Milk – good or bad?

We are all very big milk drinkers in our house (4 – 5 gallons a week)…and to be honest I don’t think we could live without it! The good news is after switching to a more optimal milk source and type of milk we certainly do not have to give it up. I used to buy the standard store-brand skim (for the adults) and 2% (for the kids) from our local supermarket. I even switched to the organic variety earlier this year. Organic is certainly better than conventional, but I felt there were still some additional factors that continued to be overlooked.

My biggest concern about the milk we were drinking was if it came from cows that were being fed grass. I did a post awhile back entitled “You are what you eat eats too,” and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to milk. Cows are actually designed by evolution to eat grass, and a large majority of factory-farmed cows are instead taught to survive on corn (a super cheap grain). In some instances the corn makes the animals sick, which is part of the reason why they have to be administered so many antibiotics.

Now if you are buying organic milk you obviously know that the cows have not been given any antibiotics, but being organic doesn’t necessarily mean they have been fed grass (or anything green for that matter). For all I know they’ve just been fed organic corn. But, the point is that I really didn’t know what the cows were eating when I would pick up a jug from the supermarket. Even as I proofread this article now I have to admit it sounds a little over the top to care so much about what the cows eat before I would even drink their milk, but it really is important. The health of the cow greatly affects the health of their milk (as well as their meat products), and I am obviously on a mission to provide the absolute best for my family.

So going back to a time when I didn’t know where our milk came from brings me to why I stopped buying our milk from the grocery store all together. I recently switched to a delivery service ( that provides milk from cows that are located not too far away in South Carolina. Not only can I call and ask them questions anytime (and you know I do!), but I could even go visit the farm myself if I thought it was necessary to do so. There is certainly a slight up-charge compared to a half-gallon of organic milk from the supermarket ($3.84 vs. $3.49), but they say their milk is two days from the cow. And it tastes so fresh I absolutely believe it. I think my children even noticed the difference because once we switched to the new milk I was having trouble keeping up with their consumption…it was like a broken record around here “more milk please!”

One other thing I learned more recently is that skim milk may not be the best choice for my husband and me (our girls drink 2%). This came as quite a shock, because I drink a lot of milk myself and have chosen skim for as long as I can remember. According to our milk delivery service, skim milk is everything leftover after the cream has been removed in a separator. And apparently the cream is what contains enzymes and fat-soluble vitamins. So just like the process that white flour goes through (since removing the bran and germ also removes all the good stuff from the flour) the milk is fortified with vitamins in an attempt to add back what has been lost. So once again I think the better choice is to just consume the good stuff the way nature has provided it to us and not opt for something that just emulates the good stuff.

We are joining our daughters and have switched to 2% in order to give us a good balance between the healthy cream and fat consumption. Michael Pollan even goes as far to say

To make dairy products low fat, it’s not enough to remove the fat. You then have to go to great lengths to preserve the body or creamy texture by working in all kinds of food additives. In the case of low-fat or skim milk, that usually means adding powdered milk. But powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol, which scientists believe is much worse for your arteries than ordinary cholesterol, so food makers sometimes compensate by adding antioxidants, further complicating what had been a simple one-ingredient whole food.

This once again reminds me how happy I am to be buying our milk from a reliable and knowledgeable source, which allows me to continue our theme here of knowing exactly where our food comes from!

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  • Comments

    1. Michelle |

      What are you thoughts on a vegan diet? Specifically going dairy free? Is soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, etc considered “real food”? I’m just now starting to investigate this and was just wondering.

      • 100 Days of Real Food |

        I have nothing against a vegan diet, but it is definitely not for me. Part of what we are trying to do is eat the natural food our ancestors have survived on for centuries, and I feel that a lot of vegan foods are processed imitations of the real thing (like tofurkey, fake cheese, etc.). I think it is fine to be a vegan if you plan to just eat grains, fruits, veggies, etc., but I can’t say I understand why you would want to eat imitation, highly processed animal products instead of just eating the real thing?? I suppose it is for moral reasons for some, but people have been eating and surviving on animal products for centuries (survival of the fittest!). That being said…I think those imitation milks are okay if they are unsweetened. You can also try making your own almond milk (with no additives) or consider a natural coconut milk as well. If I had to choose out of the options I would stay away from soy b/c soy is used to make so many additives that are in thousands of highly processed foods. Chances are you’re probably already getting plenty of soy in your diet!

        • Cee |

          “…but I can’t say I understand why you would want to eat imitation, highly processed animal products instead of just eating the real thing?? ”

          – People who were raised as meat eaters and turn either vegetarian or vegan (the harder of the two) CAN miss certain foods they grew up with, but don’t want to go back to eating meat. So replacements can help with those cravings. When I stopped eating meat, I used fake meats to ease into eliminating the real thing. Now, I hardly eat that stuff.

          – There’s different grades of vegans and vegetarians. Most are aware that fake meats are highly processed, and most of the vegans I know tend to MOSTLY eat natural foods and occasionally eat the fake stuff (on holidays when you’re surrounded by your meat-eating family, etc.).

          – The major reason all of them eschew eating animals is for their own personal moral reasons. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to eat meat, and you do not need it to survive or to be healthy.

          I became a veggie 5 1/2 years ago on a dare (I dared myself!), and stayed because I like it. Also, much like how you and your family’s taste buds changed towards processed foods, the same can happen with meat. The texture of chewing meat became VERY unappealing to me.

          I’m the kind of vegetarian that thinks if you want to eat meat, then go for it! But I personally enjoy being a vegetarian. I think people should experiment, and find whatever works for them best. :)

    2. meridith |

      I am not able to drink regualr milk and can only drink soymilk. Do you have a recepie or suggestion for homemade ice cream that I would be able to have without worrying about affecting my diet?

      • Linda |

        Meridith! Sorry about that, not sure why you can only see some of the picture and nothing it is:Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream

        3 cups of unsweetened coconut milk (about two cans)
        2/3 cup of cocoa powder
        6 tablespoons agave syrup
        1 teaspoon vanilla extract

        Whisk cocoa powder in a small amount of coconut milk, until smooth. Then add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until well combined. Or dump all ingredients together and blend with a stick blender. (Make according to your machines instructions if you desire; one is not needed!)

        The article I tried to attach is great, the author has been a saving grace for me…if you google Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream, look for the article with that picture of the chocolate, as a portion was the entire link above!? Hahaha…enjoy! Also, Agave syrup is the answer to an alternative (healthy) sweetener in Jordan’s books! Thank God!

    3. Linda |

      Hi Lisa,
      Good for you for all you are doing to embark on improving the health of your family. Please explore Jordin Rubin’s ‘Patient Heal Thyself”, “The Maker’s Diet” and “The Raw Truth” just to name a few of his excellent books. Cows milk is not intended for anyone over 12 months, I am not sure why this is a mystery to people…I am aghast no one has touched on the gastrointestinal diseases plaguing our world. A Gluten-Free diet is a first step in the right direction for anyone, not just Celiac patients; wheat is not as good as everyone thinks!! The FDA has tried to put Jordan out of business too many times; Jordan will prevail; our government does not have our back! Thanks for listening and good luck with your adventure.
      LRS from MA

      • Laura |

        Cows milk is generally considered off limits for anyone under 12 months due to the fact that it can cause bleeding in the intestines. It is generally accepted that humans are equipped to digest breastmilk (which cows milk is, even ough it’s not human) until between 4-7 years of age, which just happens the biologically natural weaning range. :)

    4. Cassie |

      I just discovered your site after reading it on yahoo and love it!! This milk article is great. However, if you want to go one step further, start researching raw milk. is a good place to start. Organic, local, farm-fresh milk is definitely better than store bought…but organic, local, farm fresh, grass fed raw milk has even more health benefits. We now have a herd share with a local farmer so we can get our raw milk (selling raw milk in Ohio is illegal). We pick up our milk from the farm every week. We see the cows, and have even watched the milking and bottling process. We even make our own butter with the cream! The “risk” of drinking raw milk is completely unfounded, and the benefits are becoming less and less of a secret =)

    5. Cassie |

      I also wanted to add for any readers…If you are “lactose intolerant”….you actually may not be. My niece is an example. She is supposedly lactose intolerant. However, she is able to drink RAW milk with ZERO problems! The homogenization and pasteurization process is actually what leads to this “lactose intolerance.”

    6. Catherine |

      I drink Stremick’s Heritage Organic non-fat milk and the corporate office is actually less than 4 miles from my house. Their web site has the following statement “our cows are fed only naturally grown corn and grain, and graze on pastures that are free from synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. As well, our cows are never given any growth hormones or antibiotics so they produce purely delicious milk.” So, can I take this to mean that a percentage of their food is grass? Thoughts?

      • 100 Days of Real Food |

        I am not familiar with this company, but my opinion is that if their cows eat grass they would probably say so b/c this is a big plus in the milk world. I would definitely call them and ask (or pay them a visit!)

    7. Nicole B |

      Our nutritionist has suggested we switch to coconut milk or almond milk instead of cow’s milk. Do you see any problem with this?

      • 100 Days of Real Food |

        As long as it is unsweetened I think those can be great options as well!

    8. Helen |

      A couple of things about milk……

      1) I know lots and lots of people who drink raw milk and are all very healthy. As long as the animals are healthy and are kept clean and eat only grass, raw milk is really the way to go. The health benefits of it are amazing. Purchasing raw milk is also illegal here in Wisconsin: however, if you own your cows, you can drink it raw yourself. So, people here buy shares of a cow, thus owning a cow and are able to have the raw milk.

      2) I, too, am a vegan and use almond milk or coconut milk. I would NEVER tell anyone else what to do in their diet (I am the only vegan in my household of 7 and cook meat for the others), but I don’t like milk and I don’t like the idea of drinking another mammals milk. It just seems, well, weird. But I agree that processed versions of products, like fake meats and tofurkey, make no sense. I also don’t like those and don’t eat them.

      3) Whatever your decision, I think we all would agree that non processed, whole, real foods are the BEST for all of us! I know that I love your blog, your recipes, and your tips and tidbits. Thanks for all your research and sharing it with us!

    9. hypersensitivity |

      What i do not realize is in truth how you are no longer actually much more well-favored than you may be now. You’re so intelligent. You already know therefore significantly with regards to this matter, made me in my opinion consider it from numerous varied angles. Its like men and women aren’t fascinated except it is one thing to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your individual stuffs excellent. Always take care of it up!

    10. Laura |

      I know this is an old discussion but I wanted to add a few things that I’ve found out about raw milk:

      About 800 people have been sickened by raw milk since 1995. As far as I can tell, there have been no deaths.

      It has about the same risks as eating soft cheese (Brie, feta, and the like) and lunchmeat without heating to steaming directly before eating. You are more likely to get sick from eating fresh produce (think spinach recalls…) than from drinking raw milk.

      I haven’t decided if I want my kids to drink it yet. My biggest fear is something happening to them. I know that they are in much greater danger getting in the car (which we do most days!) than they would be drinking raw milk, but there’s that niggling fear in the back of my mind that I haven’t gotten past yet. We’ll see!

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