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What kind of milk do you drink?

There are various kinds of milk available in the market these days. Ranging from different grades of cow’s milk to milk from other livestock. We even have milk from nuts! Let’s take a look at some of these varieties.

Cow’s milk: The most common type of milk that has been drunk for years. It contains 4 varieties- skimmed milk, 1%, 2% and whole milk. The primary difference between the 4 is in their fat content. They all contain the same amount of protein and roughly the same amount of calcium.

Whole milk has a high percentage of fat in it, almost 3.8 grams on an average. Due to the fat content this milk comes across as creamy and tasty. Coffee outlets use whole milk due to its taste and texture. While weaning, babies can consume whole milk by the time they are a year old.

Low fat milk contains just 1 or 2% of fat. Some manufacturers often add skim milk powder to this variety. This boosts calcium and protein content, while improving on taste and creaminess. Both types of milk are creamier than skim milk and are good options while trying to eat healthy. They can be drunk while making a transition from whole milk to skim milk. Low fat is healthier as it contains lesser saturated fat, this is protective against heart related diseases. For those watching their weight, this provides a healthier option.

Skim milk contains 0.1 % of fat. Milk solids or milk powder is added to improve its texture. This is more watery or runny than whole milk and also contains a higher amount of lactose.

USDA Food Composition Database
Type- Cow’s milk- 1 cup= 244 g Calories Proteins (g) Calcium (DV) % Saturated Fats (g) Total Fats (g)
Whole Milk 3.25% 148 8 27 4.6 8
1% 103 8 30 1.5 2.4
2% 124 8 29 3.1 4.9
Skimmed Milk 0.1% 83 8 29 0.1 0.2


Lactose free milk: Since some people cannot digest lactose (the natural sugar in dairy products), due to intolerance, the lactose is removed or broken down. This makes the milk digestible are prevents problems like bloating, gas and diarrhoea. This contains the same nutritional value of cow’s milk, but could be sweeter. This is due to the breakdown of lactose into simpler, easy to digest sugars.

Milk can also be divided based on grades. Grade A milk, is produced under sanitary conditions and is also known as fluid grade milk. This can be used for direct consumption (plain milk, added to tea or coffee). Grade B milk also known as manufacturing grade milk, does not meet the same standards as grade A milk. This is most often used to make cheese, butter and milk powder. Lactose free milk: Since some people cannot digest lactose (the natural sugar in dairy products), due to intolerance, the lactose is removed or broken down. This makes the milk digestible are prevents problems like bloating, gas and diarrhoea. This contains the same nutritional value of cow’s milk, but could be sweeter. This is due to the breakdown of lactose into simpler, easy to digest sugars.

Milk from livestock: 

Goat milk contains more calcium than cow’s milk. It also contains pre-formed Vitamin A allowing it to be available for use by the body. Goat's milk contains more fatty acids making it nutritionally more wholesome.  Out of those allergic to lactose in cow’s milk, some may find goats milk easier to digest. In India, some dairies may sell goats milk. It can also be purchased directly from farmers.

Buffalo milk is consumed in villages across the country. Compared to cow’s milk and goats milk, it has a higher fat percentage. It is therefore thicker and creamier. Buffalo milk also contains more calcium and a good amount of phosphorus.

USDA Food Composition Databases
Measured as 1 cup (244 g) Calories Proteins (g) Calcium (DV) % Saturated Fat (g) Total Fat (g)
Goat Milk 168 9 32 7 10
Buffalo Milk 237 9 41 11.2 16.8

 

Plant based milk

For vegans, milk from live stock is out of the question. In this regard, there are vegetarian sources of milk derived from plants. These can include milk from rice, oats, soy and almonds.

Rice and oats milk can be taken by those who have allergies to nuts or soy. These varieties however contain high amounts of added sugar and are low in protein. They are easier to digest than soy milk and are nut and gluten free. Rice milk is made by grinding brown rice along with water. These milks are also high in carbohydrates.
Soy milk is made by soaking soy beans in water, grinding them and extracting the milk through a sieve. 1 cup of unsweetened soy milk contain 131 calories and 8 g of protein. The protein content equals that of cow’s milk. Soy milk is a good option for vegans or those who are lactose intolerant. However, this milk on its own lacks Vitamin D and needs to be fortified. It is low in saturated fat making it a healthy choice. While buying soy milk, it is important to choose a non-flavoured variety. The flavoured kinds tend to be high in added sugars, they also contain artificial flavours which are unhealthy. Those with hypothyroidism need to avoid soy milk since it is goitrogenic in nature. This can inhibit iodine uptake by the thyroid gland and worsen the condition.

Almond milk is another popular dairy-free milk. This is high in vitamin E and low in fat. As it is derived from almonds, it has a pleasant and nutty taste. Its texture is similar to regular milk. Almond milk is commonly consumed by vegans and those who are allergic or intolerant to dairy. Most health food stores stock on almond milk. Some people prefer to make almond milk at home. Almond consumption has been linked to good heart health. However, almond milk does not boast the same nutritional status as whole almonds. This is because almond milk is made from blanched (skinless) almonds and strained. This removes most of the fibre and a large portion of antioxidants  

Here again, commercially prepared almond milk comes in flavours. While trying to eat healthy, it is best to choose almond milk that does not contain added sugar. To make the milk, almonds are ground along with water. One cup of almond milk can have less than 30 calories and a whopping 450 milligrams of calcium. By weight, this is more than cheese, yogurt, and soy milk. However, consuming raw almonds is much healthier as they contain healthy fat, protein and fibre. However, the milk is a good choice for those with a dairy or soy allergy, and vegans who don’t like soy milk.

With inputs from:
1.    Barrett JR. The Science of Soy: What Do We Really Know? Environmental Health Perspectives. 2006;114(6):A352-A358.
2.    http://www.livestrong.com/article/267017-what-are-the-benefits-of-oat-milk/
3.    http://www.livestrong.com/article/268914-soy-milk-nutritional-information/
4.    http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-milk
5.    http://www.precisionnutrition.com/soy-latest-research
6.    http://www.self.com/story/almond-soy-rice-milks-nutrition-comparison
7.    https://authoritynutrition.com/benefits-of-almond-milk/
8.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grade_A_milk
9.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milk

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