By Catherine Staffieri
Mike’s Organic Delivery is now offering grass-fed, organic, non-homogenized, lightly pasteurized whole milk. Phew, that’s a mouthful of adjectives for one of our most basic grocery purchases. If you’ve started to go cross-eyed when you hit the dairy aisle these days, it’s understandable. There are so many options out there for milk—and not just from cows.
Here’s a quick primer on what all those words on the packaging mean so you can make a more informed dairy decision:
Grass-fed: Exactly as it sounds, cows are grazed on grasses and not grain. Those happy cows amidst rolling green hills on the carton are supposed to show you how your milk was produced.
- Why is this a big deal? There has been research showing that milk produced from grass-fed cows has higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than milk produced from conventionally fed cows. Note, organic milk cows tend to be more grass-fed than grain fed. Therefore, if you choose organic milk without a specific grass-fed label, the milk is likely to contain more omega-3s too.
Non-homogenized: Homogenization is a process whereby the fat globules found naturally in milk are broken up into tiny parts such that they no longer separate out and are distributed evenly throughout the milk. Non-homogenized milk will naturally have a layer of cream or milk fat that floats to the surface.
- Why is this a big deal? Homogenization can make milk more digestible because some of the proteins are denatured in the process.
Lightly pasteurized: Pasteurization is a heat treatment method that destroys microorganisms in milk. Raw milk has live microorganisms and some may be harmful. Proponents of raw milk believe that there are real health benefits that are destroyed in the process. “Light” or “gentle” pasteurization uses low temperatures (145°F vs 161°F) and longer duration (30 min vs. 15 seconds) than the regular pasteurization methods. Advocates for this “low-and-slow” method believe that the taste and health benefits of raw milk are preserved while reducing the risk of harmful bacterial infection.
- Why is this a big deal? The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement in 2013 that advises infants, young children and pregnant women to avoid raw milk due to risk of infection.
Whole milk vs. Skim/Non-fat milk: There are four main classes of fat content for cow’s milk: whole, 2%/reduced fat, 1%/low fat and skim/non-fat milk.
- Why is this a big deal? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends whole milk starting at age one and then 1%/low-fat or skim/non-fat milk at age two. This recommendation is due to the increased rates of childhood obesity and family incidence of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, the recommendation of lower fat dairy products goes for all Americans over the age of two according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, recent research is showing that the saturated fat found in dairy products is not has harmful as it was once believed and can actually have positive health benefits such as being associated with lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of Type II diabetes, as well as a playing a surprising role in weight loss. The higher fat content can have a satiating effect that helps those trying to shed pounds from over-eating at or between meals.
There is more research that needs to be done about the role of different types of saturated fats and their effects on your health so feel free to enjoy MOD’s full fat Greek yogurt and cow’s milk in moderation. Stay tuned for updates on this interesting dietary trend in the coming months!
Catherine Staffieri is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist. She has a local private practice, Roundtable Nutrition, www.roundtable-nutrition.com, and also works for a nutrition consulting business, Your Secret Ingredient, www.yoursecretingredient.com. She lives in Greenwich with her husband and two sons.