Fun Fact Friday – Dairy V. Paleo


By: Paleo Bobby

Sometimes I just want cheese, or a dollop of yogurt with my fruit, or one of Paleo Nick’s delicious ‘Chipper’ ice cream sandwiches, but one of the pillars of Paleo is the purge of dairy from the plate. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and of course ice cream and other sugar-added science experiments that are passed off as “creamer” are abandoned for their abundance of casein and lactose. Though technically dairy, the grass-fed varieties of butter or cheese are sometimes included for those that just can’t quit the curd. But where does that leave the Paleo people in the scheme of clean eating and fighting cravings?

The big question is, “Is dairy ever Paleo?” and the resounding “NO!” that comes from so many professional Paleo-ers has quelled enough of the questioning, but I love cheese, I’m sure there are many people (I’m looking at you Wisconsin) who take umbrage with diets that exclude cheese, so I can’t let it go! Both historically and nutritionally, is there any room for ANY dairy in the Paleo diet?

There are well-documented sources of hunter-gatherers eating the stomach contents (and basically everything) of the animals they hunted. In an article on The Real Paleo Diet, Lou Schuler pointed to the practices of Comanche hunters as witnessed by author Sam Gwynne as eating “all fluids” including “salty bile [squirted] onto the liver” and of course, “warm curdled milk from the stomach of a suckling calf.”

Eat with warm stomach-cheese

Pretty gnarly stuff, but fitting dairy in nutritionally is one of the main sources of contention among the anti-dairy groups that could give the lesser of two Bries about my love of cheese. The US can’t help but pasteurize everything it touches, we skim off healthy fats from raw milk, cook some of the nutrients off of it (along with some possibly bad bacteria), and then have no choice but to cut it from the diet when it hurts us. Doctor Chris Kesser talks extensively on dairy and has talked Dairy V. Paleo, proposing that though it is a neolithic food, rather than a paleolithic one, that there is a better case dietarily for including dairy rather than including it.

Though I’d love to make a case for raw milk there are many places where it is illegal to sell and distribute unpasteurized dairy so we have to move to the old way, aging! Some say that the casein found in dairy is as damaging as gluten to the human body but with things like cheese, the introduction of bacteria that feed on the casein make it more healthy than plain milk. So eating cheeses where the bacteria is allowed to eat a good amount of the casein makes it a great source of fat and protein without the damaging effects of casein which can include intestinal distress and general inflammation.

So why all the struggle to make a case for cheese when it’s just going to hurt me? I really like the old 80/20 principle, but sometimes 20% just isn’t enough room for cheese, I want it in my life so that it doesn’t have to pull a Say Anything with its dairy boom-box outside my culinary window.

In a proper Paleo diet, I truly believe cheese can have a place in moderation. Gone are the dark dietary days of me scarfing down a handful of Parmesan cheese straight from the container (college was a strange time), but a Babybel with lunch isn’t going to be the downfall of my gut bacteria. So fellow Paleo people, what say you on the matters of milk material in the Paleo wheelhouse?

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