As it turns out, not all dairy is created equal. There is a major difference in both quality and health benefits between the antibiotic, hormone, and pesticide-laden dairy products most Americans consume and well produced cheese, yogurt, and milk made from pasture-raised animals living on small family farms. Pasture-raised and grass fed animals produce dairy that is significantly higher in vitamins A, E, and C as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Why, you ask? Because the animals graze in sun-filled open pastures, eat grass and grains free of genetically modified foodstuff or animal by-products, and are never given hormones to increase milk production.
In the last few decades small dairies have popped up all over the country to provide nutrient-dense, healthy dairy alternatives to factory farmed products. This year at the annual Fancy Foods Show I had the honor of discovering a few delicious items from local dairies. The following products are made from goat or sheep’s milk, a fantastic alternative to cow’s milk that both tend to be less allergenic. If you have a difficult time digesting cow dairy, try cheese and yogurt from sheep or goat’s milk. They both have unique flavor profiles and are exciting options for those allergic to cow’s milk.
Redwood Hill Farm, Sebastopol- Goat Milk Kefir. Kefir is an enzyme-rich cultured drink loaded with beneficial bacterial. Think of it like drinkable yogurt. It is the ideal addition in smoothies, under granola, and as a milk or cream substitute in baking.
Cypress Grove Chevre, Arcata- Fresh Chevre and Humboldt Fog. This is the best local goat’s cheese hands down. Rich and creamy with a slight tang, their fresh chevres and soft-ripened cheeses make for a perfect appetizer or upscale addition to soups and salads. Visit their website to read all about the family farms that supply their milk. If you are into sharp cheeses, try their aged Midnight Moon and Lamb Chopper. With just one bite they will become staples in your fridge.
Bellweather Farms, Sonoma County- Sheep Milk Yogurt. This is a fantastic find for those who love yogurt. Bellweather sheep milk yogurt is sweet, creamy, and a great source of B vitamins and potassium. For a real treat, try their plain yogurt with a drizzle of wild honey and walnuts. So good you might cry a little.
A few things to look for in your dairy if you can not find the above recommendations:
- An organic label- This will promise that your dairy does not have any hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified ingredients.
- Full fat- That’s right! You always want to buy full fat dairy for the most pure product. Low fat and fat free dairy is full of binders, fillers, and thickeners that our systems do not need. Full fat dairy is also more satisfying which will allow you to eat less.
- Go for the plain- If buying yogurt, always buy plain and sweetened it with honey or organic maple syrup. Flavored yogurts are loaded with added sugar, far more than if you simply sweetened the yogurt yourself.
Enjoy these new dairy discoveries and remember, if you are eating dairy, make sure to do it right!
Jamie G. Dougherty is the Owner and Founder of JAMIE|LIVING, Health and Lifestyle Coaching. She is an AADP certified Holistic Nutrition Coach with a private and corporate practice that offers assistance nationwide. She is passionate about deliciously healthy food and specializes in helping her clients transform their lives through the power of nutrition and self-care.
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