Q & A: May 1, 2011

Welcome to CHEESESLAVE Q & A! Every Sunday, I answer your questions. I’ll answer as many questions as I can each week. If I didn’t answer your question this week, please check back next week.

Welcome to CHEESESLAVE Q & A! Every Sunday, I answer your questions.  I’ll answer as many questions as I can each week. If I didn’t answer your question this week, please check back next week.

UPDATE: YIKES! I am now VERY behind in answering questions. The past few weeks have been crazy!

For this reason, I am going to do double duty and I will answer more questions than usual in this post, and in the coming weeks.  I may even post a couple more Q & A posts over these next few weeks so I can catch up a bit.

Due to the increased questions, my answers will be shorter. (In other words, I’ll try not to run my mouth and just get to the point!)

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If you have a question to submit, please email it to me at questions@cheeseslave.com.

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If you have an URGENT question that you can’t wait to get answered, please post it on my Facebook page.  I tend to get on Facebook pretty much daily.  I can’t promise to answer all the questions on Facebook, but I try!  (Note: Do NOT email me on Facebook — I can’t get through my email on there!)

Question:  Lactase and Lactose?

I was talking to someone about why raw milk is desirable and he laughed at the idea of enzymes such as lactase floating around in the milk and not digesting the lactose that’s there, so I started wondering, what keeps the lactase from digesting the lactose before we drink it? Is it only activated in our stomachs? What keeps it from pre-digesting in a bottle of milk? I didn’t know how to answer him. There is of course a product called Lactaid, which is lactase, and they also market Lactaid milk with the lactose pre-digested. So it must be that the lactase only catalyzes breakdown of lactose under certain conditions, or something like that.

That reminds me of another issue (do you have a degree in biochemistry, by any chance??). The same person also scoffed at the idea of taking food enzyme supplements and said they would just be digested as proteins in our system and wouldn’t actually act as enzymes (as opposed to our own digestive enzymes that our bodies make). I know a lot of exaggerations have probably been made about enzymes in food, such as by the raw foodists, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find that enzyme supplements are somewhat of a scam. I think it was Sally Fallon who said that yes, you get fewer enzymes when you cook some of your food, but that’s made up for by the fact that lots of foods are more digestible in cooked form because of the heat, regardless of enzymes in the food. I wonder whether there are any high-quality scientific studies of the value of taking food enzyme supplements. I used to take them a lot but seldom do anymore as my somewhat-WAPF diet is probably more digestible overall anyway. I still take betaine hydrochloride when I eat a hunk of meat to make sure I’m digesting it well. (I read “Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You” by Jonathan Wright ? a long time ago and it made a lot of sense to me.)

I know that much of our digestion is accomplished with the aid of friendly bacteria in our intestines (I think they don’t dwell so much in the stomach itself, which is of course acidic), but it’s unclear how all these factors work together.

Thanks, Jeanmarie


Hi, Jeanmarie!

I was not sure how to answer your question so I asked an expert. Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures Raw Milk Dairy in Fresno, California, had this to say:

There is no free lactase in raw milk. But… there are lactase-producing bacteria that create lactase when they colonize the gut.  — Mark McAfee

So it’s the good bacteria that we want in our milk. The bacteria travels to the gut at which point they produce the enzymes.

The good bacteria get destroyed when we pasteurize milk.

Question: How to Care for Enameled Cast Iron?

Does one have to season an enameled cast iron skillet? Also, since the pan is enameled, can we use natural soap and a scrubber to wash it?

Thanks, Erica


Hi, Erica, No, you do not have to season an enameled cast iron skillet, and yes, you can use soap and a scrubber. (One of the reasons I love my Le Creuset!)

You do need to be gentle with enameled cast iron. I would not recommend using a stainless steel scrubber on it. It is very durable and will last you a long time, but it is enamel, and like your teeth, it can get chipped and broken.

Question:  Minerals in Blackstrap Molasses?

Thanks so much for your Q&A Sundays…it has been helpful reading all the questions (and I even found my favorite potato chips…avocado oil…yum!!!).

I had one question of my own for ya now:  I have been reading recently about blackstrap molasses being a good source of minerals. However, I have also read that if the minerals are in certain ratios (mostly high iron), that it can be bad for you. Can you shed any light on what to look for when picking a brand of molasses to use (and possibly supplement with) as far as mineral ratios go?

Thanks for all you do!  — Keli


Blackstrap molasses is a healthy natural sweetener.  Molasses is the dark liquid that is left over when sugar cane is made into refined white sugar.

There are 3 different grades of molasses. The first two grades are very sweet. Blackstrap molasses is the third grade. It is less sweet, and it has the highest amount of vitamins and minerals of all three grades.

So, I would look for “blackstrap” molasses.

Get organic if you can.  Organic cane is more likely to be grown in mineral-rich soil. Organic blackstrap molasses is more likely to be richer in nutrients.

Look for brands that say “unsulfured.” Sulfur is a chemical additive that is used as a preservative. Some people are sensitive to sulfur, so it’s best to avoid it.

Most people (particularly women and children) are not high in iron, and in fact, many people are deficient. These days, we don’t tend to eat very many iron-rich foods on a regular basis, so I would not worry about getting too much iron. If you are concerned about it, go to the doctor and have your iron levels tested.

Of course, the very best source of iron is clams. You can eat clams just once or twice a month and get all the iron you need. Liver is also an excellent source. We should all be eating liver at least once a week, and if we cannot tolerate liver, we should be eating shellfish weekly (particularly mollusks).

Question:  Is Earth Balance Okay?

The WAP literature talks about avoiding margarine because of all of the trans fats, which to be sure is in most of the older versions of margarine.

But what about the newer products, like Earth Balance, featuring expeller-pressed oils? How do I argue against those, particularly the soy free one? Are these okay alternatives for those who need to stay dairy-free?



No, these alternatives are NOT okay.

I’m looking at the Earth Balance website. I’m not sure which one of their products does not contain soy. If it does not have soy, what is it made of? Canola oil or other modern seed oils, I presume.

The problem with soybean oil, canola oil and all of these modern “factory-processed” seed oils is the same: a very high level of omega 6 fatty acids and a very low level of omega 3 fatty acids.

Omega 6 fatty acids cause inflammation in the body. We are completely out of balance these days and need to get back to more even ratio of omega 3 to omega 6.

Here’s a good post from Matt Stone that explains why we should avoid omega 6s.

But that is not the only reason to avoid Earth Balance.

Grass-fed butter is rich in fat soluble activators A, D & K2. Most people are desperately lacking these vitamins.  Modern seed oils contain none of them. Not only that, but modern seed oils are almost always highly refined, heated and highly processed.

Not only that, but most of them are genetically modified (at least in the case of corn, soy and canola).  They are best avoided.

If you are allergic to dairy, I would consider starting on the GAPS diet to reverse your food allergies. I just started teaching an online cooking class called Reversing Food Allergies.  Dairy allergies are relatively easy to reverse.

Grass-fed ghee (clarified butter, with the lactose and casein removed) is something that most people can digest. If you can’t digest that, I would do GAPS to heal your gut.

Question:  What Causes Premature Gray Hair?

I wanted to know what is the cause of premature graying of the hair. I am 25 and in the past year or so my hair has been turning white/gray at a pretty rapid pace. I have looked through WAPF for some answers but haven’t found anything. Is it diet related and what are some solutions to stop this from process.

Thanks, Tom


I am not sure, Tom.

I’ve thought about this some… I often wonder why we see so many more prematurely bald men than we used to 50 or 100 years aqo.

This is purely anecdotal, but I have read that premature gray hair and balding could be related to a lack of minerals.

I knew a guy who was totally bald. He started supplementing with real Celtic sea salt (a LOT of it, added to filtered water, which he drank a ton of every day) and his hair started to grow back.

I have also heard stories of people who reversed their gray hair back to black with minerals. Some people swear by blackstrap molasses — others swear by Celtic sea salt.

I would think liver and other organ meats as well as grass-fed butter and pastured egg yolks would be good for you, too. I have no evidence for this — I’m just thinking what are the things that have been removed from our modern diet.

Of course you always need to look at the gut. If the gut is not functioning properly due to food allergies/leaky gut, there will be a lack of absorption of nutrients.

Question:  Store-bought Coconut Milk?

Are the half-gallon coconut milk products that you can get in the refrigerated  section of health food stores good for you?

— Stephanie


I really think it depends on the brand. Most of them probably do contain additives, so read the label.

That said, I think any kind of coconut milk is infinitely better than almond milk, rice milk and soy milk.

But I think real raw milk is always your best choice. If you are sensitive or allergic to milk, I would work on healing your gut. I recommend the GAPS diet for gut healing.

Question:  Pumpkin Seeds and Chickpea Skins?

What is the difference between hulled pumpkin seeds, and regular pumpkin seeds?

Also, I’ve noticed that in “Nourishing Traditions,” Sally Fallon says to remove the skins of chickpeas after they’re soaked.  I tried this once, and it was incredibly tiresome work.  How important is this step?

— Mindy


When the hulls are left on the pumpkin seeds, one tablespoon of sesame seeds contains about 88 milligrams of calcium. When the hulls are removed, this same tablespoon will contain about 37 milligrams (about 60% less).

Although the seed hulls provide an additional 51 milligrams of calcium per tablespoon of seeds, the calcium found in the hulls is mostly in the form of calcium oxalate. This form of calcium is different than the form found in the kernels, and it is a less absorbable form of calcium.

Most of the anti-nutrients are contained in the outer layers of nuts and seeds.

So I guess I would probably opt for hulled pumpkin seeds, particularly if you are eating pumpkins seeds on a regular basis.

As far as removing the skins of chick peas, I don’t normally do this but I don’t eat chick peas very often. Maybe once or twice a year. Same goes for chick peas with the outer layers. If you eat them often, I would remove the skins.

Question:  Turkey Feet?

My question is can you cook turkey feet like chicken feet.  I was  wanting to use them in some stock but was not sure if this was recommended.  I always hear about using chicken feet but never turkey  and wondered if there was a reason.  I love your blog and look forward  to the Q&A each week.  Keep up the great work!

Thanks, Dawn


Yes, you can cook turkey feet and add to stocks just like chicken feet.

Question:  Homemade Formula on a Budget?

Hi– I read that you also had to stop breastfeeding, and made the baby formula according to Nourishing Traditionsrecipe. I have an 8-month-old baby girl, who has a lot of issues with her stomach. and according to her pediatrician it is “just the kind of formula” and keeps pushing me to use soy.

In the meantime, I have realized how horrible all formula is and am thinking of making my own. It doesn’t seem hard, except for maybe financially.

So, the question is… What is the best option if you are not able to spend a lot of extra money and at what age do think would it be okay to wean to plain raw milk?

Thank you, Lillie


I would not wean to plain raw milk until the baby is at least a year old. I kept my daughter on the homemade raw milk formula until she was almost two years old.

I’m not sure what kind of issues your daughter has with her stomach, but it sounds like she could have alleriges. In which case, I would follow the GAPS Diet protocol. See if she does well on the raw milk homemade formula. If she does not, I’d try the meat-based formula.

Under no circumstances would I ever feed a baby soy formula.

As far as the cost, the money you save now will cost you much more later in medical care. We should not scrimp and save when it comes to our children’s health. Find other ways to cut your budget and do what you must do to care for your child.

Question:  Skin and Hair Products and Food Allergies?

I have graves disease and a gluten sensitivity. I’ve eliminated about  80-90% of corn, oats, wheat, rice, barely, etc from my diet.  Should I be  concerned with doing the same with skin and hair products? I just ordered  a conditioner with hydrolyzed soy protein. I’d hate for my body to start attacking my hair!  What do you think?

Warm Regards, Sha


Hi, Sha,

I would try it and see. If you react, discontinue use.

If you do find that you react, you might want to consider going “no poo”. Do an internet search to learn how you can have beautiful healthy hair without using any shampoo. It did not work for me, as I live in Los Angeles where we have some of the hardest water in the country. However, I have heard from many people that no poo works great for them.

That said, the important thing here is to start healing your gut — I recommend the GAPS diet, along with strong probiotics.

Question:  Grain-fed Dairy Cows?

My father-in-law is thinking of joining a CSA in the Portland, Oregon area to get raw milk. He asked my husband and I to look over how they feed their cows.

Here is what they say on their website:

“When not in the milking parlor our cows are out on pasture with access to the loafing area of the barn on rainy days and the shade of their favorite apple tree (where they have been known to nibble any wind-fall fruit.). We are currently feeding our milking cows a mix of sprouted barley, sprouted oats, beets, turnips, minerals, kelp, and molasses along with their daily ration of alfalfa at milking time.  Our feed is all GMO free.  There have been a lot of recent concerns voiced by many who are searching for the healthiest food for themselves and their families about grain-fed animals.  It’s important to understand the use of grain in livestock feed.  Too much grain is bad for an animal, it rots in their stomachs (cows have 4) and can cause disease and even death if they eat too much; but large animals, especially milking cows who put so much energy into milk production, need the nutrition found in the whole grains.”

I wanted to get your opinion on this, particularly the fact that they feed some grains. I am a bit uneasy about it – it was not my understanding that cows need grains, although some dairies will feed some at milking time. What do you think?

Thanks so much,
Meghan Slocum


If the cows are eating grass the majority of the time, I don’t personally have a problem with them eating a small amount of grains, as long as the grains are organic. And I would not want them to be eating any soy.

Question:  Soaking Coconut Flour?

Hi There!  Does coconut flour need to be soaked?

I’m sorry if you’ve covered this, as I’m new to your site. I have been a WAPF follower for some time now and, after having twins (in addition to our other 2 children under 4yrs old), couldn’t make time to get online.

AAH! The twins are two now, and I’m actually getting to browse a bit. I read
Cure Tooth Decay and he didn’t mention coconut flour, but I am unaware of its phytic acid content.

Also, I suppose its like anything else baked–use it as a “once in a while” ingredient, but stick to the high-nutrient foods most of the time. Would you agree?

Thanks again.
Blessings from Albuquerque, Lisa


Yes, I agree. If you are not eating it every day, I really would not worry about soaking coconut flour.

I was also impressed with this commentary from Amanda Rose.

I tend to agree with her. When you compare the amount of phytic acid in coconut flour to other foods, it really does not seem to be a big deal.

That said, if you are eating large quantities of coconut flour, and it is a staple flour in your home that you eat daily, you might want to research it further.

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I don’t claim to have all the answers.  And I love hearing from you guys!  If you have feedback on any of the above questions and answers, please share your thoughts n the comments below.

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Please submit your questions to questions @ cheeseslave.com. I’ll answer your questions every Sunday in the order I receive them.