Source Matters: A Guide To Buying Healthy Dairy

Next in our healthy guide in our Source Matters series is buying healthy dairy. You can check out our previous paleo guides on beef, poultry, produce, and coffee.

Wait, do you hear that? Those are the paleo police sirens coming to lock me up in paleo prison! “Paleo” can be using whatever your body can for optimal performance, not a historical reenactment. Buying healthy dairy and drinking it is outlawed in some paleo provinces, but I am realistic here. If your body can tolerate and thrive with it, then use it.

It is clear, some people have the enzyme to break down milk proteins and others do not. What is less clear is whether dairy is inflammatory to a particular individual. Even if you can digest healthy dairy, you may not be not getting it from the proper source, increasing the likelihood that you’ll have an inflammatory response. Read on to see why!


Milk should not be homogenous. There should be a cream top layer to milk that separates from the more liquid solution. Many people found this gross or inconvenient, so we invented a machine to spray milk through a very fine screen. This process chops up the fat so it stays suspended in the milk and eliminating the cream layer on top.

What does this mean? It means that the fat that was chopped up in the screen is no longer in the same molecular strand, but is fragmented. What does that mean? Just as you wouldn’t recognize the milk fats and proteins under a microscope, your body isn’t going to recognize it either. This leads to inferior quality liquid that your body simply doesn’t know what to do with it. When your body doesn’t know what to do with things that are inside it, that is not a good thing.

What does this mean for the ever so popular skim, 1%, and 2% milk? Well, it means that the fats and proteins are fragmented and destroyed. If you don’t like the taste of whole milk, go for non-homogenized and skim off the top cream layer! Homemade skim milk!


Milk was consumed raw for thousands of years on farms and ranches. Then things changed. People started living in dense cities without refrigeration. Buying dairy was difficult. Transportation time increased and milk wasn’t kept cold so bacteria grew. People got sick from drinking that bacteria. We can all agree that wasn’t a good thing.

So what happened? Miraculously, a man named Louis Pasteur invented a process to heat milk up to a certain temperature to kill all of the bacteria. Great! No one got sick anymore! But what also happened was all of the beneficial LINK bacteria and natural LINK enzymes were also destroyed. Some of the fats and milk proteins were destroyed as well. So what were we left with? Some mystery liquid to our bodies. The same milk proteins remained, but all of the helpful enzymes that assisted our bodies in breaking it down in our digestive system did not.

Unfortunately, raw milk is still outlawed in some states. Some farmers are, unbelievably, being raided by SWAT teams for producing raw milk. If you are lucky enough to be able to purchase raw in your state, then spring for this much more nutritious form. Check out this handy map for information on U.S. states where raw milk is legal from farms, retail, or illegal all together.


Just as indicated in Source Matters for eggs and poultry guide, organic is better than conventional, but not optimal. Organic milk is often still homogenized and pasteurized, turning the milk into some unrecognizable white liquid.

What does organic mean for milk? It ensures that the animal ate organic and wasn’t given any hormones. However, you will likely still be drinking mystery milk that has been processed and heated beyond repair.When buying dairy, if you’re for some reason NOT going to go with raw, non homogenized milk, then we fully suggest at least springing for a jug of organic.

Grass Fed

Nearly all “raw” dairy is grass fed. Why would you want dairy to be grass fed? As highlighted in my guide to buying healthy red meat, cows are supposed to eat grass.

Why is buying dairy that is grass fed important? Well, it increases the beneficial omega 3 fats and balances out the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 (bad and inflammatory). Grass fed leads to much higher levels of fat soluble vitamins and important compounds like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that help burn fat and provide usable energy.

Would you rather have the cows you eat from live off of salads or be stuffed full of grains and refined carbs that make them sick?

Butter and cheese

Same rules apply with grass fed beef here. Don’t waste your time with traditional butters. They are devoid of nutrients and good fats. When butter comes from grass fed animals, it is full of usable and healthy fats, vitamins and fat burning compounds.
Kerrygold brand does a fantastic job of churning out grass fed butters. There are a lot of local brands as well, depending on where you live. Sometimes this is branded as “European Style” butters. Check the labels to make sure.
If you can’t access grass fed butter, use coconut oil or fat from grass fed animals to cook and and flavor when necessary.

Cheese is heavily processed the way it is. If you can find some good grass fed, raw milk cheeses, spring for it. Think of this like a luxury item and don’t depend on it for sustenance like some people do. If you’re looking for yogurt, we would advise against it due to the processing, but go for Greek and full fat. Fage is the best ubiquitous brand.


Consuming dairy should be considered on a case by case basis. Conduct a trial and error of eliminating all dairy for an entire month, then add in milk, cheese and butter one at a time to see if you have any adverse reactions. Common negative responses include upset GI system, bloating, acne, and lack of mental clarity. Trial and error is best here. If you don’t feel good after eating something, then don’t eat it. The only clear way to tell if dairy is something that your body can tolerate is to do a little n=1 experiment!

SUMMARY for buying healthy dairy

  • Don’t purchase skim, 1% or 2%

  • Go non-homogenized milk if possible when BUYING DAIRY

  • Go non-pasteurized (raw) if available when BUYING DAIRY

  • Look for grass fed

  • Look for “raw milk” on cheeses

  • Eliminate, then reintroduce to determine sensitivity


We hope you enjoyed this Source Matters installment. Any suggestions or questions on other products? Let us know in the comments below! Please share if you liked this post!