When raw milk isn’t available, what’s best?

>>In your opinion, if one doesn’t have access to raw milk, is it better to use a substitute milk (such as almond milk) rather than pasteurized milk? (pretending for a second that price wasn’t a consideration).<<

I was discussing this with a pregnant guest a couple of weeks ago.  Her husband is a proponent of alternative nutrition with a very different approach than mine, and at his suggestion she stopped eating dairy and minimized animal proteins while pregnant.  I shared with her my conviction that in pregnancy, protein is critical (see the guidelines I suggest here), and when asked for what I considered to be good sources of protein, responded with: raw milk, meat, chicken, eggs.  Then we started talking about what to do when raw milk isn’t available.

This is where her husband’s view and mine converged.  Until I learned about traditional food practices about six years ago, I didn’t give my children dairy at all.  When asked by others about why they were so healthy – practically no ear infections, infrequent colds, etc – I always credited not eating dairy as being the main cause.  I felt that dairy products were mucus causing, bacteria laden products that were best avoided.  You can imagine that it was a mental shift when we started drinking raw milk!

Raw milk is a real food, and pasteurized milk is a processed food.  How they’re used in the body is different, and I still strongly lean toward avoiding milk if it’s not raw.  When it comes to pregnancy, I told our guest that I while it’s not an ideal food, I thought the benefits of pasteurized milk outweighed the disadvantages, in accordance with Tom Brewer’s protein guidelines for pregnant women.

Substitute nut milks have their own issues of limited nutrient absorption, so this is far from a black and white issue, and I haven’t seen research that scientifically demonstrates whether  your body is left with more nutrients if you drink pasteurized milk or substitute milks.  I like the taste of milk and so do my kids, so based on that alone we’d be happy to drink it regularly.  But nutritionally, my personal choice since moving here is to leave milk for an occasional treat, and to increase broth and liver intake to boost nutrient intake and compensate for the lack of raw milk.

I’ve made a substitute sesame milk using tahini paste as a base (whiz it up with a lot of water and a little bit of sweetener), which I’m not crazy over but the taste is fine and it’s high in calcium.  (It’s easier for me to use prepared techina as a dip for vegetables to get the nutrients in that way, rather than drinking it, so that’s what I do.)   Making your own nut milks can cut down the cost significantly, if that’s the route you decide to go.

So my not-so-scientific-this-is-just-my-personal-opinion  is, for pregnant women, it might be worth it to drink pasteurized milk rather than nut milks as a protein source.  Otherwise, go for the alternative milks to avoid congestion issues while enjoying a milk substitute, and look into other ways to boost nutrients from other foods.


(This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.)

6 thoughts on “When raw milk isn’t available, what’s best?

  1. I am not a big fan of pasteurized dairy, EVEN when pregnant. In my experience, it did not sit well with me. When I was pregnant with twins, I was especially concerned about protein. I found that eating eggs every day, along with high quality nut butter on whole grain bread, veggies in tahini dip to be vital. Also very important was adding beans to my diet. Yes, beans! I made big pots of bean soup with seaweed in it for extra nutrition and to ease the digestibility problems. I also added lentils and chickpeas to salads routinely. Had none of the blood pressure or sugar problems that can be associated with twin pregnancies.

    1. Rena, I totally agree with you! I would find other protein sources and wouldn’t drink pasteurized milk or nut milks for pregnancy, but I was trying to answer the question about which is better, nut milks or pasteurized milk. (I just added italics to the post to make my points clear, so they won’t get lost!)

  2. This is a good question! I do think there are better “real food” options for protein. I don’t think pasteurized milk is essential.

    That said, I broke down and bought organic milk (at least there are no hormones, steroids, or antibiotics in there!) to make yogurt. I was purchasing yogurt made with the same milk, so I figured it was a step up to make my own. I am curious about making yogurt from another milk, like coconut milk, which is what we use when a recipe calls for milk.

    1. I used to regularly make yogurt from our raw milk, and it was great! Now I’ve decided against anything but occasional use of regular dairy, since as you said, there are other ways to get what it offers without the drawbacks. (I’ve started writing the post about all the changes we’ve made dietarily since moving here and hope to get it up in the next week, and I’ll be sharing more about this.)

  3. I tend to agree with you that it is not a black and white simple choice. Yes, raw milk is an amazing food, but using pasteurized, hormone free, grass fed cow milk to make yogurt is definitely a good choice too. Unless someone has an actual allergy to milk I don’t see a problem with that. getting the benefits of homemade yogurt, in my opinion outweigh the fact that the milk is processed.
    And while it is processed, it is at least free of hormones etc; I also personally give my family cheese even though it is not from raw milk. I find that it can add flavor, appeal-ability, protein , fat and richness to some dishes. We are not talking about something loaded with chemicals,additives, preservatives and NO nutritional value here. there is a difference. A good substitute for raw milk is coconut milk, which has many nutritional benefits and is great in baking and cooking. Again it is important to find a good source for this. I also try to focus more on bone broths, eggs, meat etc; canned salmon is always wild caught, is loaded with calcium (get with skin and bones) and an excellent source of protein. It is affordable too!

  4. it should be noted that in many parts of israel (all? its a small country.) one can buy goats milk from a family that keeps a few goats. usually they boil it to pasturize it. but it wont be homoginized or hormoned and it will be fresh and they may be willing not to boil it.

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