Processed Dairy and Low-Fat Dairy-Phobia
I brought this topic up once or twice on Jimmy's forum back in the day. Basically, aside from whole raw milk fresh from the cow, all dairy meets the definition of processed food. This was usually met with absurd comparisons claiming I was equating butter with Crisco, or real cheese with Cheetos and Cheese Whiz. Let's please put that strawman to bed right now. I am not equating dairy products such as cream, cheese, yogurt, and butter with InsertNameBrandHere processed cheese food slices. But make no mistake about it, you let raw milk sit around and it does not become any of the aforementioned without *some* processing.
Jimmy is apparently learning "life lessons" from TV these days and thinks Angie Harmon is clueless for promoting milk drinking in children, low fat of course. He misrepresents what she says, but it's useless to try to correct someone Livin la Vida Low Clue. (Harmon cites milk as one way to get essential nutrients, not the only way.)
Many in paleo circles treat anything but raw milk as poison of some sort. While I "get that" from a whole/real foods point of view, I'm all for folks getting and consuming raw whole dairy when they can find it, and I'm against the idiocy of outlawing selling same (use appropriate disclaimers and let buyer beware/educated!!), mass distribution of raw milk to feed this nation would be an unmitigated disaster.
Now as much of a dairy lover as I am myself -- cheeses hard and soft mostly, never much of a drinker -- regular readers likely know that when I really think about dairy consumption, it makes me a bit squirmish. While animals have been known to "wet nurse" abandoned little ones of other species even in the wild, and no doubt animals would consume the milk of their lactating prey, it just does not seem "natural" for adult humans to use the infant food of another species, in this case predominantly cows, as a major food source. Yet dairy is so beloved, in fact, that allowances are readily made for its consumption in paleo circles.
One quibble I have with the Jaminets and Perfect Health Diet is the predication of dietary composition on infant food being the perfect adult human food. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding that aspect of PHD. I agree that it is obviously the perfect food/diet composition for humans under a couple years of age. And yet consumption past age 2 or so is rare, and almost unheard of past age 5 or so. The reasons for this can be debated, but are largely irrelevant since the fact of the matter is that humans generally don't consume a mother's-milk diet and are getting all their nutrition from other foods from a relatively early age.
And yet dairy from other species, primarily cow and goat, has been integral to the human diet for millenia and humans in general seem to thrive on dairy. It is also the most palatable animal fat in my opinion. Without salt and crisping, animal body fat is rather gross in my book, but I could eat butter (salted preferred, but unsalted OK) by the pat ... same for drinking cream. Dairy fat is a favorite for fat overfeeding studies!
So anyway, there are certain foods that are favorites amongst low carbers and paleo types. Cream, cream cheese and butter rule in Atkins-land, while ghee (butter purified of milk solids) is acceptable in paleo circles. Let's start with the cream. It's not a huge process, but how is it made? Well, milk is left to sit, the fat/cream rises to the top and then it is skimmed off. Umm ... this leaves ... skimmed milk! And yet somehow the skimmed stuff is inherently healthy while that left behind is not? Worse, the logic here seems to be that some (not the sum) of the parts are better than the whole. An argument could fly that cream would naturally arise from milk on its own (however milk is never consumed in nature by expressing and letting it sit, it's suckled from the source) ... but this is where I would draw the line. Anything more requires *processing* of some sort.
I recall when I mentioned this over on Jimmy's forum, one response that milk basically turned to cheese when left to sour. Umm ... no. You make yogurt by adding cultures. My mom used to make her own with a "sponge" my aunt gave her. You make cheese by adding enzymes. You make butter by churning which separates the fat from the liquids and most milk solids (proteins). You make ghee by dissolving the milk solids remaining in butter in hot water and skimming off purified fat.
The bottom line -- and this is no endorsement of refined/processed grain foods -- is that there's not much difference from a whole-food point of view between isolating the starch or oil from a seed and isolating the fat from milk. I'm not talking about the difference in the isolation/extraction process mind you, but just the notion that one is isolating and concentrating one component of a whole food.
Even Fructophobe-in-Chief Robert Lustig gives lactose and milk a pass from his caloric liquids. I agree. It is probably ideal to avoid all liquid calories, but you can do worse than "pouring one more" glass of milk for your kids (and it looks like Angie's pouring 2% there, certainly not skim milk). Let's compare
Contrary to what Jimmy and other low carbers will claim, lower fat dairy is not "loaded" with extra sugars. They just take the fat out. I think my 2% cottage cheese has like 2g carb/serving more than the full fat version by weight. It's not *added* sugar as is often implied by these lowfat dairy-phobes. My 0% fat Greek yogurt (ideally I'd get 2% but this is way cheaper from where I get it) is made with skim milk and cultures. Period. Who decided that dairy fat = healthy, the rest = not? Well, the rest is apparently healthy and the staple of many low carb dieters -- yep! Process/refine it a bit more and you get whey protein for your shakes and smoothies. Aside for the lactose-intolerant, is there any sense to this logic as far as deciding what whole foods and what isolates from them are healthy or not? (And don't look now but whey is one of the most insulinogenic foods on the planet!)
I propose that low-fat dairy is a perfectly fine food in most cases. No fat? In the context of an otherwise balanced diet, there's no ultimate *need* to be getting a lot of fat from dairy in the diet. Low fat real dairy is almost certainly not a cause of the obesity epidemic in this country (nor is promotion of a low fat diet for that matter). And certainly kids can do a lot worse than getting 8g of animal protein with or without fat.