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Is Low Temperature Pasteurized Milk Healthy?
My family is fortunate to have a local source of raw grass-fed cow’s milk. We drink it daily and make wonderful dairy foods from it like raw whey, raw cream cheese, and raw yogurt.
When the milk supply diminishes due to cow pregnancy or depending on the season, we seek the next best thing – non-homogenized, low temperature pasteurized, grass-fed milk from a regional dairy.
I know that raw milk is nutritionally superior to pasteurized milk. I know to stay far away from ultra-pasteurized milk. But I wasn’t sure just how inferior low-temperature pasteurized milk is. So, I gathered some information to satisfy my curiosity and to share with you.
Is Low Temperature Pasteurized Milk as Healthy as Raw Milk?
When our farmer let us know that the raw milk supply would be lacking for a few months, I wasn’t sure where to go for milk. Buying conventional, store-bought milk – including the UHT organic milk – was absolutely not an option.
After six months of drinking raw milk, my husband finally had relief from his seasonal and environmental allergies.
My digestive and cardiovascular health was greatly improved.
The dirty milk of factory-farmed Holsteins, which must be pasteurized to be safe to drink, was no match for the clean, pure raw milk of our farmer’s Jerseys cows. Still, I had to find a way to replace the health benefits of local, raw milk in our diet.
While shopping at our health food store for coconut milk to use in a recipe, I came across a gallon of non-homogenized, local, grass-fed cow’s milk. The label said that the milk had been low-temperature pasteurized. At the time, I wasn’t sure if this low-temp pasteurized milk was healthy, so I came home to do some research.
I wanted to know three things: The effect of low temperature pasteurization on enzymes and good bacteria; if nutrients are destroyed during vat pasteurization; if the fat in pasteurized milk is denatured.
Here’s what I found.
Low Temperature Milk Pasteurization Kills Enzymes
Enzyme destruction in raw milk begins when it’s heated to around 118 degrees Fahrenheit. At 180 degrees Fahrenheit the enzymes are completely destroyed.
The enzymes in raw milk are important for the digestion of the milk and for helping the body to use the nutrients found in milk.
Since low temperature (VAT) pasteurization requires the milk to be heated to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, I’d say low temperature pasteurized milk is missing at least some important enzymes.
For me, that’s one mark against drinking even low temperature, VAT pasteurized milk. But is it enough to make me say no to occasionally drinking low temp pasteurized milk? Maybe not.
I keep digestive enzymes on hand and simply took them more often when we didn’t have access to raw milk. (I purchase my digestive enzymes from Young Living.)
Low Temperature Pasteurization Reduces Some Nutrients in Milk
According to this article from Dr. Axe, low temperature pasteurization can reduce the vitamin C content of milk up to 25%. Low temperature pasteurization reduces vitamins B2 (riboflavin) and B9 (folate).
According to this research, vitamins A and B12 were actually higher in pasteurized milk than in raw milk.
The effect on minerals was none, however.
Low Temperature Pasteurization Doesn’t Negatively Affect Fat In Milk
You may have heard that the homogenization of milk has negative consequences on the fat in milk. While that’s true, remember that pasteurization and homogenization are two different things. We’re only talking about pasteurization here.
Low temperature pasteurization doesn’t harm the fat in milk. Just be sure that you buy non-homogenized milk, or milk with a cream top.
One difference I’ve noticed between our favorite brand of low temperature pasteurized milk and the raw milk from our farmer is that the cream from the vat pasteurized milk is more difficult to mix into the milk when we first open the bottle. It’s more like a plug than a simple layer of cream.
My (unconfirmed) suspicion for the difference is this: The low temperature pasteurized milk takes longer to get to our store shelves and into our home than the raw milk. Of course, because it’s pasteurized it lasts longer. I think the cream simply congeals into place over the week or so that it takes between milking at the farm and consumption in our home.
Of course, I could be wrong and the heat from pasteurization could make the cream more butter-like than the cream we get from raw milk. One thing I know for certain: We get way more cream from our farmer’s raw milk than from the store-bought vat pasteurized milk that has to meet the “whole milk” fat percentage standard.
Low Temperature Pasteurized Milk Isn’t as Healthy as Raw Milk, But It’s The Next Best Thing
As it turns out, if you can’t access local, raw milk, the next healthiest option is low-temperature pasteurized milk. (Just be sure it’s not homogenized!)
Of course, I didn’t go into researching this article wondering if vat pasteurized milk was just as healthy as raw milk. I knew it wasn’t. I just wanted to know exactly how nutritionally inferior it was and if I could serve it to my family in good conscience.
While low-temp heating does kill some of the beneficial enzymes, it doesn’t damage the proteins in the milk and leaves intact some of the good bacteria present in milk.
My family didn’t experience any adverse reactions to the low-temp pasteurized milk, even after drinking raw milk for a while. We did cut back our consumption of milk because the store-bought, low-temp pasteurized milk turned out to be more expensive than the raw milk from our farmer.
Each gallon of milk contained much less cream than the rich milk our farmer provides. Another factor was that the store-bought milk was often sold out in gallon sizes, forcing me to buy the more expensive half-gallon sizes. I believe the sudden demand for the milk caught the store off-guard and they weren’t able to increase their supply quickly enough.
I am glad to have found what I call the “happy medium milk”. I can recommend this milk to health-conscious friends who are a bit squeamish about drinking raw, unpasteurized milk. I am comfortable giving low-temp pasteurized milk to my family for short periods of time.
No pasteurized milk can replace the health benefits of raw milk, however.
If you find that raw milk is difficult to source, seek a better alternative to homogenized and high-temp pasteurized milk by looking for low-temperature, non-homogenized, grass-fed milk.
Important Note: While using low-temp pasteurized milk I couldn’t make whey for soaking grains. See, pasteurized milk doesn’t simply sour. It completely ruins and becomes dangerous to consume after its expiration date. Raw milk never goes bad, but any milk that’s pasteurized will go bad and become unusable.