By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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Milk and dairy products are nutrient-dense foods, supplying energy and high-quality protein with a range of essential micronutrients (especially calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and phosphorus) in an easily absorbed form. It is the first food for mammals and provides all the necessary energy and nutrients to ensure proper growth and development, being crucial in what respects to bone mass formation.
In spite of these, epidemiologic studies confirm the nutritional importance of milk in human diet and reinforces the possible role of its consumption in preventing several chronic diseases like cardiovascular, some forms of cancer, obesity and diabetes. Thus only lactose malabsorption symptoms and cow milk proteins allergy can be considered as adverse reactions to milk consumption (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7).
Types of dairy milk: (8)
Using various straining and mixing techniques, milk can be made into a variety of products. Before milk is bottled, all of the fat is removed (skimmed) and added back at specific levels to make different fat-percentage variations of milk. No matter which milk-fat percentage you choose, they all contain the same essential nutrients including protein, vitamin D and calcium.
- Whole Milk: Whole milk contains 3.5% fat by weight. It delivers 8 grams of fat and 150 calories per 8-ounce serving.
- 2 Percent Milk: Two-percent milk contains 2% fat by weight. It delivers 5 grams of fat and 120 calories per 8-ounce serving.
- 1 Percent Milk: One-percent milk contains 1% fat by weight. It delivers 2.5 grams of fat and 100 calories per 8-ounce serving.
- Skim Milk: Skim (0% fat) milk is what is left after all of the milk fat has been “skimmed” off. It delivers 0 grams of fat and 80 calories per 8-ounce serving.
- Buttermilk: Traditionally, the term buttermilk referred to the liquid that’s left after butter had been made from milk or cream. Today, buttermilk is made from active cultures added to milk, which creates lactic acid, resulting in the tart taste and thick texture.
- Lactose-Free Milk: People with lactose intolerance typically lack or have insufficient levels of the lactase enzyme that breaks down lactose — the naturally occurring sugar found in most dairy foods. Lactose-free milk is real dairy milk without the lactose. To make lactose-free milk, manufacturers add a small amount of lactase, which breaks down the lactose, resulting in a milk that can be digested without discomfort by those with lactose intolerance.
- A2 Milk™: Typical dairy milk contains a combination of both a1 and a2 beta casein proteins. Milk from cows exhibiting only the a2 form of the beta casein protein is sold as A2 Milk™. It is marketed as milk for people with digestive issues, however, there isn’t significant scientific evidence to support the claim.
Fortified Milk: (9)
Fortified milk is cow’s milk that contains extra vitamins and minerals that are not naturally found in milk in significant amounts. Typically, vitamins D and A are added to milk sold in the United States. However, milk can be fortified with various other nutrients, including zinc, iron, and folic acid.
Fortification may help fill nutrient gaps, prevent iron deficiencies in children, and increase bone density and strength. Still, if you’re lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy, you should choose lactose-free or nondairy alternatives.
Milk alternatives: (10), (11)
Plant-based or non-dairy milk alternative is the fast growing segment in newer food product development category of functional and specialty beverage across the globe. Nowadays, cow milk allergy, lactose intolerance, calorie concern and prevalence of hypercholesterolemia, more preference to vegan diets has influenced consumers towards choosing dairy milk alternatives.
Dairy milk alternatives can include soy milk, tree nut milks (almond, coconut, cashew, or others), and rice milks.
If you choose a milk alternative, here are things to remember:
- Choose one that is unflavored. Flavored cow’s milk alternatives can have added sugar. Your child does not need added sugar.
- Choose one that is fortified with vitamin D. Check labels since vitamin content can vary between brands.
- Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse about the milk alternative you are using because the vitamins and minerals in these types of milks are different than in cow’s milk.
All the Milk and Milk alternatives provide different health benefits. It’s best to determine your personal dietary needs when picking the milk type that is right for you. Always, consider your current weight, your current diet, your level of activity and other factors like allergy, intolerance and age. Do check with your dietitian which milk is suitable for you or your kids.