Milk. The fact that there is a controversy over this power food boggles my mind. Humans have been consuming animal milk for millennia and in many regions, it remains a “superfood”. Cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, camel’s milk, horse’s milk…we as humans, drink it all. It is as much a part of our culture as our diet. For convenience, I shall just refer to “cow’s milk” in the rest of this article.
Is the nutritional value of milk really something even worth to argue over? For normal folk not allergic to it, I don’t think so. There is a difference however, which is the amount of extra processing that goes into milk.
- Homogenization – Mechanically breaks up fats in milk into smaller chains to give it a longer shelf life. Some people also prefer the taste of homogenized milk better.
- Pasteurization – Heating of milk to kill of bacteria. Comes in two variants. Low temperature, long time (normal) and high temperature, short time (UHT). This increases shelf life and keeps us drinkers safer.
- Removal of fats – Basically to meet the demand for the so-called “low fat” milk. The removed fat is used to make cheese.
- Addition of flavorings – Sugar, chocolate…whatever
Let me backtrack a little and go back to the nutritional value of milk. It does vary somewhat so while milk is still nutritious, the value changes.
- Health of cow – The healthier the cow, the better the milk. Common sense. “Pus in milk” however is a bad joke, well unless the cow has an infection, in which case it should have been removed from being a contributor to the milk pool.
- Diet of cow – Related to health but not always coupled. Grass-fed cow’s milk have a much higher nutritional value than grain-fed ones.
- Processing – For simplicity, every artificial processing step reduces the nutritional value by some degree. This also includes cooking.
Obviously, we have to suck from the teat of a cow in a grassy field somewhere for the best nutrition. Practically we can’t and we don’t. The cow will probably think you are crazy if you do.
To maximize nutrition without killing ourselves…
- For us city dwellers, pasteurization is a must. People were seriously dying from drinking raw milk back in London at the turn of the century. It was a solution to the unhygienic environs used to keep the cows then and is still a solution to CAFO raised cow and the long distance to transport the milk.
- Homogenization seems to be pretty much optional, depending on personal preference.
- Drinking low-fat milk is retarded. First off, it is standard “pay more for less”. “Fat” is not just a nutrient in itself. It is also a solvent. In other words, it contains other nutrients (Vitamins A, D, E, K). Remove the fat and the good things that make up the milk gets removed too. 2% is roughly halved. 1% quartered. Fat free? Might as well go drink water. That calcium? We can’t make use of it properly without Vitamin D, which is removed with the fat.
- Flavorings are completely unnecessary. Flavored milk are high in added sugar and makes us fat.
- Vitamin D. For those of us folks who don’t go out in the sun much, this is one nutritional supplement that is a must. My wife actually went “low D levels” in her blood test during the brief time I switched to a non-supplemented milk.
How about lactose intolerance? Let’s see. We do lose the ability to digest lactose as we get older. Some blessed individuals, who have evolved genes to keep creating the enzymes, have no such issues. For the rest of us normal human beings…what options do we have?
- Fart. Well, that would be the normal reaction to lactose intolerance. Bacteria consumes the lactose, creating gas. More embarrassment than discomfort for most, as in my case.
- Fermentation. Why do you think people invented cheese? And yogurts…and kefir and kumis? Let our little microscopic buddies do the work of lactose digestion for us!
- Consume less in a sitting, for obvious reasons. (See #1).
Raw milk or non-homogenized milk does not appear to help with lactose intolerance.
And somewhat of an anecdotal experience. Lactose digestion might be a “use it or lose it” ability. I drank lactase supplemented milk for a while in my early twenties because it was the “shiny” thing on the shelf and felt like I became more intolerant because of it. But that might just be me getting older too…
And as a final note, be nice to your kids. If they don’t have any health-related milk issues…don’t give them low fat milk…EVER.