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Milk in the Raw – Okay or No Whey?

30 May

So, is milk good or bad for you? The answer to this is both complex and not. As in, yes, it’s good, and yes, it’s bad. That’s why it’s complex. But the reason why the answer is complex is pretty simple. Read me?

The cream rises to the top, and cream is good. (That’s why we have that saying in reference to people, remember?)

Anywhere you look for information about milk and people’s relationship with it you’ll find conflicting information (okay, you already know this, because you’re the type of person who’s reading a blog like this in the first place). Part of the reason why there are so many differing views is not only because people are different, but also because the milk they’re drinking (or eating in whatever form) is different.

You’ve probably heard of raw milk advocacy. But do you understand what the big deal is? If hippies love peace so much, why do they get all high and mighty about certain issues—issues that can inspire federal agents to raid the property of raw milk dealers (after spending tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars subjecting them to surveillance for more than a year prior, then hijacking $70,000 worth of computers, files, cash, and perishable produce, and pouring out gallons of raw milk, even though in their entire twelve years doing this their product had caused no health problems whatsoever)? Perhaps a better question would be why the heck, in our free country, federal dough and energy is being expended on stopping the sale of something that never caused harm before Big Ag(riculture) stepped in…

So those raw milk lovers must sincerely believe that raw milk is amazing, that it shouldn’t be altered from its original form, and that people deserve access to raw milk so they can be healthy and raise healthy kids. Don’t agree or disagree with this until you know at least half as much as they do on the subject. I’m going to try to help us get at least some of the way there.

There is a colossal difference between the milk that our ancestors consumed and the milk that is consumed in the modern world. About 40,000 years ago the human race had a population explosion when they figured out that land that wouldn’t support farming would support grazing animals. This epiphany, that otherwise essentially unusable land, sunlight, and vegetation could be converted by animals into healthy food, changed the game considerably. Humans were no longer dependent on only what small game could survive in particular areas, but could now drink milk and eat meat more often.

Most human bodies switch off the gene to digest lactose after Mom cuts them off from the boob. My own mom claims I bit her so she stopped nursing abruptly, so of course I attribute certain neuroses to this shock – for example, I eat too damn much because I’m afraid it may disappear at any moment.

Interestingly, while some people have a milk protein (casein) allergy, someone who is only lactose intolerant should be able to eat all fermented forms of milk, i.e. cheese, yogurt, kefir, and so on, because the fermentation process breaks down the lactose. In cultures where humans continue drinking milk post-weaning, lactose intolerance is rarely an issue.

But here’s where I’m really going: Raw milk IS superior to the homogenized, pasteurized shadow of milk that is all that’s commercially available now. Here are the aspects of processing that make modern-day milk so blech . . .

  1. Pasteurization, i.e. heat, denatures proteins and kills friendly bacteria, which keeps less friendly bacteria from causing you harm.
  2. Homogenization explodes fat droplets in milk. According to Deep Nutrition, when you magnify a drop of fresh milk on a slide 10,000,000 times, you can see incredibly complex casein micelles. “Imagine a mound of spaghetti and meatballs formed into a big, round ball. The strands of spaghetti are made of protein (casein) and the meatballs are made of the most digestible form of calcium phosphate, called colloidal calcium phosphate, which holds the spaghetti strands together in a clump with its tiny magnetic charge. This clumping prevents sugar from reacting with and destroying milk’s essential amino acids.” To make a long story short, every globe of fat is enclosed within a membrane of sorts. The lipid bylayer within has a lot of specialized proteins that perform particular tasks, and as long as that membrane stays around that lipid blob, “the fat is easily digested, the gallbladder doesn’t have to squeeze out any bile for the fat to be absorbed, the fatty acids inside the blob are isolated from the calcium in the casein micelles, and everything goes smoothly. But if calcium and fats come into contact with one another . . . milk loses much of its capacity to deliver nutrients into your body.” Homogenization has been linked to heart disease as well (and though that idea is refuted by some, they never appear to take the above breakdown into account).
  3. So, not only is high heat and homogeneity in general terrible for humans, it’s also terrible for the milk that humans drink. Once pasteurized and homogenized, those fat globules are all the same tiny size (now small enough to enter your bloodstream and wreak mucosal havoc instead of staying in your belly where they belong) and “lack the sophisticated bylayer wrapping and are instead caked with minerals and tangled remnants of casein micelles.” The high heat has caused the sugar to react with the amino acids, which denatures the proteins and removes the colloidal calcium phosphate from the equation. Your spaghetti matrix becomes ten times as tangled as your headphone cords and is more tightly wound than your boyfriend the day before his thesis proposal is due. That friendly meatball of colloidal calcium has gone on to fuse with those fatty acids and now they form a soap-like goo made of milk-fat. This saponification reaction can not only irritate the crap out of people’s GI tracts but make the very nutrients we’ve been led to believe we should drink milk for pretty much good for nothing, or at least pretty close.
  4. Processing destroys the signal molecules that let your body recognize milk as its buddy, instead causing it to react more like it’s an alien invader, which, after running the past.-homo. gauntlet (is that a nickname that works? or not?) it basically is.

But could raw milk be dangerous? Sure, if it’s from any of the millions of unhealthy cows fed a diet of corn and grain that’s foreign to their digestive tracts, who suffer not just from massive amounts of gas buildup (which according to some sources accounts for 1/3 of global warming emissions) but also from painful mastitis due to prolific use of recombinant bovine growth hormone. Painful for the cow and yuck for you (pus and blood, anyone?). Milk from healthy cows is an entirely different story. Your raw milk comes from a cow who is pasture-raised in the sunshine, eating grass and the insects upon it from pasture that is often otherwise untenable for agriculture. And like a thousand generations before you, give or take, people can and do flourish on this whole food. 

Even better, when raw milk sours it doesn’t go rancid like pasteurized milk does, but instead becomes buttermilk. Seriously. Because pasteurized milk has no beneficial bacteria or probiotics left, it just rots. It might be difficult for regular milk drinkers to grow accustomed at first, but soured milk is great for making yogurt, cheese, buttermilk biscuits, plus loads of other options you can find all over the internet on blogs like The Healthy Home Economist. Plus, you can use it to soak your grains in to break down the phytates that negatively affect digestion as well as add it to other foods to render them more digestible. Yep, soured raw milk is actually better for you than it was before, and, just like other fermented foods, is terrific for your guts.

So, if you’re lucky enough to live in one of the eight states where you can buy raw milk on the shelf of your local natural food store (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, New Mexico, and Washington – though I’ve yet to see it at corporate groceries), go forth and get it! And if you live in a less-free state, ask around, google it, check with your local or nearby WAPF chapter. If you don’t yet want to take the plunge into sour milk recipes and want to go the slow intro route, freeze it in separate jars and use it a little at a time so it doesn’t ferment while you’re easing into the idea. And if you want to take a little more control over the souring process, you can buy starters from Cultures for Health to do just that. You might just turn into one of those raw milk advocates yourself.

Forever Youthful for Dirt Cheap and Easy? Yep.

10 Apr

Beef broth about twelve hours in.

Ever suffered from chronic tendinitis? Weak bones, nails, hair, connective tissues? Gut issues? Peptic ulcers? Cellulite? Collagen loss? IBS? I may have the solution for you to all of the above problems, and most importantly, for virtually no money and in a form that conserves resources, prevents landfills from landfilling, and makes you feel like a super-provider for your loved ones.

A couple of weeks ago I picked up some big beef bones at the farmer’s market. They were labeled “dog bones” and were two bucks a piece, and after asking the farmer if there was any reason they wouldn’t be fine for humans, too (“can’t imagine why not”), I bought three and threw them in the freezer when I got home.

So I pulled two of the bones out of the freezer this week, put them in a stockpot, covered them with water, put a lid on, and turned the heat on medium low. I turned it down to just a slow simmer after a while, and for the next 30+ hours I peered in the pot occasionally to see how it was progressing.

Why do this? It’s not simply about making my own soup stock (free of added lab-synthesized flavors, MSG, hydrolyzed proteins, and other questionable and toxic ingredients) – though that is a factor, since I love soup. It’s waaaay more about the amazing stuff I’m simmering out of the bones and then putting into ME. Just about everything that these bones are composed of can be drawn out and thus capitalized on.

That means you can give away your glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements, extracted through murky means. You can stop throwing money away on expensive face and booty creams that don’t seem to do anything at all to fabricate smoother skin. You can stop popping antacids or avoiding foods that are healthy but seem to be hard on your stomach.

Used for centuries as a way to make it through times of scarce protein, the components of gelatin in bone broth actually helps your body synthesize protein:

Early in this century researchers showed that gelatin increases the utilization of the protein in wheat, oats, and barley, though not of corn; that the digestibility of beans is vastly improved with the addition of gelatin; and that gelatin helps the digestion of meat  protein. The last appears to confirm the subjective reports of many people who say that meats found in soups and pot roasts–cooked with bones for a long time in a liquid to which a touch of vinegar has been added–are easier to digest than quickly cooked steaks and chops, and why gelatin-rich gravies are at the heart of many culinary traditions. “Why Broth is Beautiful”

The gelatin in bone broth can also be useful in healing leaky-gut syndrome, which is often a byproduct of celiac disease or lesser levels of gluten or general grain sensitivity and is frequently found in those suffering from disorders like autism and Asperger’s.  It appears that eating gelatin-rich broth, which is easily made from animals that are free-ranging (and not those found in battery/industrial farming) renders most of the more difficult to digest foods far more digestible. This means not only will you not suffer from indigestion, you’ll also find that you have to eat less food because you’re obtaining more nutrition from what you eat (remember that particularly when you decide against buying your kids or your pets more expensive food – you can eat less of higher quality food because your body gets far more out of it – PLUS, it will make them poop smaller because there will be less that their bodies can’t use).

Collagen-rich bones, especially ones like knuckles, are great for restoring your own collagen, meaning that this may be one of your best shots at reversing aging – unlike that shot of creepy botulinum toxin, i.e. Botox.

There are more efficient ways to do it than I did on my electric stovetop, like crockpots, plug-in roasters, convection stovetops, campfire coals, on and on, but use what is most convenient for you.

After adding a little salt I dipped bread in that broth and wow. Sooo goooood. Then I added a couple of cups of it to the chili I was cooking, and it added tons of meaty flavor. Later I just straight up had a cup of it with lunch, then another one with dinner.

Beyond its nutritional brilliance, one of the best aspects of bone broth is that it’s made with animal products that are often thrown away. If you’re a vegan because you don’t like the idea of an animal dying to feed you or because it expands your carbon footprint, then you should capitalize on the benefits of bone broth. In other words, examine your ideals and acknowledge the true reasons you’re a vegan. If it’s for the above reasons, try making broth with parts that ordinarily go to waste. Then you’re doing something even better for the planet than avoiding factory-farmed meat – you’re exploiting the nutrition within what would otherwise wind up in a landfill, and there’s little more conservationist than that. You’re not only reducing your other food consumption but also reducing waste.

Remember also that the amino acids in gelatin, like all amino acids, can only be properly utilized when the diet contains sufficient fat-soluble activators–vitamins A and D–found exclusively in animal fats. So don’t hesitate to put cream in your broth-based soups and sauces, and include other sources of vitamins A and D in your diet, such as butter, egg yolks and cod liver oil. – “Why Broth is Beautiful”

There are so many things you can make broth with that will pass on massive amounts of necessary amino acids, sulfates, minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and silicon that are easily synthesized within the body, unlike those within most expensive supplements. I’m not easily grossed out, but I know that some of my broth constituent suggestions could be a little more difficult for some people to stomach—however, that is exactly why these parts should be consumed, because if modern appetites reject them because we’re no longer accustomed to these foods, then these nutrition explosions will tragically go to waste while you go to Burger King. So yep, you can make it with chicken feet and heads, lamb and cattle hooves, shrimp shells, fish carcasses, even pig skin. These aren’t things that tend to bother me much, but I know for some people they could take some getting used to.

Though I didn’t do it this time and it’s not necessary, try roasting the bones in the oven for awhile to improve the finished flavor. During the heating process a “Maillard reaction” occurs that fuses amino acids with sugars, resulting in a broth that will be tastier and darker.

Cellulite ruining your life? Probably time to get a life.

There are a lot of blog posts and articles out there with manic bone broth obsessions for all of the issues I’ve listed and ten times those. Here are just a few if you’d like to learn more about it before you dive in. Saveur, a magazine I fall more in love with every month, has a great short piece on bones called “Bone Gatherer“. Cheeseslave even did a bone broth challenge, and has a list of links to broth-based recipes, and Melissa, the “Expert Cellulite Investigator” is curing her fluoride-caused cystic acne and (obviously) her cellulite with it. The Weston A. Price Foundation has a couple of articles about how “Broth is Beautiful” here and here. The latter article goes more into depth about the actual contents of bone broth and why they do what they do.

Of course, one of the things that most appeals to me about bone broth is its simplicity in preparation. If it’s too complex, most people, including me, aren’t likely to bother with it. But this stuff is easier than pie, even though you should feel free to complicate it to suit your tastes and what you have currently taking up space in your fridge.

Here is the most basic recipe, and is exactly what I did.

Bone Broth

– Bones

– Water (enough to cover dem bones)

– A splash of apple-cider vinegar

– A big lidded pot to put it in

Heat it up slowly, bringing it to a slow, low simmer, never allowing it to boil. Chicken bones require less time than beef, twenty-four or far less as opposed to twice that, if you want to allow the time, but you can do anywhere from four to seventy-two hours to forever, apparently. In China it’s common for “perpetual broth” to be in restaurant and home kitchens. Solids are removed and buried in the garden every week or two and new stuff is added while the stuff simmers ever onward.  If you feel like adding veggies for extra flavor near the end of cooking, do so. The apple-cider vinegar theoretically helps draw the minerals out of the bones, but I’m still looking around for more evidence of this. Can’t hurt, though. Some people say to skim off the scum that rises to the top off because it affects the flavor or has potential toxins, but I didn’t find it to be a problem beyond simple aesthetics and the toxin idea has been mostly dismissed. I also don’t take the fat off after it cools, either, as some recipes prefer. To make storing and using it simpler, try freezing it in your ice cube trays and storing the cubes in freezer bags to use in more measured amounts as you like.

Then go crazy with it. Put it in everything, the baby bottle, the dog food, the rice, the quinoa, the chili, the soup, the health shakes. And be sure to let me know what you think of it.

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