By Sally Fallon Morell
Years ago I wrote an article called “Be Kind to Your Grains. . . and Your Grains will be Kind to You,”1 noting that grains are very difficult to digest without proper preparation such as soaking and sourdough fermentation.
One of the ways that we are cruel to our grains is the extrusion process, whereby grains—both whole and refined—are transformed into breakfast cereal. Extrusion involves high heat (120-140 degrees C) and pressure to force a slurry of grains out a tiny hole to make corn flakes, Cheerios, shredded wheat, puffed grains, etc. Unpublished research indicates that in the extrusion process, the proteins in grains become warped and distorted, with very toxic effects. Rats fed extruded grains die within a few weeks, and in a corn flake experiment, rats fed corn flakes died sooner than rats fed the box they came in! The corn flake-fed rats suffered seizures and died of convulsions, indicating extreme toxicity to the nervous system.2 And a recent study found that extruded grains can cause undesirable changes to gut flora.3
A new study out of China indicates that heat processing has a similar effect on milk proteins. The researchers looked at four processing methods: boiling (presumably to imitate the pasteurization process), microwave heating, spray drying, and freeze drying. Not surprisingly, the heat-intensive processing methods caused oxidative damage to the proteins. Interestingly, microwaving caused more damage to the milk proteins than boiling!
The real surprise was the finding that freeze-drying caused as much damage as heat-intensive spray drying (150-175 degrees C). When spray-dried and freeze-dried milk powder were fed to rats, both groups developed oxidative damage in plasma, liver, and brain tissue. Further, “hippocampal inflammatory and apoptosis genes were significantly up-regulated. . while learning and memory genes were significantly down-regulated. Eventually, varying degrees of spatial learning and memory impairment were demonstrated.”4 In other words, rats fed milk that was spray-dried by both heat and freezing became stupid.
Where do we encounter spray-dried and freeze-dried milk powders? Number one is low-fat and especially non-fat milk. Manufacturers routinely add spray-dried skim milk to non-fat and low-fat milks to give them body—to keep them from looking blue. They don’t have to label this additive because the FDA allows manufacturers to call spray-dried milk powder “milk” on the label. That means that the non-fat and low-fat milks that so many people dutifully consume—and give to their children on government recommendations—contain oxidative protein products that can damage the blood, the liver, and the brain.
Spray-dried milk is the first ingredient in chocolate milk fed to children in school lunch programs. (The second ingredient is sugar.) Just think, the main beverage that our children are drinking in school causes damage to the blood, the liver, and the brain! The children also get extruded cereal in school breakfast programs and they often put chocolate milk on their cereal! Is there any wonder that we have such a tragic health crisis in our children today?
The distribution of whole fluid milk is actually something of an inconvenience to the dairy industry, especially in Third World countries—it’s heavy and wet and requires refrigeration. Plus, they can get so much more money for the valuable butterfat by putting it into ice cream. Why waste the butterfat on growing children when we can get the government to forbid whole milk in school lunches? The long-term plan is to ship bags of skim milk powder to impoverished areas of the world, where it can sit in warehouses for years, and then reconstitute it with vegetable oils for sale on supermarket shelves. All this will happen in far-away places before reconstituted milk “rich in polyunsaturates” comes to the U.S.
What about whey left over from the production of cheese? Up to 88 percent of milk is whey, so disposal of the liquid whey poses quite a problem for the cheese industry. You can’t put whey in the sewers because it rapidly becomes very acidic and will etch holes in the concrete pipes. A lot of very acid whey is a by-product of Greek yogurt production and someone recently told me that in Greece, they dump this whey into the Mediterranean Sea, causing acidification of the Mediterranean waters.
Here in the U.S., they solve the whey problem by spray drying it. As you can imagine, in a nation of cheese eaters, this is a huge industry. Whey powder serves as an ingredient—often labeled as “natural”—in baked goods, including crackers, muffins and bread, salad dressings, emulsifiers, infant formulas, and medical nutritional formulas. It’s also foisted on the public as whey protein powder for use by athletes and in smoothies. Whey protein is more fragile than casein protein in the milk solids, so damage by spray drying is likely to be higher. Doctors routinely warn kidney patients to avoid it. The irony is that the last thing Westerners need in the diet is more protein!
Then there are all the plant-based proteins out there—soy protein, pea protein, rice protein, etc. These proteins must first undergo separation from the plant matrix—a process that involves a lot of chemicals—and then high heat to make the powders. They are likely to abound in toxins— the toxins originally in the seed (especially high in soybeans) and the toxins formed during processing.
What about freeze-dried proteins? Where do we encounter them? These often show up in foods for the health-conscious consumer as freeze-dried milk powder, freeze-dried whey, and freeze-dried colostrum. Buyer beware!
As you can see, we need to treat our proteins with care. Fragile milk proteins, especially, should not be heated, as even the relatively low heat of pasteurization denatures them. Tightly bound meat proteins actually benefit from gentle heating, such as braising and stewing, which opens them up to expose more surface area for digestive enzymes. Collagen proteins may be the toughest of the lot, as they can be heated to the boiling point and cooled many times—even boiled rapidly for a long time—without losing functionality. But what happens when you take collagen proteins over the boiling point to make collagen powders—or make broth in a pressure cooker—is anyone’s guess. Low temperature home dehydration of vegetables, soups, and even meat is probably fine—many traditional cultures dried various foods in the sun and then pounded them to make a powder.
The bottom line: avoid industrially processed proteins and powdered foods—especially anything that contains powdered milk or whey proteins—and stick to traditional methods of food preparation and processing. The Chinese researchers concluded, “This means that humans should control milk protein oxidation and improve the processing methods applied to food.”4 Since all industrial processing methods damaged the milk proteins, the correct conclusion is that milk, Nature’s perfect food, should not be industrially processed at all—just consumed raw or made into cream, butter, cheese, or fermented milk products.
This article first appeared in the blog nourishingtraditions.com, by Sally Fallon Morell.
This article was published in the Winter 2019 issue of Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation.