Take a moment to look at FIT’s take on an optimal food pyramid and guess what question we most frequently hear. If you are like the majority of people we have discussed our food strategy with, you probably guessed: ‘What about dairy?’
The simple answer is that our strategy is based primarily on nutrient density. Once dairy has been pasturized and homogenized, the quality and density of nutrients is questionable. Add to that the fact that most dairy in this country comes from grain-fed confinement herds which are no healthier than their conventially raised beef cattle counterparts. And then there’s the question of the saturated fat in milk which for years we have been led to believe was bad but are beginning to understand how vital quality saturated fat is to longterm health and vitality.
Until recently, there were no mainstream options for high quality, minimally processed dairy beyond organic. Months ago, I saw that St. Benoit (a local dairy, renowned for minimal processed, delicious yogurt) began selling VAT pasteurized milk from grassfed Jersey cows. Jersey cows produce a richer, higher fat, sweeter milk than the other common dairy cow here in the US, holstein/fresien. Organic Valley has introduced Grassmilk but doesn’t list what type of cows are in their herd. Because St. Benoit’s Jersey Milk and Organic Valley’s Grassmilk come from pasture raised/fed cows, their milk also has much higher levels of Omega 3s, linoleic acid and vitamin E (compared to grain-fed confinement herds). VAT pasteurization complies with FDA standards but seems to be less likely to significantly alter the quality of nutrients making this process preferrable to HTST (high temperature, short time) or UHT (ultra high temperature) processes routinely used – think of it like how heating olive oil to it’s smoke point degrades the fat destroying it’s health benefit as we have discussed previously. While both St. Benoit and OV’s milks are non-homogenized, OV does use standard HTST pasteurization which might degrade nutrients more so than VAT.
So, while we stand by our statement that dairy is not a requirement of an optimally nutritious diet, we recognize that no one eats an optimally nutritous diet pasteurization. St. Benoitavailable at Whole Foods and Palo Alto’s Cal. Ave Farmers market on Sundays year round.100% of the time. So, when it comes to dairy, go for whole milk but drink less of it. Some ‘better’ options than what was previously available are St. Benoit’s Jersey Milk or Organic Valley’s Grassmilk – if both are options – choose St. Benoit based on the method of pasteurization. I haven’t tasted OV’s Grassmilk but can vouch for St. Benoit’s – it’s delish!