that drink it, and we’re all still alive and kicking.
Milk is a complex food, so it’s no wonder that the arguments around it are just as complex. My two cents on the matter – not all milk is good for you. Modern industrial milk is not the same milk that humans used to drink 10,000 years ago, and not even 100 years ago. Industrial farming means the cows that produce our milk aren’t alway roaming free feasting on green grass any more, but that’s another topic for another day.
Like our mother’s milk, the milk of cows and other mammals is nutritionally complete containing perfect amounts of three macronutrients – proteins, fats and carbohydrates, something that all humans are equipped to digest. And like all animal products, contains just the right amount of essential amino acids. All good stuff so far right? For anyone that says it’s ‘unnatural’ for us to drink milk from other animals, arguing that that’s not what it was intended for, well my friends chickpeas were meant to be chickpeas, not hummus too.
Now for the fatty stuff. Milk contains a good balance of saturated and unsaturated fats that enable our bodies to digest its protein and assimilate its calcium. If you take that fat away… drumroll… you will not be able to digest milk properly. So there goes years of drinking the skinny stuff too. According to Mary Enig in Know Your Fats, the saturated fats in milk (such as butyric acid) are particularly easy to digest because they do not have to be emulsified first by the liver. Unlike polyunsaturated fats, which the body likes to store, the saturated fats in milk are rapidly burned for energy. Bonus!
Other good bits include:
Vitamin A for healthy skin, eyes bones, and teeth
Vitamin D (something every second person I meet seems to be lacking) to aid calcium and phosphorus absorption helping your bones and teeth
Thiamine – you need this to convert carbohydrates into energy and aid appetite and growth
Riboflavin – again for healthy eyes, skin, and nerves
Niacin – good for grown and development, healthy nerves, and digestion
Vitamin B6 to build body tissues, produce antibodies, and prevent heart diesease
Vitamin B12 for healthy red blood cells, nerves, and digestion: and to prevent heart diesease
Pantothenic acid to turn carbohydrates and fat into energy
Folic acid (good for mamas to be) to promote the formation of red blood cells and prevent birth defects and heart diesease
Calcium and Magnesium for strong bones and teeth
Zinc for tissue repair, growth, and fertility (especially for boys as Zinc is a big part of their reproductive system)
*Adopted from Real Food by Nina Planck
Back to my lactose intolerance. Although I didn’t think milk agreed with me, I was always quite fond of natural yoghurt. It makes more sense to me now, because yoghurt and other cultured dairy products are in fact easily digestible. I read somewhere the dairy intolerance resulted from some people not making enough lactase (an enzyme that digests the sugar lactose in milk), I now know that raw milk contains lactase, and that the enzyme is damaged by pasteurisation, making your supermarket varieties give you bloated bellies, diarrhea and nausea.
Milk is also loaded with beneficial bacteria, and if you leave fresh raw milk out, it would actually turn to yoghurt naturally. Like the process of sprouting grains, fermentation of milk creates many benefits. It breaks down casein, or milk protein, one of the most difficult proteins to digest. Culturing also restores many of the enzymes that are destroyed during pasteurisation including lactase.
In her book, Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon suggests that regular consumption of cultured diary products lowers cholesterol and protects agains bone loss. In addition, cultured dairy products provide beneficial bacteria and lactic acid to the digestive tract. These friendly creatures and their by-products keep pathogens at bay, guard against infectious illness and aid in the fullest possible digestion of all food we consume.
Other cultured products that you could try include cultured butter and buttermilk, creme fraiche (sour cream), and kefir.
Yoghurt is incredibly easy to make, I’ve researched a few recipes and have played around with a few batches and have created my own version.
You will need:
1 litre of Raw or at the very least organic whole milk. Don’t be afraid of the fat, it’s good for you.
2tbs of left over biodymamic Jelna whole yoghurt (room temperature).
1 litre tub to set the yoghurt in, the Jelna container will do nicely.
Time – to watch the milk and be around to transfer your yoghurt baby from a warm fuzzy place to the fridge.
You can use a candy thermometer but i tend to use my judgement and senses.
Heat the milk on your stove top until it becomes frothy like a latte, stir regularly so that it does not burn. Do not let the milk overcook, so don’t take your eyes off it PLEASE!
Remove from heat and place the entire pot into a sink filled with iced water. You could let it cool naturally but who has the time? You will need to bring the temperature down to about 43 degrees C – it’s luke warm really, bacteria loves this temperature for reproductive sexy time. Which we want.
Stir in the 2 tablespoons of your Jelna yoghurt and cover tightly with a lid. Wrap up your pot in towels or a blanket and place into a warm dark place. Since I live in an apartment there’s not many of these, so i warm up my oven ever so slightly so that it feels cozy inside – not hot – and place the wrapped up yoghurt baby inside.
Leave for 7-8 hours. Leave the first batch in for 7 hours. It will be a lot thinner than supermarket yoghurts. Leaving it longer will make it thicker and more tangy so you can play around with what works for you.
Stir the pot very rigorously – this will stop the bacteria process and pour it into a sterile 1L container like the tub Jelna tub you scraped out the last bits of yoghurt from.
Seal tightly and place at the back of your fridge, this is the coldest part of your refrigerator and will help the yoghurt set.
Leave over night and enjoy for breakfast the next morning. When you’re running low just remember to leave some yoghurt to start your next batch.