More Moo Juice, Please?

I sometimes suffer from anxiety so trips to the grocery where there is so much stimuli are few and far between for me. When I manage to go, I am astounded with the variety of products. On my last trip, I was surprised that bottled water seemed to have gone designer with signature bottle shapes.

Another thing that has become so varied is milk. Milk, the first food we ingest as babies. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with milk. I love it (the taste, especially, when it’s ice-cold) but my body hates it. According to my mother, when it was time to wean to formula from breast milk, I had horrible gastrointestinal reactions. It took several tries and the only one I could tolerate was Carnation evaporated milk. It was sheer torture when I was Ireland where milk is served full-fat. I was only able to take a sip because the tour bus did not have a bathroom! When my daughter was a baby, she, too, had problems so she had to take soy milk formula. Would it have been easier had we been born these days? Maybe.

There is so many varieties of milk in the dairy section, both animal and plant-based kinds. Before, it was just a choice between how fatty you want your milk to be (whole, 2%, 1%, skim). Now, there is filtered milk. Filtering is removes water and concentrates the nutrients. It is supposed to have 50% more protein, 30% more calcium, have a richer taste and creamier most feel. Of course, it would because you are pretty much drinking liquid butter!

Another “hypey” milk is the grass-fed organic milk. I am always dubious about food labeled as such. How do I know that it did come from free-grazing cows? Organic standards require these cows get at least 30% of their munchies from grassy pastures. Grass-fed organic standards are more stringent and requires the cows eat only grass. I don’t know if this at all affects the taste but it affects the price.

This morning, I was reading the latest issue of Arthritis Today and one article was titled “Does Milk Make You Hurt?” Okay, we already know it does but does it make arthritis worse, too? Bear with me as I simplify the science behind this claim. The article says that the cows that produce milk in the U.S. produce two types of protein called beta-casein – A1 and A2. Most of the cows that milk comes from are Holsteins (black and white cows). However, Guernsey and Jersey are more likely to produce milk with only A2 beta-casein. So, what is the big deal with A2?

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A2 milk is found everywhere is Australia because their cows are mostly Guernseys and Jerseys. Now it has started showing up on shelves at stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Last year, a study in China with people who drank milk with both A1 and A2 had more digestive discomfort and higher levels of inflammation. On the other hand, another study where people only drank A2 milk, had more glutathione, an antioxidant that can control inflammation (Weir, Kristen, Arthritis Today, March 2017).

It’s useful to note that the Food Standards of Australia and New Zealand are skeptical about the claims for A2 milk and recommends basing your buying on taste and price (Clemons, Rachel, Choice Magazine, June 8, 2016). At $4 per quart, it’s pretty pricey and those who have tried it says that it doesn’t taste any different from regular milk . If you’re interested in trying A2 milk, try a2milk.com   to find a location near you.

In California, most milk is labeled rBST-free. rBST is a synthetic version of the natural hormone BST (bovine somatotropin). This hormone helps increase milk production. This does not affect the nutritional value of the milk so dairy farmers are not required to label their product to indicate use of rBST but those that don’t use the hormone market their milk as “rBST-free.” The FDA has declared that rBST is safe and is species-specific which means that it doesn’t work on humans, only bovines. Pasteurization destroys 90% BST and rBST and whatever remains are broken down into inactive fragments in the digestive system. I was one of those people who was concerned with the hormones in milk and I thought that it was responsible for the early development I saw in teens. But FDA review in 2009 indicate that they have no effect on the human body.

For me, lactose-free milk like Lactaid® works. “Lactose-free” is a misnomer. “It’s neither practical nor really possible to remove lactose from milk” (Livestrong.com). What manufacturers do is react the lactose chemically by introducing small amounts of the enzyme lactase which splits lactose into two sugars, glucose and galactose. This makes it easier to digest. Lactose-free milk tastes a bit sweeter because glucose and galactose bind more to the sweetness receptors on the tongue than lactose does.

I also use coconut milk made by Silk and I’ve tried other plant-based milks but that’s for another post!

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