Monday, February 10, 2014

wholefood step-by-step: # 6 milk it

Milk is a great example of how processed food has become. Once upon a time people drank milk fresh from a cow (or goat or sheep). 'Milk the cow' would have been an item on your to do list. Not so these days.

Let's take a look at the different milks available and see if I can make it a little easier for you to sort your almond milk, from your soy, cow, goat, rice, oat, A2, skinny milk, raw, pastuerised and homogenised. Oh add coconut milk to that list.

Cow's milk
First, a couple of terms explained. You've probably noticed the words 'pasteurised' and 'homogenised' on the side of cow's milk cartons, essentially this means that the milk has been processed - read changed - from its natural state.

What is pasteurisation?
Pasteurisation is when milk is heated to approximately 72 degrees celcius for 15-20 seconds. The reason milk is treated in this way is to kill all disease-causing microbes.

What is homogenisation?
Basically homogenisation keeps the components of milk together. That is the cream, the fat, does not rise to the top as it did in an old-fashioned bottle of milk. 

Cow's milk (or goat or sheep milk) that hasn't been processed is known as raw milk and is illegal to sell in Australia. The reason it is illegal is because the pasteurisation process destroys any potentially harmful bacteria, the problem is the pasteurisation also destroys the enzymes in the milk and alters the composition making it difficult for many people to digest and leaving it devoid of its natural nourishing properties. I have many friends who seek raw milk out usually through their local health food stores where it is sold as 'bath milk' this gets around the legalities. For more about raw milk read this post I wrote last year, or this post from Sally Fallon author of Nourishing Traditions.

The name of this milk, A2, refers to the type of protein in the milk of Jersey and Guernsey cows. Whereas the milk from Holstein cows, the main breed of dairy cow in Australia, is A1. The key difference between A1 and A2 beta casein proteins is their digestibility, A2 is reported to be much easier to digest this is why it has become increasingly popular. Blogger and nutritionist Katie 180 has written this convincing post in support of switching to A2 milk. And this post from The Food Intolerance Network is worth a look.

Goat's Milk 
Goat's milk has a very distinctive flavour and smell that for most people is quite overpowering in comparison to cow's milk. Some people who find the proteins in cow's milk difficult to digest, find the protein in goat's milk easier on their digestion. Again, the raw form of this milk is the most nutritionally dense. For more detailed information on goat's milk go here.

Rice Milk and Oat Milk
Milk from rice or oats? Yes when I stop and think about that it definitely does not seem right! If eating a low or no processed diet is your aim, then it is best to steer clear of milk substitutes such as these.
I started having rice milk on my porridge or muesli, or in a smoothie, a few years ago when I began weaning myself off soy milk (still a work in progress, I drink soy in my daily coffee). It is very important to read the ingredients on these milks, you might be surprised to learn that most contain oil of some kind such as sunflower and some also contain sweeteners and salt.

Soy Milk
The subject of soy milk probably warrants a whole post of its own but keeping in context of this post if you are going to include soy milk in your diet look for organic, GMO, additive free and be mindful of the quantity you are consuming. There have been many links made between drinking soy milk and hormonal imbalance, namely relating to thyroid regulation. For more info read
The Myths and Facts about soy milk  and my previous post on soy milk.

Coconut Milk
To say coconut anything is flavour of the month would be an understatement! I'm not sure about coconut milk in a morning cup of tea but definitely coconut milk is a great addition to your cooking be it in curries or in baking, or in your favorite smoothie. Here is an excellent article on coconut milk that includes directions to make your own.

Almond Milk
As with rice and oat milk, milk from nuts? I'm not convinced. Once in a while I think almond milk is fine in your smoothie or if you like a warm milk drink. If you want to have a go at making almond milk at home here is a terrific post from The Kitchn on how to do it.

In my house we have rice milk for muesli or porridge and soy milk for chai. The bottle of A2 in the picture above I bought to use in a cake recipe, I am tempted to give A2 a go in place of the rice milk and soy milk but I don't like that it is not organic.

A friend who is a naturopath and agrees that deciding what to eat is difficult especially when there is so much conflicting information available, when it comes to milk she switches the variety around regularly, one week buying rice milk, raw milk the next, oat milk another time and so on.

Things to consider when it comes to choosing the right milk for you and your family
- Is it organic?
- Free of genetically modified ingredients?
- Monitor the quantity consumed
- Look for symptoms - such as congestion, tummy upsets, skin rashes - that could be related to the type and quantity of milk you are drinking.
- Switch milks around to see which one is the most compatible with your digestion and nutritional needs.

** remember, I am not a doctor or health practitioner if you require health or dietary advice please see a qualified professional who comes well recommended.

Further reading

Choice magazine review of alternative milks
Coconut and almond milk in cartons not a healthy buy

Tell me, I am fascinated to know how many different kinds of milk you have in your fridge right now! Share your milk stories in the comments, it may well help someone else.


  1. We have just two types of milk in our fridge, Cleopatras Bath Milk for me and Barambah unhomogenised organic milk for everyone else. I have made and tried almond milk before but haven't been able to get used to the taste so always go back to my favourite:)

    1. Sounds like you have your milk fridge sorted Catherine. I'm with you on the taste of almond milk, I don't mind it in a smoothie but anything else hmmm not so much. x

  2. A good read and great to have the explanation for so many people as the choice of milk out there is such a minefield today. I have shared your article on my facebook page: 'Be Holistic Health'.
    thank you
    Chali Harding

    1. Thankyou Chali I'm very happy to hear it was helpful, thanks for sharing on your fb page. Feel free to leave a link to your facebook page here it sounds like something readers here would be interested in and I couldn't find it when I did a search. x

  3. Hi Nikki,

    I don't think I've told you how much I enjoy this series – I've just sent a link to my sis, as she is going through a major diet overhaul.

    Unfortunately I love my full fat milk ... we sometimes buy organic especially for the kids (which is still pasturised), but this week we have just normal milk (Riverina Fresh). I did not know about bath milk, fascinating.

    Occasionally Osc and I will make our own nut milk, which I quite enjoy in my tea and coffee. Oscar isn't interested in drinking it though, he just enjoys the process!

    Thanks for such a wonderful series. x

    ps your mention of goat milk reminded me of a fabulous piano teacher I used to have that owned two goats and would milk her own daily, sometimes she would let me help. I must have tasted it, but I can't remember the flavour now. She also taught me to knit and bake scones! Oh, and play the piano.

    1. Thanks Imogen. So happy to hear you like it, hopefully it is helpful for your sister good on her for overhauling her diet let her know if she has any questions I'd be happy to help if I can. What a beautiful story about your piano teacher she sounds like a wonderful lady x

  4. Great summary of a complex topic. I never knew what A2 was all about, good thing we got a jersey cow, we drink raw A2 milk every day! Another aspect of milk/dairy is whether its better to eat fermented rather than fresh....

    1. Thanks Liz. You have the ideal milk situation! Be great if we all had a jersey cow in the backyard. Good point about the fermented dairy I will cover that in my step about fermented food which I may in fact write for next week, thanks for the idea! x

  5. Hi Nikki, we go through a bit of milk here seeing as Anouk still likes some to help her sleep at night. Our first choice is Organic cows milk. There are a few different brands we've used including the supermarket labels (which are unfortunately homogenised) so we avoid them if possible. If we can't get organic, we get A2. I also use cow's milk for baking.

    I personally don't drink cow's milk and only ingest homemade almond or tinned coconut milk in cereals.

    It's all so confusing!

    Thanks again for these posts! Luna. x

  6. Years ago I was a Bonsoy addict..until I became quite unwell with an over-active thyroid. I gave up soy in all forms...and recovered. I found out a few years later that Bonsoy was being sued for over-loading their milk with iodine. I think the problem was sorted but I was never game enough to go back to Bonsoy or any other brand - I just didn't want to risk it and my doctor said to keep doing whatever it was that I was doing because my thyroid levels had finally settled. I don't even buy food which has soy lecithin in it - I consider it a garbage filler and totally unnecessary as far as I can tell (it makes me crazy mad that it's put into so much food). I buy cows milk for my children because they love it but sadly I cannot buy organic milk where I live. I buy rice milk for myself but I don't drink very much of it. I tried making almond milk for a few weeks but I found it a hassle to make and would rather spend time in the kitchen making other things my whole family enjoys consuming. I love coconut milk, especially in curries, smoothies and home-made ice blocks. I don't consume very much of it though. We buy it in cans and may use 1 or so a week. So there you have milk story. Great post by the way. PS We can't buy A2 milk here...I would buy it if I could.

  7. We switch up the milk in our home between soy, coconut, and almond. I really only use it for cereal and baking. I will buy cow's milk for certain recipes if I feel like it, but I don't believe dairy is all that good for humans in general, so that's why I mostly stick to dairy alternatives. We give our 15 month old hemp milk, as from what I understand it the most nutritionally complete for the needs of a little one. I do worry about the carageenan in all of these dairy alternatives, which is why I decided to buy regular half and half for my coffee this week instead of the coconut or soy creamer I was using. I guess switching it up feels safest to me, so we aren't getting too much of one thing. Sometimes it seems like everything is bad for you these days!


Thanks for your comments. I read every one!

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