Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Superfood #5. Grass Fed Raw Dairy Cheeses and Butter

Few people are aware that clean, raw milk from grass-fed cows was actually used as a medicine in the early part of the last century. That's right. Milk straight from the udder, the "stem cell" of foods, was used as medicine to treat, and frequently cure some serious chronic diseases. From the time of Hippocrates to until just after World War II, this "white blood" nourished and healed uncounted millions.

Clean raw milk, cheeses, and butter from grass-fed cows are a complete and properly balanced food. You could live on it exclusively if you had to. Raw dairy contains a wealth of healthy substances including: amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats such as CLA.

Amino acids are building blocks for protein. Depending on whom you ask, we need 20-22 of them for this task. Raw dairy products have all 20 of the standard amino acids. About 80% of the proteins in milk are caseins- reasonably heat stable but easy to digest. The remaining 20% or so fall into the class of whey proteins, many of which have important physiological effects (bioactivity). Also easy to digest, but very heat sensitive-and lost in the pasteurization process, these include key enzymes and enzyme inhibitors, immunoglobulins, metal-binding proteins, vitamin binding proteins and several growth factors.

Lactoferrin, an iron-binding protein, has numerous beneficial properties including (as you might guess) improved absorption and assimilation of iron, anti-cancer properties and anti-microbial action against several species of bacteria responsible for dental cavities. Recent studies also reveal that it has powerful antiviral properties as well.

Two other players in raw milk's antibiotic protein/enzyme arsenal are lysozyme and lactoperoxidase. Lysozyme can actually break apart cell walls of certain undesirable bacteria, while lactoperoxidase teams up with other substances to help knock out unwanted microbes too. The immunoglobulins, provide resistance to many viruses, bacteria and bacterial toxins and may help reduce the severity of asthma symptoms.

Two thirds of the fat in milk is saturated. Is saturated fat good or bad for you? Saturated fats play a number of key roles in our bodies: from construction of cell membranes and key hormones to providing energy storage and padding for delicate organs, to serving as a vehicle for important fat-soluble vitamins.

All fats cause the stomach lining to secrete a hormone (cholecystokinin or CCK), which, aside from boosting production and secretion of digestive enzymes, signals the brain that we've eaten enough. With that trigger removed, non-fat dairy products and other fat-free foods can potentially help contribute to over-eating. Full-fat raw dairy is the ONLY healthy dairy... NOT fat-free pasteurized dairy, which is basically a food with it's nutrition destroyed.

CLA, short for conjugated linoleic acid and abundant in milk from grass-fed cows, is a heavily studied, polyunsaturated Omega-6 fatty acid with promising health benefits. Among CLA's many potential benefits: it raises metabolic rate, helps remove abdominal fat, boosts muscle growth, reduces resistance to insulin, strengthens the immune system and lowers food allergy reactions. Grass-fed raw dairy has from 3-5 times the amount found in the milk from feedlot (grain fed) cows.

Discussions of minerals, or any nutrients for that matter, must deal with ranges rather than specific amounts, since individual needs vary. Raw milk contains a broad selection of completely available vitamins and minerals, ranging from the familiar calcium and phosphorus, to Vitamins A and D, and on down to trace elements. Raw grass-fed dairy also has a missing nutrient called 'K2', which is extremely valuable in helping the body absorb calcium, and therefore rebuilding bone, repairing cavities, and keeping the blood vessels clean.

The 60 plus (known) fully intact and functional enzymes in raw milk have an amazing array of tasks to perform, each one of them essential for one key task or another. The most significant health benefit derived from food enzymes is the burden they take off the body.

The amylase, bacterially-produced lactase, lipase and phosphatase in raw milk, break down starch, lactose, fat (triglycerides) and phosphate compounds respectively, making milk more digestible and freeing up key minerals. Other enzymes, like catalase, lysozyme and lactoperoxidase help to protect milk from unwanted bacterial infection, making it safer to drink.

Raw dairy contains about 3mg of cholesterol per gram - a decent amount. Our bodies make most of what we need, that amount fluctuating by what we get from our food. Cholesterol is a protective/repair substance. A waxy plant steroid (often lumped in with the fats), our body uses it as a form of waterproofing, and as a building block for a number of key hormones.

It's natural, normal, and essential to find it in our brain, liver, nerves, blood, bile, indeed, every cell membrane. Unfortunately, pasteurization allows for sloppy farm practices and unhealthy cows. You will find it hard to find raw milk in most areas, but you can find a co-op or local farm at www.realmilk.com

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