Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Little Bit About Milk...Does It Do The Body Good?

When it comes to being healthy, we have been hearing an awful lot of people talking about the dangers of drinking milk and of the rise in people being allergic to lactose. Since becoming more aware of what I recommend to people, I thought it was time to take a look at milk. I am surprised by the different types of milk out on the market today and can see why some people are intimidated or unsure of what is good or bad for themselves and their families. Commercials on TV tell us how good milk is for us but are followed by commercials and news reports telling us that milk is bad. Without good solid facts it can be hard to make an informed decision about what to drink. So let's start off with facts and see where they lead us.

We, as humans are born under the classification of being mammals. We are given milk right from birth from the most natural of all sources. A mother's milk is full of everything a baby needs to gain optimum health in the early stages of life. However, this is also the point where babies are exposed to a multitude of other substances and chemicals. Most of  these substances are nutrients and vitamins that we need to grow at birth. In some cases however, it is not all healthy nutrients we pass along. We are everything that we eat and breast milk is no different as it is passed along to a baby. When doctors tell nursing mothers to be careful what they eat or what medications they is because these products end up being processed by the body and in-turn are given to the baby.

This is where we have our first "wait just a minute" moment when we think of milk. It has been around for years upon years and our grandparent's grandparents drank it and told us about how it was healthy and good for us. Well the fact is, milk today is a far cry from the milk of years ago. Today milk cows are fed a steady diet of antibiotics, hormones and foods rich with with GMO's. As the increase of allergies and reactions to certain foods continues to grow, there is a corresponding pattern to the increase of products containing antibiotics, additives and other chemicals which we eat and drink. The connection of the increases in both areas is not a coincidence and is being investigated on a daily basis. As of today, while these tests are being done, the USA is one of a few countries which still uses grains containing GMO's to feed milk cows, while also allowing the use of growth hormones and antibiotics on the same animals. All three are known to be present in the milk we buy daily. It is now estimated that 1 out 10 people in the USA are lactose intolerant, meaning they have a hard time digesting lactose which is a sugar found in dairy products. The pasteurization process that milk undergoes to increase shelf life and decrease any bad bacteria will also kill off the natural enzymes. These enzymes help the body better absorb calcium and is a factor in why some people who are regular milk drinkers still develop the bone disease osteoporosis.

The good news is that milk can be purchased as organic, meaning that it comes from cows which have not been given chemicals, hormones or antibiotics. The same cows have also been fed a strict organic diet. Looking at a side by side comparison between conventional and organic milk highlight's the differences very well. Lets take a look...

Conventional Milk and Organic Milk are both pasteurized.
Conventional Milk and Organic Milk have almost the same nutrient levels.
Organic Milk comes from cows that have had not been pumped full of chemicals, hormones or antibiotics. Therefor the organic milk does not contain these elements, unlike conventional milk.
Organic Milk is environmentally better. Without the chemicals and fertilizers sprayed on the grass which is fed to the cows, other aspects such as cross contamination of nearby water areas or the effects on local wildlife are removed.
Organic milk cows are allowed to eat natural grass and are not kept confined to a barn and fed GMO filled grain. Conventional milk cows live in shaded barns, are treated with hormones, antibiotics and fed a supply of chemically engineered food.

Alternatives are now flooding the market and consumers have even more choices about the milk they put into their bodies. Soy Milk is a growing trend for wary consumers who are trying to look away from traditional milk conventional or organic. Soy milk is made from soy beans which have been cooked and soaked in water. The beans are then pressed and ground into a liquid. Soy milk is rich in protein and also comes in a variety of flavors. It does not contain the same amounts of calcium found in regular cows milk, so someone drinking soy milk should look for a calcium supplement. Unlike conventional milk, soy milk does nor contain lactose which makes it ideal for someone who is lactose intolerant. People with celiac disease or who are gluten sensitive need to be careful when drinking soy milk. Due to the soy being grown in the same fields as wheat crops or even next to wheat crops, gluten cross contamination is very high. Consumers should look for a soy milk that has been certified as gluten free. A second alternative to cows milk is Almond Milk, which is now widely available in many stores and also in different flavors. Lactose free and full of amazing vitamins, minerals and proteins almond milk is also low in calories. Advantages to almond milk continue, especially if someone is diabetic. Reduced amounts of carbohydrates and calories, means that the milk has a lower glycemic index which in turn allows the body to  digest the sugars more effectively thereby delivering energy in a more consistent form. Being dairy free makes almond milk a great vegetarian and even vegan substitute for regular cows milk. It is important to know some of the pitfalls when it comes to almond milk. Commercial made almond milk is filled with many helpful nutrients but also contains many added chemicals, thickening agents and additives. Almonds are expensive and these things are added into the milk to reduce the cost.

Writing this piece on milk really opened my eyes and made me see things in a more clear and concise way. It is one thing for all Chefs & Health Coaches to say that "we are what we eat", but in reality most of us take for granted the safety and wholesomeness of our foods. Doing the research on milk, I discovered that there are even more types of milk to buy which I didn't even begin to cover here. Coconut Milk, Hemp Seed Milk, Goats Milk and even more products are being introduced everyday. As a consumer with a family, I am giving my family organic milk at this point and using it when I cook. Society is quick to grab at the latest diet or gimmick and it is my opinion that being natural and sticking with the organic milk I find at the local market is the best way to go. If you are lactose intolerant or need gluten free products, take the time to look into almond milk or one of the other products on the market. As always, read your labels and do the research for yourself to decide whats best.

That's all for today everyone!! Coming up next is a piece titled Heat & Nothing But The to take a guess at what I plan on talking about? It comes with recipes and info that is sure to get everyone a little hot under the collar. Enjoy your day and live your dreams!



1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all the great info! I am an almond milk person, but I can't convert my kids. Now that I don't drink cow's milk anymore, I can't even stomach it. I won't even touch it in a pinch.