by Kathryn Matthews
I’d love to love dairy, but it doesn’t love me.
Let me count the ways: bloating, gas, sinus congestion…etc.
So, in what may seem like a counter-intuitive move—and the jury’s still out!—I decided to try Maple Hill Creamery’s certified organic, grass-fed (plain) whole milk yogurt.
Getting enough absorbable, food-grade calcium has been a front-burner issue for me. Being Asian, I’m at relatively high risk for osteoporosis. My maternal grandmother had osteoporosis. Over time, she became progressively more and more hunched. She died at 91, having lived a long life, but osteoporosis could not have made the end easy. Or comfortable.
Given my family history, not only am I at risk, but at a time when I could really benefit from dietary calcium, I’ve also developed a seeming intolerance for dairy foods.
Yes, I do take calcium supplements, but my wonderful and patient-dedicated holistic nutritionist, Karen Spencer Dees has been trying to connect me with a food source of calcium that my body will accept for a more “direct hit” of calcium (it’s always “iffy” with supplements as to how much calcium your body actually absorbs).
Last year, Karen wanted me to clean the slate: she had me eliminate all dairy products from my diet for two months. Gradually, she had me reintroduce dairy in various forms. Fat-free organic milk. A lighter style, organic yogurt. Kefir. Goat’s milk. Goat’s yogurt. Lactose-free milk.
Of everything I’ve tried, we’ve found one promising candidate: Fage Total 0% fat Greek Yogurt. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been eating one-quarter cup of fat-free Fage on a daily basis, without consequence.
So, Fage was the yogurt that I was looking for this weekend when I walked into the Red Hook Natural Foods—our go-to health food store upstate.
But Sue, a longtime staffer, who grew up on a goat farm in Pennsylvania and has experienced, first-hand, the benefits of drinking minimally processed milk, as well as raw milk, persuaded me to try grass-fed yogurt. I balked when I discovered there was no fat-free option, but Sue assured me that the fat of pastured cows would have a protective effect on the body. And that I would not gain weight from the grass-fed milk fat.
What I discovered after opening my 32 oz container ($5.99, what a deal!): a pale, buttery yellow yogurt (thanks to the grass, there are higher levels of beta-carotene) with a delicately crusted cream top and a distinct, tasty tang. The flavor strikes me—in a good way—as a cross between butter and grass.
So far, I’ve enjoyed it as a mid-afternoon protein-rich snack: one-half cup with a drizzle of raw local honey, and, for breakfast, one-quarter cup plain yogurt (no honey!) mixed with my local fruit salad of plums and blueberries. Delicious. No bloating, to date. And I do seem to experience a surge of energy after eating it.
The Meck family, who own and operate Maple Hill Creamery in Little Falls, N.Y., make their products in small batches (which means more nutrients for us). In New York, Maple Hill Creamery is available at Whole Foods, and health and specialty food stores; they’re also available in select Northeast markets.
Why is whole milk fat from grass-fed cows so nutritious?? Jo Robinson explains in-depth at eatwild.com, but I’ll give you the cliff notes version.
Two reasons. It contains a high level of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an antioxidant and cancer-fighter type of fat. Research suggests that when adequate CLA is ingested in whole food form (not supplements), it can help toward reducing total body fat. Unfortunately, the CLA in milk from conventional feed-lot cows is greatly reduced or virtually non-existent.
Second, as Robinson points out, milk from grass-munching cows contains a coveted one-to-one ratio of two essential fatty acids (EFAs), omega-6 and omega-3 acids. In our modern diet, the omega-6s (found in nuts, seeds and extracted nut and vegetable oils) that we get are more often from vegetable oils, like corn oil, or refined soybean oil, ubiquitous in fast food and processed snack foods, and overshadows our omega-3 intake (think salmon, walnuts and eggs). A diet that is consistently high in omega 6 and low in omega 3 is linked to increased risk of inflammation, heart disease and many cancers.
Well, I love grass-fed rib-eye steaks. That grass-fed dairy offers stellar health attributes is a bonus. Now, I’m hooked on the exquisite tang and creamy texture of Maple Hill Creamery’s whole milk yogurt. Absolutely addictive.
Let’s hope it loves me back….