America is a country of milk drinkers. How much milk? Twenty-One billion gallons of milk is consumed yearly in the United States alone. 1 America has GOT MILK. I apologize for my cheesiness (no dairy pun intended). Why is it that China historically is not a country of milk drinkers? Why are they more genetically disposed to be lactose intolerant? Is milk even necessary? I grew up as a child with the notion that milk was extremely healthy. How could I not? I grew up in the 90s where the “Got Milk” ads were everywhere. The federal government has even been implementing programs for children to drink milk for almost a century. Acts have been passed to subsidize milk with the promise of good teeth, vitality, endurance, and strong bones. Lyndon B. Johnson passed The Child Nutrition Act of 1966 and the Special Milk Program. The program federally reimbursed schools for the milk they served. 1 2 Why all this fuss about milk? Why did the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) include milk in their food pyramid? These are not only guidelines of the past. The School Milk Nutrition act was passed May 19, 2015. The rationale behind the public health concern is to make sure we as a nation consume the three essential nutrients of vitamin D, calcium, and potassium. These minerals and this vitamin are essential for our heart, bones, and kidneys. 3 Does this mean I should gulp down as much whole milk as I want? Not exactly. Though milk provides these essential nutrients, not being smart about consumption may cause other issues. So what are some of the risks of drinking milk?
- Relatively high in calories promoting obesity
- Higher risk of fatal prostate cancer
- Has been implicated to constipation
- Common self-reported food allergen
- D-galactose found in liquid milk has been found to be pro-inflammatory
- Milk sugars and saturated fats encourage the development of diabetes and heart disease. 4
Fortunately there are many alternative milk products out there to fit one’s health and lifestyle.
First some more info on Cow’s Milk
Typically when one thinks about cow’s milk, we think of the choices of whole, 3 percent, 2 percent, 1 percent, and skim. Skim milk of these three is the choice which will provide a person with all of the benefits without any of the negatives. The amount of vitamin D, calcium, and potassium will remain the same from whole to skim. One reason skim milk is so beneficiary to health is the reduced amounts of fats and calories. Dairy milk is a good choice to achieve large doses of proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Doctors highly recommend if one chooses dairy to make skim his/her choice. 5 6
4 Popular Dairy Milk Alternatives
This product is made from ground almonds that are helpful for those trying to reduce calorie intake. While dairy milk does offer lactose options, almond milk is naturally lactose free. Almond milk is naturally not a good source of nutrients such as potassium, vitamin D, and calcium. Also believe it or not, almond milk is not a good source of protein. However, many brands are fortified to contain significant levels of all nutrients mentioned above, it is a matter of being an investigative consumer. Not to mention, this kind of milk is a good substitute when trying to avoid hormones added into animal products. 6 7
Have an issue with dietary allergies? Rice milk may be your choice. This alternative to dairy and almond milk will not bother those who are lactose and have nut allergies. Now while it can be fortified to contain a significant amount of calcium and vitamin D, rice milk is not a good source of potassium or protein. The levels of carbohydrates, calories, and fat are high. This would not be a good alternative for someone looking to trim weight. The amount of carbohydrates make this product the worst choice for persons with diabetes. 6 8
This milk made from soybeans is a popular choice for vegans and highly recommended by doctors. Soy milk provides more protein than many of the other milk products. Naturally, this product is an extremely high source of potassium and vitamin D. When fortified, most products selling as soy milk will also be high in calcium. The milk has low calories and no cholesterol. Some may feel soy milk is an acquired taste, because the content tends to be creamy. Nevertheless, soy milk makes a fantastic health-based alternative. 6 9
This liquidly treat tastes basically very similar to….SURPISE! coconut. Some doctors have trouble identifying coconut milk as a legitimate substitute of milk. The reasoning behind this is the high fat content. Many products tend to be high in calories and fat. A better alternative would be to get a carton of silk coconut milk. Otherwise, you will understand why the experts often do not consider it a substitute to dairy milk. For example, the coconut milk that comes in cans typically contains 48 grams of fat and 43 grams of saturated fat in one cup! 6 9 10
What are we to gather from all this information about different milk products? I only mentioned four common substitutes however there are numerous others that can be added to this list. One should also consider that there is no one right choice, everyone has different physical needs to maintain a healthy lifestyle. With that said, dietary guidelines currently recommend three servings a day for most adults. Calcium and vitamin D tend to be the nutrients health advisors worry the public will have trouble accumulating without the help of milk. Based off this information, one can draw the conclusion, why milk is a primary choice to acquire these nutrients. I want you the reader to consider these nutrients whenever looking for a substitute of milk. Persons who avoid reading labels will not know which companies fortified their products to contain the necessary nutrients they need. Just as cow’s milk is separated by percentage of fat, almond, rice, soy, etc., all have different companies generating and selling differing variations of the product. In the end, the federal government may have merit with all the bills being passed in regards to milk. The best route would be to educate yourself about the type of milk that benefits your personal needs. Michelle Obama started the “Let’s Move” campaign to tackle childhood obesity. I say we start the “Let’s MOOOOOOve campaign to educate ourselves about milk!………..Sorry I apologize.