The Better-For-You Milk?

“You can’t have it until the baby goats are done with it, and they will be weaned in April.” That was the message I was given by the goat-milk lady at the farmer’s market when I asked whether she was selling any goat milk. (She was selling cheese, so thought I’d ask). It was a stark reminder that we humans are the only mammals to drink another mammal’s milk.  The baby goats, cows and sheep are done after a few months, but we fully grown adults – we just keep on going.

Maybe we shouldn’t….

The lactose-digesting enzyme (lactase) reaches its maximum level in the intestine soon after birth and then declines into adulthood until it reaches a stable level.  Some people maintain a high  level of lactase into adulthood and therefore have no problem digesting milk, but others have low levels and are therefore lactose intolerant.

It turns out that those of us (globally speaking) who tolerate milk well, after infancy, are actually pretty rare.  And it may have something to do with ethnicity – Scandinavians, for example seem to have a low level of lactose intolerance as it’s believed that several thousand years ago they underwent a genetic change allowing them to tolerate lactose since milk was an important part of their diet.  Southern Europeans, North Africans and Asians, on the other hand, have a very high level of lactose intolerance and milk products are not an important part of the diet.  (The Chinese diet has virtually no milk products.)

Although, I’m of Caucasian descent and don’t think I have a severe intolerance, I’ve become increasingly conscious of how much we consume and how unnecessary it really is in our diet.  Yet I also have a one year old (Finn), who I am about to introduce milk to and I am feeling a but conflicted about flooding his system with the milk from another mammal.  Not to mention on top of that, milk that is pasteurized, homogenized (unless you get it from the farmers market), is high in lactase, and has a protein (casein) that for many is hard to digest. I would actually like to not give Finn milk at all anymore, but I think for the short term it’s important for him to get many of the nutrients that are in milk.

Enter goat’s milk …. I’m at the early stage of deciding whether I might give this to Finn. I am already a huge fan of goat milk yogurt – the barnyardy taste alone makes me feel like I’ve just dived into a pile of hay – but there there is considerable evidence to suggest that it is. It is…

  • Lower in lactose
  • Lower in casein (protein) which many people have an intolerance to
  • Naturally homogenized – meaning the fat does not separate from the rest of the milk. When milk is homogenized  – which most cow’s milk is – it destroys the fat globule cell wall and produces free radicals in the milk which your body has to get rid of.

One thing that is NOT in goat’s milk is vitamin D – this is added to most cows milk so if (or your kids) drink goats milk (or the yogurt) that’s one thing to keep in mind.

So that’s where we stand. I’ll keep you posted as to what direction we go … but would love to hear from any of you if you’ve ever tried goat milk…  What about the yogurt? Like it more than cow?


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  • ImpureScience

    I like goat’s milk a lot. I’m a musician; I used to live in New England, and would sometimes drive to gigs in New Bedford. I remember seeing signs at farms along the way for goat’s milk; I was curious, stopped in and bought a few quarts. I was very pleasantly surprised: I liked the taste quite a bit more than cow’s milk from the store and started buying the goat’s milk whenever I could find a farm selling it. Of course it’s possible that the goat’s milk was fresher, but I could definitely taste a consistent difference. It’s hard to find reasonably-priced goat’s milk where i am now and I’ve largely switched to soy milk, but I do get a lot of goat’s milk cheese.

  • KarmaCucina

    Please, please, PLEASE keep us posted. I have a 10-month old that I am transitioning from breastmilk to regular milk next month and am facing the same issue you are. I am having a terrible time making a decision about this, but know I must commit to something very soon.

  • cookeliza

    I have almost eliminated dairy from my diet. I do eat some cheese from time to time but not often. The reason I stopped was that I read The China Study. According to the book there is strong evidence that casein is linked to breast cancer. Also, I don’t really know if the two are connected but I had joint pain in my shoulders that has completely disappeared. I haven’t done anything different except stop eating dairy. I do take vitamin D supplements, but I was taking them before I stopped the dairy products.

  • Carrie

    I have a 9 month old and I am branching into raw cows milk, cheeses, and creams. Wish me luck, from what I hear it is the best for them. I also do not feed my child any grains, which reals havoc on her baby gut. I will not until she has molars.

  • Jen

    If you switch to goat’s milk, you might want to research well formulated Vit D for toddlers.

    I eat mostly plant-based and had switched my family to unfortified rice milk. I figured my daily over- the-counter vitamin supplements along with a very nutrient-dense diet (green smoothies with flax+green juice+cupfuls of G-BOMBS daily) had me covered.

    Recent blood tests showed low D, B12, iron, iodine & Omega 3 EPA. I’ve switched to sublingual and liquid vitamins where possible because I wasn’t absorbing others, some I now purchase through my doctor. (For B12, methylcobalamin is much better absorbed than the common & previously used cyanocobalamin. I was also not absorbing a gummy form of D3. Not sure if it’s problems with my ability to absorb or lesser quality vitamins. Will know soon if the new ultra-expensive ones improve levels, but already feel better.)

  • catnapper

    just wondering what nutrients are presumed to be in milk that isn’t in available in a balanced diet?

    • Michelle Madden

      None really. You can do very well without milk! For a baby/toddler, the key nutrients you want them to get are Vit D and calcium, both which are high in milk (though the D is added). But if you’re diligent about finding other ways of getting hi levels of calcium into the toddlers diet as well as giving them supplemental Vit D, then there is no reason for milk.

  • AliciaN

    I don’t care for the taste of goat’s milk. Although I have been told that if the does (females) are kept in close proximity of the bucks (males) while in milk, the buck’s musky-ness can affect the flavor of the milk.
    I took the plunge and committed myself to our own dairy cow. Love love love the raw milk and all the products I can make with it.

    • Michelle Madden

      I am so jealous. If only the Board of my apt building would allow us to own cows….

  • michelle carlson

    My kids are grown up now, (nearly 30) and I breast fed for a long time and then they went straight to raw cows milk. If they drank “store milk” they got diarhea right away, but if they drank the raw cows milk, they were fine. We didn’t try goats milk as there were no local goats to offer us milk at that time, but my son-in-law was raised on that. My daughter has a friend with a young child that has diabetes and they have been able (for two years) to control it with diet, he is able to metabolise goat milk and yogurt but raw cow milk doesn’t work as well, I am not sure of the science behind that, but that is what is working for them.

  • Jolene

    I’m kind of the odd one out here, but my body tolerates dairy really well. I kind of agree with your opinion on how odd it is.

  • Rita

    I have tried and love goat’s milk, but it is difficult to get and I worry about how carefully it is handled by our local small family farms. I am very cautious what I give to my young children, so we usually stick with organic whole milk and haven’t had any issues.

    I wanted to comment that my husband was terribly lactose-intolerant (he is german/french) for years and had sworn off most dairy. A small glass of milk would cause hours and hours of gastric/intestinal distress. Months ago we went 100% gluten-free (and increased our intake of whole foods/fruits/vegetables and reduced our intake of preserved and “gluten-free junk food”) and he has absolutely no dairy issues at all. For the first time since he was young he can drink a giant glass of milk with no discomfort.

    If you do some research on the net there is some scientific sense why wheat/gluten could make a person lactose-intolerant (along with a huge laundry list of serious issues). I have a science background and I know that nutrition is an inexact science with huge variables, but in my husband’s case, the “proof is in the pudding”.

    I love your site! I am curious what you think about the entire gluten-free craze. I thought it was crazy myself, but since going gluten-free our family feels great, I have no more carpal tunnel syndrome, my mother’s horrible achy “arthritis” is gone, my husband is not lactose-intolerant, my sister’s asthma has cleared up, and our kids are less hyper and feel great.

    We also stay away from most prepared foods, so I am sure that also makes a huge difference. :-)

  • Dr Kim, MD

    Keep in mind that goat milk has no folate or vitamin B12 — make sure that little ones especially are getting B-vitamins in their other foods, as well as iron! For a nice summary of “alterna-milks” by a pediatrician check out this post:
    Dr Kim MD

  • Emily Elizabeth

    My daughter is three now and never has had milk. I stopped breast feeding her a little after she turned one and the only thing she drinks is water. I had already pumped a good amount of breast milk that was in the freezer, so I would thought that and blended in with sweet potato or avocado or kale or a combination of all sorts of vegetables for baby food (even seaweed). She loved it. Later andI even now, I blend vitamin d and C into her pancakes along with fruit such as banana and apples, and vegetables and greens such as butternut squash and kale. I also give her nutritional yeast on oorganic popcorn por sweet potato fries which is great for vitamin B.

  • petitegourmet

    I just finished eating a goat yoghurt right before I read this post funny enough.
    I love it, my 7 year old not so much..
    She finds the flavour too strong.
    But she has no problem eating strong goat cheese??humph..
    She doesn’t really drink much cow milk, maybe one glass of 1% organic a day- at the most.
    Plus cheese.
    I don’t think we have any intolerance that I know of, but we tend to consume it sparingly.

    Love your blog btw.

  • kathryn

    Hi Thought I would put on a link for some of the amounts of Vitamins and minerals that are in goat milk and the amounts will be different as to what the goat(or cow eats,) whether it is outside or inside, what breed it is etc.,94/ goat and cow milk from animals out in the sun and eating pasture have a good amount of Vitamin D and B’s the store bought pasteurized milk has it added in because the process destroys a lot of the nutrition of the milk and most of those cows live inside barns and can not create the amount of Vitamin D that they should it is a hormone created by being in the sun. These cows are then not fed a diet they would regularly eat including antibiotics and are bred and fed to over produce milk that is then due to that not as nutritious. There are other things like antibodies and good bacteria that are destroyed with pasteurization, as is the ease of digestion of the milk. Raw milk can be compared to giving a baby breast milk over formula. But you want to make sure that it is from healthy pastured animals, and the milk is handled properly. We have our own goats and milk them for that very reason and that raw milk at the store is so expensive I would rather own the goats. Oh and just a note, my goat milk does not taste anything like the stuff at the store, it does not have the gameness because we chill it quickly and what they eat, if I want to make goat cheese it is not as strong either but I might be able to do that without chilling it and just culture it up right away.

    On farms and in traditional cultures, folks all over have drank milk from cows water buffalo, yaks, horses, sheep, camels,goats, etc. and fed it to other animals on the farm, dogs, cats, pigs, chickens not just humans. They also usually drink raw or cultured milk and don’t have problems with them. many of us who have farms still do that, some of the best tasting pigs are raised drinking milk. What we are seeing with people today is not the fact that we are not supposed to drink milk as adults, but that we have changed our diets so much and are bombarded with so many chemicals in our daily lives and food lacking the nutrition that it once had that we have degraded our immune systems and our digestive system. Two of the foods that we have the most sensitivities to as a culture is gluten and lactose. Folks that repair their digestive systems thru cleaning up their diet eating more real whole seasonal foods and utilizing diets like the restrictive carbohydrate diet called GAPS and others that restricts a lot of varieties of food at the beginning allowing your body to repair then starting adding back foods that people are less sensitive first then building up to the ones they have more problems with over time can cure problems like lactose intolerance and celiac disease. A note on the gluten intolerance most of the wheat used today are highly manipulated hybrids that have entirely different and higher gluten than in the past, so we are eating a super wheat that is not the same as the wheat before the 70’s.

    I also wanted to put in a note because someone mentioned the China Study book that I have heard they were not using all of the information from the studies so many things were misrepresented. I want to set up a scenario, and lets look at it like the Mythbusters would look at it, Is this probably? No. So lets look at what different cultures and peoples have eaten traditionally and see all the different things we can eat, we are omnivores on the top of the food chain. If you were living on lets say five acres and had to sustain yourself, how would you do it, you would have fruits and veggies, you would have animals for meat, milk and eggs, and you would look at foraged foods, wild plants, fish, mushrooms, game, nuts, and insects. We have four acres, a big portion of that is pasture for the goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks. Part is in a food forest of perennials including herbs and edible weeds and native, and a smaller portion is in both a perennial/reseeding winter year round garden and a summer garden. If I had to tighten it up we could feed ourselves entirely on what we have on the property, and swapping extras with other folks for things we don’t grow. We would also be eating a lot more of the silk worm larvae that we raise like they do in China. But you look at things that are at least dual purpose, animals that can feed you and other animals, convert grass and brush into fertilizer, cloth you, work at pulling carts or plows, etc. So you tell me how a whole nation of people would just turn their cheek at something like feeding milk and meat to their kids if it is available but instead let them go hungry. We are so disconnected to our food sources these days that people would actually buy into something like that.

  • kathryn,94/

    Sorry It looks like the link got cut off.