Kefir part 1: why you should eat it*

So my travel blog is going on a tangent about dairy products.  Dairy products are not bad for you.  But the way they are produced can be.  These days anything dairy that you buy in a grocery store must be pasteurized (it is required by law in most states).  Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to kill bacteria and to increase its shelf life (sounds like a good idea in theory).  Here’s the DL on the different types of pasteurization. 

VAT pasteurized milk is like a person with no opposable thumbs–you lose a little versatility but life is still good.  VAT pasteurization heats the milk to 145 degrees for several minutes.  This type of production leaves most of the proteins and vitamins in the milk intact so the milk is closest to its natural state.  I have only found VAT pasteurized dairy products in health food stores or health food sections of stores.  Almost no major commercial products are VAT pasteurized. 

Regular pasteurized milk is like a person that just took a face-plant on a cement sidewalk.  It’s living and breathing.  But it hurts.  In this process milk is heated to 165 degrees for about twenty seconds.  Most of the proteins in the milk stay intact, but the it loses some of its natural qualities.  For example, regular pasteurized milk will not have a cream top, but VAT pasteurized milk will.

Lastly, ultra-pasteurized milk (here’s where I’m gonna get angry) is heated at 280 degrees for one second.  This obliterates your milk.  It just got the guillotine during the French Revolution.  It is done.   The natural proteins and vitamins are destroyed (hence the reintroduction of synthetic vitamins after pasteurization).  It’s like drinking fortified water.  This form of milk production is so streamlined that the milk in one bottle may come from many different cows.  It is so worthless that you cannot even feed it to your kefir grains (more on the kefir later).  It doesn’t have any of the good proteins and stuff that kefir grains need to eat!  And if you go look closely at the grocery store you’ll see that the majority of milk is ultra-pasteurized!  Ugh!

It’s because of the production of milk–ultra-pasteurization being the worst and pasteurization still not being so great–that it’s so hard on our health.  The body needs all of the parts of the milk–proteins, lactose, fats, bacteria, vitamins, etc.–in order to digest it properly and to take advantage of the health benefits it has.  When some parts are eliminated through pasteurization it becomes really hard for our systems to digest milk.  Not surprisingly, most people are allergic or sensitive to dairy products (often times they aren’t allergic to dairy itself, but the way that it is processed).

And all this leads me to… kefir.  Kefir is milk that is fermented by bacteria (called kefir grains).  You can ferment VAT or regular pasteurized milk (or raw milk if you want to get really crazy).  The bacteria eat a lot of the lactose and fortify the milk with “good bacteria”–you know, probiotics and all that stuff that’s getting so popular these days.  A lot of people who are lactose intolerant can actually eat kefir without problems.

Ok sooooo, next time I’m going to post about my kefir grains and how I make them.  Sorry I’m getting all nerdy on you.  I’m just so excited about my kefir and I want to share it with you!

*My college self tells me I should cite this article buuuuut, I’m not in college anymore (haha).  You can find this information (and more) on health blogs or just by googling pasteurization.  You can also experience it by going to your local grocery store and checking out the dairy section.

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