Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cheese and Paleo

The cheese I bought last night @ Trader Joe's.
To cheese , or not to cheese…that is the question. Dairy, including cheese is not Paleo. Does that mean I shouldn’t eat it? Ever? I want to be healthy. I don’t want to hurt my body. Is eating cheese going to hurt me? Is drinking milk, putting butter in things, making and eating kefir, and enjoying the occasional other dairy product really bad?

The short answer: Maybe.

It depends on your body and the type of dairy. Where that dairy came from seems to be a huge factor. That cheese in a can? Bad, bad, bad. I don’t even want to know what’s in that stuff. I won’t go near it. Grass fed, raw, aged cheddar cheese? Welcome to the Paleo gray area. Personally, I haven’t had any cheese or dairy (aside from eggs and grass fed butter) for months. I don’t really miss it. It’s definitely not something I feel like I need in my diet. That said, I want to experiment with adding occasional dairy to my diet.

I recently ordered some whole milk, some raw milk, and some cream from Pure Eire Dairy. They are local to my state and are/have:
-100% Grass-Fed & Non-GMO Certified
-Hand-selected herd to be free of A1 positive cows
-Antibiotic and Hormone Free
-Free of chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides
-Not combined with any other dairy
-All jersey herd for better grazing and a rich, creamy milk
-Minimally processed milk utilizing vat pasteurization & no homogenization

I plan on making kefir at home along with including some of Pure Eire's dairy into my cooking. I don’t plan on drinking large glasses of milk with every meal, if at all. Maybe a very small glass (<8oz) every now and then. I bought some cream to put in coffee from them as well. I'll be sharing it with a co-worker and keeping it basically as a special treat. Again, moderation. I’m experimenting. Taking it slow.

As for cheese… I haven’t had cheese for almost 4 months. I honestly don’t miss it all that much, but am curious to see what happens if I start to eat some cheese in moderation. For example, I put a small slice of cheese on each of the frittatas I cooked this morning. I also packed a small slice with my lunch today as a special treat. I don’t plan on eating cheese every day. All things in moderation. Balance.

I did some brief digging on dairy, cheese, and being Paleo. Some of what I found is hopeful, some of what I found is disturbing, and ultimately it’s up to you what you want to put into your body, your temple. I try to be informed.

The Pros and Cons of Dairy/Cheese on a Paleo Diet
First off, I need to say that dairy/cheese is not Paleo. I’m not 100% strict Paleo. I try my best, but am willing to make some exceptions for things like grass fed butter and green beans. Now I’m adding exceptions, or experimenting with them at least for now, for certain, carefully selected milks, creams, and cheeses. Cheese itself is actually addicting (so I’ll be careful!).

I found the following four points about why cheese is addicting from Stupid Easy Paleo:
-Cheese is a concentrated source of casein.
-Casein breaks down into casomorphins in the gut.
-Casomorphins have opioid and histamine responses in the body.
-This opioid effect seems to explain why people cite cheese as one of those foods they just can’t give up when going Paleo.

Cheese really is addicting. I didn’t know!

Some good things about dairy/cheese are that, according to Paleo Leap, “dairy can introduce good bacteria with yogurt, kefirs, and possibly cheeses”. They go on to say, “In fact, fermented dairy is, in my opinion, one of the best choices you could make if you decide to consume it, mainly because of the good bacteria, but also because the fermentation process will consume most of the sugars.” Marks Daily Apple claims, “…much of what makes dairy so problematic for people is mostly absent from the best cheeses”.

You see, some bad things happen because lactose is not tolerated very well by a large portion of the population. The exception here, from Paleo Leap, is “Hard cheeses, yogurt and kefir that have been fermented long enough to eat up all sugars won’t have any lactose left, so it’s a good alternative for the lactose intolerant”. Marks Daily Apple points out, “the less lactose a cheese has, the less carbohydrates”. This is good news =). Unfortunately, “Even without lactose, dairy will still have this insulin promoting effect (Cheese: Why You Can’t)”.

Paleo Leap warns, “since dairy is growth promoting because of a multitude of growth factors like IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor 1), undesirable things like acne can become a problem and some people argue that cancer cells could also develop much faster with dairy (The Place of Dairy)”. Paleo Leap goes on to explain, “…we are not supposed to drink the milk from other animals. We are the only mammals who do it”.

Milk needs to be carefully selected. Paleo Leap explains, “regular grocery bought milk is still a very poor choice. The cows probably ate a diet of corn and soy while confined in a very tight environment. As if it wasn’t enough, we skim the milk to reduce the healthy saturated fat and we pasteurize-it, rendering some enzymes and beneficial bacteria infective”. Luckily, they continue to show the bright side saying, “Do not despair though because grass-fed, pasture-raised and organic cows will produce a milk of a much higher quality… it’s high in vitamin K2, omega-3 fatty acids, CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid), a powerful antioxidant and anti-cancer linoleic acid”.

The general advice seems to be to go raw and grass fed whenever possible. This does come with some risks, you need to choose your source carefully! If you can’t go raw, Marks Daily Apple suggests that, “Pasteurized grass-fed cheese isn’t chock full of the delicious bacteria common to raw dairy, but it does retain the higher levels of CLA. Grass-fed cheese, pasteurized or not, also contains the heat-resistant vitamin K2, which Weston Price asserted was the key (along with vitamin D3) to the excellent bone and dental health in the primitive (but supremely healthy) groups he studied” (Is All Cheese).

Then there is Betacellulin. Marks Daily Apple has a good paragraph on it:
“Betacellulin, a potentially dangerous epidermal growth factor that has been linked to cancer, is present in most cheeses. Paleo critics often point to the betacellulin present in dairy as a major deterrent to its inclusion in a healthy diet (rightfully so), but they tend to focus on pasteurized, homogenized non-organic dairy from grain-fed cows – the most common type of dairy consumed in the country. Raw, grass-fed dairy, on the other hand, contains high levels of conjugated lineolic acid (CLA), which has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Raw dairy supporters suggest that the higher levels of CLA present in raw, grass-fed cheese may act as a counterbalance to the negative effects of betacellulin also present” (Is All Cheese).

So, ultimately, there are risks and benefits. Pros and cons. Ups and downs. I figure that I have been almost 100% free of dairy in my diet and I have been fine. I’ll be slowly reintroducing some dairy with moderation in mind and carefully monitoring how I feel. Of course I’ll be blogging about it along my journey! Kefir here I come...

Stay tuned and thanks for reading! Also thanks to Paleo Leap, Stupid Easy Paleo, and Marks Daily Apple. You should check them all out; They have great information.

I want to hear from you! Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Twitter (@SimplePaleoCook)? Email (simplepaleocook@gmail.com)?

"The Place of Dairy on a Paleo Diet | Paleo Leap." Paleo Leap Paleo Diet Recipes Tips. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2014. <http://paleoleap.com/place-of-dairy-on-paleo-diet/>.

"Cheese: Why You Can't Quit It Stupid Easy Paleo - Easy Paleo Recipes." Stupid Easy Paleo Easy Paleo Recipes. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2014. <http://stupideasypaleo.com/2013/10/28/cheese-why-you-cant-quit-it/>.

"Is All Cheese Created Equal?" Marks Daily Apple RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2014. <http://www.marksdailyapple.com/cheese-unhealthy/#axzz38shmv3FC>.

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