Paleo and Dairy
Learn all there is to know about dairy on a paleo diet.
All About Dairy on a Paleo Diet
Dairy is one of the food groups that has evolved as the Paleo diet has evolved.
The first version of the Paleo diet, and what is commonly called "Strict Paleo," eliminates all forms of dairy.
But as more people start experimenting, researching and writing on Paleo, various 'sects' of Paleo started looking at dairy with a less suspicious eye.
Dairy has now found its way back into various versions of the Paleo diet to varying degrees depending on who you talk to.
Types of Dairy
One of the problems with eliminating the entire food dairy food category is there are many forms of dairy, and even more variations within each main dairy subcategory.
Due to the many dairy variations, it's best to treat each dairy product in vacuum, and pass it through our Real Food quality control tests.
The main forms of dairy vary wildly in their nutritional properties. Some dairy has a lot of lactose and some has little to no lactose. The same can be said of casein.
As a result of all this dairy variation, some dairy is simply more health promoting than other forms.
We'll look at each dairy category and it's relative scale of safety for optimizing human health.
Dairy and The Human Body
It is estimated that around 65% of adults have a reduced ability to digest lactose.
What this means is, some people tolerate certain dairy products better than others.
But not all dairy products contain lactose, or contain trance amounts, like our Wild Whey grass-fed Whey protein and cream and butter.
The other main dairy sensitive relates to casein, the main protein found in cheese and milk. But again, these individuals might do fine with cream or butter due to the low-to-nonexistent levels of casein.
Everyone is different when it comes to dairy. This is why you have to listen to your body when eating dairy. You might do well, OK, average, not so good, bad or terrible on dairy.
That said, if you are struggling with weightless, skin issues, or any other general health problems, you should consider cutting out dairy for a period of time to see how you do.
Dairy is growth promoting, which makes sense considering nature developed it to feed babies.
The problem is, for adults, anything that promotes growth can cause issues. Growth promotion can trigger cancer cells as well as general inflammation.
This is why, if you have trouble gaining weight, dairy may be a useful tool for you.
Dairy is a nutritional powerhouse full of beneficial bacteria, saturated fats, essential fatty acids and other immune boosting properties.
It's also delicious.
Until recently, most dairy that you found in grocery stores was junk. That's not the case anymore as more and more small producers meet the demand for high-quality dairy.
Insulin and Milk
Milk is one of the most insulinogenic foods there is—meaning it spikes a large amount of insulin. The fact that you drink it makes it even more insulin promoting since it enters the bloodstream faster than in whole form.
If you've already read our section on hormones, you already know that too much insulin is something most of us don't need, and for others, is often the root of their health/weight issues.
Too much insulin can lead to inflammation and fat weight.
But that's not the only problem with milk, one of the most widely consumed dairy products in the world.
Most milk is chemical laden poison completely lacking in all the beneficial nutrition found in raw milk.
The pasteurization process, which is required by law, kills the majority of the beneficial Immunoglobulins found in raw milk, which are the main thing milk has going for it.
When you heat milk and kill most—or all—of these immunoglobulins, you reduce any health benefit from drinking that milk. And since milk is already "iffy" on the pro/con scale for health promotion, it means industrialized, pasteurized milk is:
Milk-flavored sugar water.
Personally, when I switched from drinking milk to not drinking milk, I saw drastic weight loss results, especially in the abdominal region. I've seen this result in countless clients over the years as well.
Don't: Drink cheap milk.
Do: Find raw, full-fat milk, preferably from a grass-fed animal. And make sure you test it on yourself—watch for bloating and other gastrointestinal issues.
The primary protein in dairy products, casein, can be problematic for humans.
Some people tolerate casein better than others. It's one of those things you have to test for yourself.
Casein is found in milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir, ice cream. Butter and cream only contain trace amounts of casein—one of the reasons butter and cream are typically considered the safest dairy foods.
Conjugated Linoleic acid is a "good" trans-fat found in meat and dairy, with higher concentrations found in the milk of grass-fed animals.
CLA is one of the good things you get from eating full fat, grass-fed dairy products.
Fermented dairy consumption has been found in various hunter gatherer groups.
Examples include yogurt, kefir, cultured butter and certain cheeses.
Fermenting dairy increases the shelf life as well as improves the amount of beneficial probiotics in the dairy product.
Fermentation also eats up most of the lactose in the dairy, which reduces the insulin and sugar load.
Look for products that are made from the raw milk of happy, free-roaming, cage-free, grass-eating animals.
Full Fat Dairy
When you switch to a Real Food diet full of healthy fat and whole nutritious food, you no longer look at fat as a bad thing.
In fact, you actively seek out clean sources of fat and make sure to eat more of it in general.
On that note, "Low fat" dairy is not something you should ever consume if you can help it.
Not only are you missing out on much of the nutritional benefit from eating dairy—the saturated fat—but you're also likely getting a more highly refined or processed ingredient that replaces some of the fat with other crap.
When you decide to go dairy, go full fat dairy.
Grain-Fed Dairy Versus Grass-Fed Dairy
The Mass-produced milk you find in grocery stores is made from the milk of stressed, sick, antibiotic-filled cows that eat GMO corn, soy and grains.
While it's important to eat animals that are happy and eat a diet natural to their species (like grass for cows), the same rule applies to the milk of animals.
Sick animals produce sick milk, which if consumed by humans, produce sick humans.
On the flip side, happy and healthy animals produce healthy milk, which can help make happy and healthy humans.
Milk from sick cows is lacking in the nutrition you find in milk form healthy cows, and often contains a major skewing of omega-6 over omega-3 fatty acids, which contributes to inflammation in the human body.
Types of Dairy
Milk - Is the least Paleo, least Real Food, of all dairy products. This is due to the insulinogenic nature of milk as well as the sugar (lactose) content and the pasteurization process. (A cup of milk contains 13g of sugar, btw.) If you are watching your weight, stay away from milk. If you are looking to gain weight, look for the highest quality milk you can find, ideally grass-fed and organic and local.
Cheese - Opt for cheese made from raw, grass-fed milk and opt for organic whenever you can. If you have skin issues or other digestive problems, it may be best to stay away from cheese until you can diagnose what's causing you problems.
Yogurt, kefir are forms of fermented milk/cream that have varying amounts of lactose removed. They contain casein and lactose depending on the style of yogurt or kefir and how it's made. For these products, you want to buy the best quality you can find, always organic, and test how you feel when introducing them into your diet.
Cream - Like butter, cream is mostly saturated fat with trace amounts of casein and lactose. Same rules for choosing high-quality milk or yogurt apply to cream.
Butter - The most widely accepted form of dairy on a Paleo diet. All dairy is considered a Neolithic food, meaning discovered after the later part of the stone age, and so it is not technically "Paleo." The thing about butter that has made it so widely accepted as a Paleo food is just how nutritious and delicious it is while also not coming with the same issues that most dairy products come from—due to the lack of casein and lactose. When you eat butter from healthy grass-fed animals (Like Kerrygold brand), you get the benefits of increased CLA and omega-3 intake, both of which help to classify butter as a superfood.
Ghee - Butter that has been melted to separate the water and milk solids, producing pure butter fat. Ghee is better than butter for individuals that may have issues with the small amounts of casein and lactose you find in butter. Ghee also has a higher smoke point than butter, making it a staple in the healthy kitchen.
Summing up Dairy
Certain dairy products (milk and cheese) come with more problems than others (cream, butter, yogurt).
If we had to break it down into a scale, it would look something like this...
From more problematic to least:
- Milk (most problematic)
- Butter (Awesome)
Read your labels:
- Buy local if you can
- Grass-fed animals
- pasture raised
- Cage free
- Full fat - not "low fat"
The most important aspect of including dairy in your diet is listening to how your body responds to it. Signs that dairy may be causing you problems include bloating, gas, markers of inflammation, acne and other skin issues.
Some people will do fine with dairy products while some won't be able to stomach any of them.
Wherever you fall on that scale, make sure you are consuming only high-quality dairy.
Finally, cheap mass-produced dairy is something no one should consume no matter what.
So step back and put down the milk!