Looking to traditional societies as a guide for healthy eating, it’s easy to notice a trend throughout the ages: cultured dairy. Why? Because cultured dairy products have unique characteristics that makes them even more nutritious than our good friend raw milk!
What is cultured dairy? Think yogurt, cheese, kefir, curds and whey, creme fraiche, pima milk, and clabbered milk. Any traditional culture that consumed dairy included foods like these. Cultured dairy was popular with our ancestors for a number of reasons. One is simply that refrigeration wasn’t available, so milk would simply culture itself when it was stored (neat how it does that, isn’t it?). But cultured dairy products were also revered for their many health benefits:
Good-bye, Lactose. Think you might be sensitive to the lactose in milk? Lacto-fermentation breaks down the lactose over a period of hours. At 24 hours, virtually all lactose is gone! For this reason, many lactose-intolerant folks can enjoy cultured dairy products without side effects.
So Long, Casein. This protein is particularly difficult for the body to digest, but it is also broken down by friendly bacteria during the culturing process.
Hello, Probiotics! Yep, these are the beneficial little guys I spoke of earlier this week in my post about gut health. These beneficial bacteria are what “cultures” the milk, and gobble up all the lactose and casein. They also promote a healthy GI tract and overall vitality. Getting plenty of probiotics can drastically reduce the occurrence and severity of many illnesses, too.
Culturing dairy with raw milk is highly recommended, but the best part about culturing is you can also do it with pasteurized milk (though it should not be homogenized). Culturing can actually restore the wonderful enzyme content of milk which is destroyed by pasteurization. These enzymes are important for digesting lactose and casein, and for absorbing minerals like calcium.
The lost art of culturing dairy has been rediscovered thanks to wonderful books like Nourishing Traditions, and boy do I appreciate that! Next week I’ll explain how I make my own raw milk kefir and yogurt. I’m no culinary expert, so my methods are simple and require as little effort as possible (okay, okay - I’m just a lazy cook). Stay tuned!
Do you love raw milk? Then go check out this raw milk survey at Augie’s blog!
And don't forget to try these probiotic recipes: