Navigating the Landscape of Dairy Varieties

by | Oct 23, 2023 | ANFD, Emotional Pillar, Environmental Pillar, Nutritional Pillar, Structural Pillar

Got milk?
It’s an exciting time to be alive to witness such a variation in kinds of milk! Today, I aim to clarify the types of milk available to you and their impacts on the body.

Nut Milk


Nut milk can provide an excellent option for those looking to limit their intake of conventional dairy (which should be all of us!). But you must learn to read and understand these labels, as many nut milk products are on the shelves with very harmful ingredients.
Nut milk refers to non-dairy milk alternatives made from various types of nuts, such as almonds, cashews, or hazelnuts. These milks are typically produced by blending nuts with water and straining the mixture to obtain a smooth liquid.
While these can be an excellent option for a non-dairy alternative for baking and smoothie ingredients, there are some issues to be mindful of.
  • Gylcophate: They can be a large Roundup product. The necessity for organic products also applies here.
  • Nut allergies: Individuals with nut allergies should avoid consuming nut milk made from the specific nuts they are allergic to. For example, almond milk should be avoided by those with almond allergies. Nut allergies can cause severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition. It’s crucial for individuals with nut allergies to carefully read labels and choose milk alternatives that are free from their specific allergens. Read more about cashew allergies here.
  • Additives and sweeteners: Many commercially available nut milk may contain additives, sweeteners, or thickeners to enhance flavor, texture, or shelf life. These additives can vary among different brands and products. Certain additives, such as carrageenan, have been associated with gastrointestinal inflammation in some individuals and can even contribute to a cancer risk.
  • Oxalate content: Some nuts used in nut milk production, such as almonds and cashews, contain higher levels of oxalates. Oxalates are naturally occurring compounds that can contribute to the formation of kidney stones and massive joint and muscle pain in susceptible individuals. While the oxalate content in nut milk is generally lower than whole nuts, individuals with a history of kidney stones or leg pain or those following a low-oxalate diet should be cautious about their nut milk consumption.
  • Fatty acid profile: Nut milk can be a source of healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. However, certain nut milk may have a higher omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio, which can promote inflammation if consumed in excess. Maintaining a balanced omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids intake is essential for overall health.
  • Seed Oils: Most nut or seed milk contains canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower seed oil, and or soybean oil. All of these are bad news for your health.
A great alternative is to make your own and switch the nuts often to lessen the body’s allergen responses. I use the Almond Cow – it’s fantastic, organic nuts, no additives or seed oils, just fresh milk!

Oat Milk


Certainly, oat milk has gained significant popularity as a plant-based alternative to conventional dairy milk. However, like any food product, oat milk has issues that one should be aware of before incorporating into their diet.
  • Nutrient Deficiency: Unlike cow’s milk, oat milk is naturally low in protein and many essential nutrients. While some commercially produced oat milk is fortified (with synthetic cheap versions of vitamins), they may still need the complete nutrient profile in traditional dairy or nut milk.
  • High in Calories and carbohydrates: Oat milk tends to be higher in calories and carbohydrates than other alternatives like almond milk. This might need to align better with low-calorie or low-carb dietary plans.
  • Sugar Content: Many commercial oat milk brands contain added sugars to enhance flavor. Consuming too much-added sugar is linked with various health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • Gluten Contamination: While oats are naturally gluten-free, they are often processed in facilities that handle gluten-containing grains, which can result in contamination. Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should be cautious and opt for oat milk labeled gluten-free.
  • Environmental Impact: Although generally less taxing on the environment than almond or cow’s milk, oat milk production has some ecological downsides, such as water consumption and land use. Oats are also glyphosate, the toxic weed killer in Roundup products.
  • Phytic Acid: Oats contain phytic acid, which can bind minerals and reduce their bioavailability in the body. While not a significant issue for those with a well-rounded diet, it could be a concern for those relying on oat milk as a primary source of nutrients.
  • Additives and Preservatives: Like many commercial milk alternatives, store-bought oat milk often contains additives, preservatives, and stabilizers, such as carrageenan, which some research indicates may cause gastrointestinal inflammation.
  • Insulin Response: Oat milk has a higher glycemic index than other non-dairy alternatives. This means it can lead to quicker spikes in blood sugar levels, which may not be suitable for those with insulin resistance or diabetes.
  • Digestive Issues: While generally easier on the stomach than dairy or even some nut milk, the fiber in oat milk can still cause digestive discomfort in some individuals, including bloating and gas.
  • Not Suitable for Certain Diets: Due to its high carb content, oat milk may not be suitable for those following ketogenic or other low-carbohydrate diets.
  • Taste and Texture: While many people enjoy the creamy consistency and mild flavor of oat milk, it may not be to everyone’s liking and can sometimes alter the taste of coffee, tea, or recipes it’s used in.

Dairy Milk


The history of A2 cows and modern dairy is a fascinating journey that spans thousands of years, involving scientific advancements, agricultural revolutions, and burgeoning awareness of health implications associated with milk consumption. To fully grasp this narrative, it’s essential to delve into the genetics of cows and how milk proteins have evolved.
  • Ancient Lineages and A2 Cows
    • Long before the domestication of cattle, the ancient aurochs, the wild ancestors of modern cows, roamed the lands. Over millennia, humans began domesticating these animals, selectively breeding them for specific traits, including milk production. As far as experts can determine, the original milk from these animals contained only A2 beta-casein (a type of protein structure in the milk), one of the several types of protein found in milk.
  • Emergence of A1 Cows and Modern Dairy
    • As cattle were bred for higher milk yields and hardiness, a genetic mutation emerged, leading to a new variant of beta-casein protein known as A1. The A1 and A2 beta-casein proteins differ by a single amino acid, yet this minor change has been suggested to have significant digestive and possibly health implications for some people.
    • Modern dairy farming, particularly in Western countries, tends to focus on smaller breeds like Holstein and Friesian, which are high-yield cows but primarily produce A1 beta-casein in their milk. The shift towards A1 milk became more pronounced with industrial agriculture and has dominated the market for many decades.

Health Implications and Public Awareness


In recent years, there has been increasing scrutiny of the potential health impacts of A1 versus A2 milk. Some studies suggest that A1 beta-casein may be harder to digest and contribute to conditions like lactose intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease, and autoimmune disorders.

Public awareness of the A2 milk variety has risen significantly, thanks in part to marketing efforts and consumer testimonials advocating for its digestive benefits and potential health advantages. This has led to a renewed interest in traditional breeds of cows, such as the Guernsey or Jersey cows, known for producing higher percentages of A2 milk.

The A2 Revival and Market Growth


As demand for A2 milk grows, we’ve seen an increase in its availability. Farms specializing in A2 milk are becoming more prevalent, and large dairy corporations are also starting to offer A2 milk products. The segment has grown in Western countries and markets like India, where the native cow breeds are already predominantly A2 producers.

Now that we have covered A1/A2 cows let’s dive into Conventional vs. Raw Dairy.

Conventional Dairy


Conventional dairy milk refers to milk derived from cows that are typically raised in commercial farming operations. Gone are the fields of grass, the life of luxury, and the place of honor these beautiful animals used to share in our homes for twenty years or more.
Dairy cows must give birth to one calf annually to produce milk for ten months. They are usually artificially inseminated within three months of giving birth. Commercial Dairy cows can often only have very high milk yields for an average of 3 years, after which they are slaughtered for beef.
Most commercial dairy cows will be kept indoors for the entire year. Crowded conditions, poor ventilation, and high humidity increase injury and disease. Cows that are kept on concrete floors with inadequate bedding will be more likely to develop mastitis. To combat these problems, the cows are often given hormones and antibiotics to increase milk production and prevent diseases. The milk is then pasteurized to kill bacteria and homogenized to avoid cream separation.
Most people experience inflammatory issues when consuming conventional dairy, which can wreak havoc on the gut, immune system, and hormones. Here are a few factors that contribute to these inflammatory issues:
  • Lactase is found naturally in raw milk and aims to break down the milk sugar lactose. During pasteurization, Lactase is destroyed, causing our bodies to work harder to produce the means to break down lactose when we consume pasteurized milk.
  • When consumed, pasteurized milk essentially adds dead matter to your system, requiring your body to react, often through inflammation like acne, constipation, or even an autoimmune response.
  • Lactose intolerance: Lactose is the primary sugar found in milk. Some individuals lack the enzyme Lactase responsible for breaking down lactose. As a result, consuming pasteurized dairy milk can lead to digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea in lactose-intolerant individuals, which many find no problems in raw milk.
  • Protein Sensitivities: Casein and whey are the primary proteins in milk, and both can trigger inflammatory responses. Casein is a common allergen, and even whey, which is generally less allergenic, can cause inflammation, particularly in individuals with preexisting conditions like arthritis.
  • Asthma, Ear, and Sinus Infections: Conventional dairy increases mucus production, trapping dust or pollen and creating more issues with viruses and bacterial infections. This process will make certain individuals more prone to breathing issues and infections.
  • Hormones and antibiotics: Conventional dairy farming often involves the use of synthetic hormones, such as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), to increase milk production in cows. When consumed, these hormones can enter the milk supply and may disrupt hormonal balance in humans. Similarly, the use of antibiotics in dairy farming can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can affect human health.

Raw Dairy: An Untouched Option


People have been drinking raw milk from their cows, sheep, and goats for millennia without getting sick. Milk has long been one of the most nutritionally complete foods in the human diet and has been an essential part of nearly every culture’s cuisine. In 1987, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its final regulation on mandatory pasteurizing of all milk or milk products for sale or distribution in interstate commerce.
Raw milk, legal only for pet consumption in some areas, has grown in popularity. High in protein and probiotic-type bacteria, raw milk is exactly what it sounds like – milk directly from a cow, sheep, or goat that hasn’t undergone pasteurization. One key distinction is that raw milk is less likely to trigger the inflammatory issues common to conventional dairy. This can be attributed to the absence of pasteurization, which eradicates all bacteria, including probiotic varieties in conventional milk.
Raw dairy contains a rich variety of live, beneficial bacteria. These probiotics support the microbiome, making the milk easier to digest and less likely to induce inflammation.
Another perk of raw dairy is seeing the farms often; these are local small, and their cows thrive on grass, socialization, and sunlight as they should. It is still essential that these farms are organic to prevent the hormone and antibiotic issues of conventional farming.
In summary, whether you opt for conventional dairy, nut milk, oat milk or even raw milk, understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each is critical for making an informed choice that aligns with your health objectives. With a plethora of options available, the key is to select the one that best suits your physiological needs and lifestyle preferences.

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