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The Do’s and Don'ts of Dairy

By Kirsten Zoellner

Mon, Jun 4th, 2012
Posted in All Agriculture

“Drink milk. No, wait! Don’t drink milk. Oh, wait; our bad. Drink milk after all.” Similar to the butter versus margarine debate of the 90s, this is the rhetoric that bounces around, confusing the lot of us and making healthful nutrition decisions frustrating. Well, rest assured. Dairy is one of nature’s best and has been shown to be a beneficial part of the diet, as stated by typically conflicting sources.

It’s no secret that milk and other dairy products offer numerous essential nutrients including amino acids, calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium, phosphorous, vitamins 1, B12, and D, as well as pantothenic acid, a known aid to the conditions of asthma, allegies, stress, anxiety, and respiratory and heart issues. These nutrients have been widely touted to fight calcium deficiency, high blood pressure, type 2 Diabetes, and certain types of cancer. According to the National Dairy Council, “Nutrient-rich dairy foods not only help build healthy diets, they also contribute to healthier lives.”

For years this has been the basis of claims for dairy-related organizations such as the American Dairy Association, the Midwest Dairy Association, and the dairy council. But is it true? Many in the anti-dairy set dispute the validity of nutrition studies done by the USDA and other sources as corrupted by various dairy industries. Arguments over organic and or grass-fed versus conventionally-raised, pasteurized versus non-pasteurized, low-fat versus whole fat, and more have seeded these disputes further. However, no one is arguing that dairy products can “do a body good” if consumed as part of a well-balanced diet.

Take for instance the current hot topic of choice, the obesity issue. For years, many were under the impression that the consumption of dairy would not only make them fat, but clog their arteries, leading to heart attack or stroke, as well as complicating a whole host of other body issues. Now, a new study by a Swedish research team has us reeling from the results.

In the study, those who consumed at least one serving of whole milk or cheese gained less weight than those who consumed low-fat or no dairy. Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the findings are of no surprise to the Dairy Research Institute. “This research supports previous studies showing that higher protein diets during weight loss may help preserve muscle while losing fat. Additionally, this study demonstrates that this higher protein diet can be achieved through an increase in dairy foods.”

Of course, none of this will come as a surprise to farmers who’ve long seen pigs feed skimmed milk fatten faster than pigs fed whole milk, as noted by Dr. Joseph Mercola, a popular voice in the alternative medicine world and backer of the raw milk ‘movement.’ “A 2005 study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that this seeming paradox holds true for humans as well. After following almost 13,000 children for three years, they found that weight gain was associated with drinking reduced-fat and skim milk. However, they also concluded that it wasn’t dairy fat itself that caused the weight gain, but rather the excess calories.”

The same rings true with the Weston A. Price Foundation, a proponent and advocate of nutrient-dense diets, particularly hormone and antibiotic-free whole, raw milk. “But Real Milk - full-fat, unprocessed milk from pasture-fed cows - contains vital nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A and D, calcium, vitamin B6, B12, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid naturally occurring in grass-fed beef and milk that reduces body fat and protects against cancer). Real milk is a source of complete protein and is loaded with enzymes.”

These sentiments echo the findings of the recent DASH approach promoted by groups such as the U.S.-based National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the USDA, and Mayo Clinic. DASH, meaning Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, has demonstrated dramatic effects in lowering blood pressure through a diet rich in dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. “Over the past decade, the importance of consuming a healthful diet has emerged as an effective strategy together with recommended lifestyle practices to help manage blood pressure and improve heart health. The landmark study, called the DASH Trial, provides compelling support for a blood pressure-lowering effect of dairy foods,” notes the National Dairy Council.

Of course, all those countless farmers, who tell us that their day they drank milk straight out of the bulk tank and lived a good, long life serve as just as good a testament to the benefits of milk as those big organizations. In the end, we’re the best advocate for our own health and at least in the eyes of the 109 dairy farms in Fillmore County, that health includes cool, delicious milk.

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