Now that you know all about raw and grass-fed dairy and how it completely differs from processed, factory farmed dairy, it’s awesome to learn about all the different types of dairy products you can find or make. Each product has a different benefit, and together can offer a complete nutritional profile for a deficient body.
Grass-fed, Raw, or Cultured Butter
I love butter. Did you know that? You might have too before you “learned” it was bad for you and then convinced yourself you didn’t like it. Oh wait, that was me, but maybe you can relate :) Of course now I probably eat more than the average person, about 4-5 tablespoons a day, but my body is still craving it 2 years later so I give it what it wants. Why would my body crave butter? Yes it’s delicious, but it’s also a nutrient-dense dream boat!
First off, for you fat-pheobic-endo-sistas like I used to be, fat is not just a hunk of oil (minus vegetable oil and margarine, of course). Rather, it’s a molecular metropolis of vitamins and nutrients, all wrapped up in a complex energy delivery system to your body. When it comes to grass-fed butter, we get all sorts of great stuff!
Grass-fed butter has 10-13x more vitamin A, and 3x more vitamin D than its confinement raised counterpart. It’s also one of the best sources of vitamin K2, a nutrient that’s become quite rare in our diets today, and one that’s necessary for mineral absorption. Butter can help sooth and heal your gut with its 4% butyric acid, an ingredient necessary to your large intestine health and which speeds healing along the intestinal tract. Of course it also has anti-cancerous and anti-inflammatory CLA, 3-5x more than feedlot butter. CLA is also associated with weight loss, which is why you see liberal amounts of grass-fed butter being incorporated into high-fat weight loss diets. It’s a delicious win-win.
Butter is also one of the best fats to cook with because of its high saturated fat content. Saturated fats cook at very high heats without oxidizing (like polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats), so great for high heat cooking. If you’re worried about saturated fat and cholesterol, please check out my Ancestral Fats page where I show how the current dietary "advice" on avoiding saturated fats to avoid high cholesterol and heart disease is incredibly outdated. Current scientiﬁc literature is now saying the opposite. This study from 2010 shows people consuming grass fed butter had a 69% lower chance of dying of heart disease compared to those not eating grass-fed butter. Just like our ancestors knew for millennia before us, science is catching up to show us cholesterol and saturated fat is good for you.
And for most of you who are lactose intolerant, butter may still be a great option since it’s 99% lactose free.
I of course have to mention raw milk itself! I'm sure you understand by now just how miraculous of a food this is, so if you have access to it and can tolerate it, I personally don't think you can have too much. It's a perfect mix of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, not to mention B vitamins, vitamin C, A, D, K2, E, CLA, folate, calcium, magnesium, and many other trace minerals your body can absorb. If you deal with chronic fatigue or allergies, do give raw milk a try. It can fill up your energy stores like nothing you've ever experienced, and put an end to seasonal allergies. I used to call it my "ancestral red bull" when I started drinking it because the results were so stunning.
And did I mention the flavor?? If you're not a milk fan, it might be because most store bought milk tastes like liquid cardboard. Raw milk, though, is absolutely delicious. Rich and creamy, yet not weigh-you-down heavy, it's a perfect balance of sweet and rich. The New York Times, blogger Emily Weinstein describes her first raw milk experience:
“The milk — oh man, the milk! — was creamy and full of flavors, not white like supermarket milk, but yellow-tinged. It was milk with a taste that wasn’t just defined by it texture — it was distinct, satisfying, delicious. All food should be like this, I thought, so natural it seems to redefine the word.”
All fermented foods have their own unique environment of microbiology, but kefir is offers a unique type of healing package for us endo girls who need good bacteria to actually colonize the gut.
Kefir is different from yogurt in that it’s fermented using “grains”, a mix of bacteria and yeast that symbiotically work together to digest lactose and casein and leave a probiotic and nutrient rich beverage behind.Kefir is the only ecosystem that houses lactobacillus kefiri, a probiotic that helps defend against bad bacteria like salmonella and e. coli. It additionally has the unique property of kefiran, an antimicrobial polysaccharide shown to combat bad bugs, parasites, and yeasts like candida. That means it slays the bad guys in your gut while infusing it with the good ones.
What’s really cool, is that when kefir is made from real grains (many commerical kefir’s at the store are made from a “powdered” kefir start), they contain several major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yogurt: Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, and Acetobacter species. Together with the rest of the kefir package, these beneficial bacteria are actually known to be able to colonize in the gut, instead of just passing through like most other probiotics. What this means is that the bacteria can actually set up shop in your intestines, strengthening weak areas, killing pockets of pathogens or candida, and working to mend areas of permeability. It’s a true gut tonic.
Additionally, kefir has been shown to improve allergies through supporting the immune system naturally suppress allergic reactions, and can actually improve lactose intolerance (here)! A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics discovered that “kefir improves lactose digestion and tolerance in adults with lactose malabsorption.”
If you can’t get raw milk, feel free to make kefir at home with a quality store-bought organic variety like Organic Valley. Culturing this processed/homogenized milk actually rejuvenates the proteins and makes minerals more absorbable. You can, of course, buy kefir at the store as well, but check with the company to see if it’s made in the traditional way. Often these commercial varieties won’t have nearly the amount of beneficial bacteria as a truly homemade kefir as they're made from a lab-created powder that mimics the taste of kefir.
Raw or Grass-fed Cheeses
I feel I’ve given so much information on the nutritional benefits of grass-fed dairy you should be able to list them with me here: High in vitamins A, E, D, and K2, CLA, enzymes, and probiotics. It also has a perfect omega 6:3 ratio of 2:1, so it’s not inflammatory like its 12:1 feedlot alternative.. So yes, cheese is simply another example of all those benefits, but moreover it’s a great source of complete proteins for people who don’t eat meat. At 7-8 g of complete protein per ounce of hard cheese, that’s that equivalent of 1 oz of meat, or 1 medium egg. Not to mention this type of cheese will be chock full of highly absorbable minerals and anti-inflammatory fats.
Cheese, of course, isn’t for everybody, and some people who can eat yogurt and butter simply cannot tolerate a hard cheddar cheese. I will say, if you have the opportunity it’s worth experimenting with raw cheese, which has extra enzymes that naturally help to break down the fats, sugars and proteins in the milk, making the cheese easier digestible. You can also try goat and sheep cheeses which some people can tolerate much better over cows cheese.
Yogurt, and it doesn’t have to be raw, and it doesn’t have to be homemade
Yogurt, like kefir, is chock full of probiotic bacteria, although of different strains. That’s why I recommend mixing up your ferments rather than just eating one, because it floods your digestive system with hundreds of varieties, each with their own niche and job. Yogurt has lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, and streptococcus thermophilus (different from strep throat, I promise). These beneficial guys are known to help ease digestion and even recommended for people dealing with sever issues of IBS.
If you live somewhere where raw milk is about as taboo as public nudity, there’s a loophole here as in the kefir. After all of my negative talk about pasteurization, I will say that organic, whole milk yogurt is an acceptable alternative to raw milk, and all the better if you make it yourself from an heirloom culture! (Click here to find such culture). But still, as long as you buy it from a good source you can still get some great benefits. Like kefir, fermentation of pasteurized/homogenized milk somehow rejuvenates the damaged proteins, and makes the minerals more bioavailable. Even though it’s more expensive, remember to buy organic since, ounce for ounce, it’s so much more nutrient dense than those sad factory farmed cows’ milk. And always whole-milk, no sugar added yogurts. If you want sweet add your own fruit at home.