The French certainly love their cheese, and a new scientific review conducted by researchers from INRA, Université de Caen, and Université de Franche-Comté gives us one more reason to indulge in traditional raw-milk cheeses. Not only are they more flavorful and aromatic, but they also have superior nutritional value and offer protection against pathogenic agents that conventional, pasteurized cheeses cannot. Researchers determined that raw-milk cheeses are infused with beneficial microbiota that defend against dangerous pathogens, such as Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli O157/H7, and Staphylococcus aureus.
Unpasteurized vs. Pasteurized
Raw-milk cheese comes from unpasteurized milk, which contains approximately 300 species of bacteria and 70 strains of yeast. Raw-milk cheeses like Brie, Camembert, and Parmigiano Reggiano owe their depth of flavor and aroma to the natural brew of microflora present in raw milk.
When consumed, these beneficial microbiota keep your immune system strong and your digestive system running smoothly. Unfortunately, raw milk and raw milk products aren’t easy to find, as conventional dairy has been pasteurized. Pasteurization occurs during the beginning stages of turning milk into cheese. The milk is heated in order to destroy any dangerous microorganisms that could cause illness or spoilage. Unfortunately, all the good bacteria (probiotics) in dairy are also destroyed in the process.
The pasteurization process weights conventional milk down with minerals that can’t be absorbed, sugars that can’t be digested, and fat in a form that exacerbates cholesterol buildup. It kills all the beta-lactoglobulin—a protein that increases the absorption of vitamin A in the intestines—so the “fortified with vitamin A” label you read on conventional milk cartoons is a bit deceiving. Without beta-lactoglobulin very little A, if any, is getting absorbed by your body.
The FDA even concedes that the pasteurization process substantially reduces the amount of bioavailable vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, copper, and iron.
Raw milk on the other hand, undergoes very little, if any, processing, and is a nutritionally dense source of proteins, carbohydrates, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and probiotics. In fact, raw milk contains all eight essential amino acids (essential meaning your body can only get these amino acids from your diet). Raw milk is also a great source of the cancer-fighting omega-6 Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA).
As the study pointed out, raw-milk cheese from grass-fed cows is packed with good bacteria that help break down the nutrients in food so that the body can better absorb all the healthy stuff. The probiotics found in traditional raw-milk cheese help to nullify the effects of potentially problematic lactose sugars that contribute to lactose intolerance. The Weston A. Price Foundation conducted an informal survey of 700 families. Results showed that 80% of people who reported lactose intolerance had no symptoms upon switching to raw milk!
Studies have also shown that raw-milk can help protect against allergies, asthma, and hay fever.
Is Raw-Milk Cheese Safe?
In the United States, raw-milk cheese doesn’t hit the shelves until it has aged for at least 60 days, during which time the naturally occurring acids and salts set to work destroying any dangerous microorganisms like Listeria, Salmonella, or E. Coli. So go ahead and enjoy that raw-milk cheese, aroma and all. Whether you prefer Brie or a raw-milk cheddar, let your taste buds be your guide!