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  • Writer's pictureBen Ciesinski


Like most Midwestern-raised people of my age, I grew up drinking milk. I believe it was 2% cow milk, probably pasteurized and homogenized. We had it with cereal almost every morning and frequently a glass of it with dinner. After all, "it does a body good." Over time, milk has gotten a bad wrap for dietary reasons. Enter the nut milks! Or no milks! All can be fine choices, but let's talk about it.

Milk has been consumed by humans for over 10,000 years. Keep in mind that it would have been consumed raw (until the mid 1800s) and likely fermented. (Like many nutritional options, fermenting dairy makes it more digestible for humans, as well as beneficial in other ways - probiotics, for example.) Milk is the primary nutrition source for many babies and infants. As a quick overview, enzymes change the milk chemically and physically with lactase helping digest the lactose (milk sugar.) Lipase breaks down the fat, and enzymes thicken the milks so it stays in the digestion system longer - allowing for time to absorb the nutrients. (The digestion taking place is similar to fermenting milk, which is why baby spit-up resembles cheese.) As we age, we lose some of those enzymes causing varying levels of lactose intolerance in over 65% of people. (Shout out to Dr. Bill Schindler and his research for the above.)

So if you have some level of lactose intolerance, there are options to consider before scrapping milk all together. You might try fermented products such a kefir, plain yogurt, or good quality cheese. Another option is A2 milk, which is increasingly available in stores. (A1 and A2 are the casein proteins that most dairy cows have currently. Cows were once A2, but are now both A1 & A2. Goats and sheep are all A2.) Some people have better luck with A2 milk who have issues with regular milk.)

There is also a case to be made for raw milk, which as you probably know, is a controversial topic. It is illegal in some states to purchase raw milk, and all states have some regulation on it. (You'll have to research your home state if you are interested.) Having lived in Maine, I have purchased raw milk from a local farm and the grocery store. In New York, you must purchase it directly from the farmer.

To define some terms - raw means directly from the cow (or goat or sheep). Pasteurizing is heating the milk to kill bacteria. Homogenizing is not for health - its done to increase the visual appeal by removing the cream from the top and recirculating it inside the body of the milk, adding shelf life, and allowing processors to use milk from more than one cow.

I personally prefer raw milk for me as pasteurizing lessens Vitamin A, B12, C, and D. If you try raw milk, find a trusted farmer (and read the disclaimer at the bottom.) The farther you get from raw milk, the less bioavailable the nutrition is - all the way to ultra pasteurized milk (UHT). UHT changes the taste and smell of milk, among other chemical alterations leading to a milk that has a 6-9 month shelf-life.

Back to the shopping...when you buy milk products, try cream-line over homogenized if you are unsure about raw milk. Look for ingredients like milk or cream. You may be surprised by the thickening agents and fillers that are added. Scroll through the below for an example.

What about nut milks?

Here is some crazy news, I also consume nut milks. I don't have any allergies, but I do try not to go absolutely crazy with the dairy. When my heart disease was first diagnosed, I did a pretty severe elimination diet for about 6 months. Now I do a little raw milk, a little nut milk, and some fermented dairy from time to time. Anyway, enough about me.... If you have some level of dairy intolerance, allergies, or any other reason for avoiding dairy milk, there is good news. You have many options for purchasing nut milk, and it is much easier to make your own nut milk than it is to make your own cow milk (for those of us non-cow owners).

Like the dairy milk products above, purchasing from the grocery store is very similar. Look for clean nut milks, which means the basics. Those probably include water, nuts, salt, and perhaps vanilla or another (hopefully natural) flavor. Below are two examples of nut milks. You'll see one with four ingredient and the other with many more. To be fair, it is labeled as an almond beverage.

If Malk or one of the other clean nut milks is out of budget for you, consider making your own! One of the easiest that I have found and use is this cashew milk recipe from Downshiftology. If you have a decent blender, it's just soaking cashews overnight, then blending with water, a sprinkle of salt, and some vanilla or maple syrup. I like to halve the recipe because I have trouble consuming it all in 3-4 days. (She has other recipes for non-dairy milks if you have issues with cashews.)

This post is meant to help you make some decisions on milks when shopping. Once again, simplifying is the name of the game - eat and drink your food as close to natural, original form as you can! Perhaps there will be more on dairy (including milk fat) and alternative milks in the future, but for now, happy shopping! Be well.

Note: I receive no compensation for any products mentioned. And as always, this is for information purposes only. Please consult your medical team before making lifestyle changes.

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