Archive for the tag - milk

Is Milk Actually Good For You?

lady-drinking-milk-1We’ve always been taught to drink our milk. In fact, the USDA recommends that adult men and women should get three dairy servings per day. But are these guidelines outdated – or downright wrong?

A number of recent studies have shown that milk might not be so great, after all. Just a few weeks ago, a new study was published in the journal BMJ. Researchers set out to determine if high milk consumption is associated with mortality and fractures in men and women.

More than 100,000 Swedish adults were recruited for the study. Over the course of several decades, mortality rates and fractures were tracked. According to the data, researchers concluded that having three or more glasses of milk per day increased mortality rates for both men and women, and increased fractures in women.

So does drinking three glasses or more of milk really cause you to die earlier?

Researchers advise caution, and feel that more data is needed before making any conclusions. If this link proves to be true, researchers speculate that it could be due to an ominous ingredient in milk called D-galactose. In animal studies, this ingredient led to premature aging in the body and bones and internal inflammation, which can lead to health issues including cancer and heart disease. But all of that is a big ‘if’ at the moment.

Of course, we do know that milk does have some benefits – mainly, that it’s rich in calcium. But there are plenty of other calcium rich foods like kale, oranges, beans, green peas, chickpeas, quinoa and seeds.

Milk also contains a great deal of sugar in the form of lactose. One cup of milk contains 13 grams of naturally occurring sugar… or just over 3 teaspoons. It’s one of the reasons why I always opt for unsweetened almond milk. It’s creamier than milk, but without the sugar or extra calories. Regardless of whether or not these studies prove to be true, I highly recommend making the switch.

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Why Do We Drink Cow’s Milk?

cow

Maybe we should just cut out the middleman and go right to the source!

A year ago, I took a trip to Thailand. It was a beautiful country full of amazing sights, friendly people and delicious but interesting food. From chicken feet to red ants with their eggs to duck mouths, much of the Thai food we encountered seemed quite adventurous.

So when I asked for a glass of milk, I was surprised by the response. Many of the Thai waiters and waitresses seemed repulsed by my request. This caused a good deal of introspection on my part, and – after careful consideration – I realized that it’s actually really strange that we drink the breast milk of cows. And moreover, why don’t we drink the mammary gland secretions from other animals like horses or even humans?

Milk is weird. Of course, just because milk is weird, it doesn’t mean that it’s unhealthy or that we shouldn’t drink it. So let’s dig deeper.

In a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, Harvard professor David Ludwig questions the role of milk in our diets. Indeed, the government recommends three servings of milk per day to promote a healthy lifestyle – but is that really necessary, wise or even true?

It’s true that milk is rich in calcium, vitamin D and has some protein. But that’s not all you’re getting. Most people are surprised by the amount of sugar in milk. A cup of 1% milk, for example, has 13 grams of sugar. It’s not added sugar, but still sugar nonetheless. Most guidelines recommend no more than 40 – 50 grams of sugar per day, and three servings of skim milk would almost reach that limit. And we’ve all seen the link between sugary drinks and obesity demonstrated time and time again.

Ludwig also cites a lack of evidence that reduced fat milks are any less likely to result in weight gain or other health outcomes when compared to whole milk. In fact, Ludwig speculates that when individuals drink reduced fat milk, they feel less full – and then consume more calories in other food. For example, if you’re drinking a glass of whole milk, one cookie may be sufficient. But if you’re drinking a glass of reduced fat milk, you feel less satisfied and may reach for a second cookie.

Yes, milk has some important nutrients – but it’s also entirely possible to get those nutrients from other foods and without all that sugar. And there are plenty of delicious and rich non-dairy alternatives that can serve as healthier replacements to dairy milk.

Questioning what we eat is a good thing and it’s important to occasionally take a few steps back from our diet for examination. While milk may not be as unhealthy as cake, candy or a glass of Coca Cola, it’s also not necessarily the wisest nutritional choice.

Is Almond Milk Healthier than Soy Milk?

If dairy milk isn’t your thing, then soy and almond milk are popular, lactose-free alternatives. But when it comes to nutrition, is soy or almond milk healthier?

In short, the differences are slight.

Almond milk tends to have fewer calories than soy milk (generally 40% less) and neither soy nor almond milk have trans or saturated fats. Though soy milk has more calories, it also has increased protein content. In fact, almond milk tends to only have a gram or two of protein compared to the 6 or 7 grams per serving in soy milk.

Some people have a strong objection to soy products because they contain phytoestrogens – which have some properties similar to estrogen. Though the preponderance of evidence shows that soy neither lowers testosterone nor raises estrogen levels, there has been some research to suggest that excessive soy consumption can possibly increase the risk for certain types of cancer including breast cancer. Of course, other studies have linked soy consumption to decreased prostate cancer risk and lower blood cholesterol levels. It’s all still very inconclusive and I’d encourage you to not get too caught up in the debate.

I’m a big fan of common sense and moderation. With that in mind, I stock my refrigerator with both soy and almond milk. If I’m interested in increasing my daily protein consumption, then I’ll opt for soy. If I’m just looking to enjoy the milk for taste or flavor, I’ll usually reach for almond milk.

The bottom line: Both soy and almond milk are healthy alternatives to dairy milk and both can be a part of a balanced diet. The big benefit of soy milk is its protein content and the big benefit of almond milk is that it is significantly lower in calories.

Is Organic Milk Healthier?

Got milk?

We’ve talked about the differences in organic vs. conventional foods, and that people often mistakenly assume that organic means healthy. It doesn’t. You can find organic variations of almost any food – and it’s not an indication of calories, fat, sodium, etc.

Moreover, numerous studies have found that organic produce doesn’t contain any increases in vitamins or nutrients. And the consumption of organic foods doesn’t change a person’s risk of disease or illness – including cancer.

Because organic foods are grown in a more eco-friendly manner, this is the true motivation for buying organic. Even if it doesn’t benefit your human body, organic products benefit your extended body… this planet.

But what about organic milk? What does the research show?

A European Union-funded study by Newcastle University compared 22 milk brands sold in supermarkets. After crunching the data, researchers found that organic milk had lower levels of saturated fat and increased levels of beneficial fatty acids. In fact, the study’s lead researcher noted that individuals could cut saturated fats in milk by 30% – 50% simply by opting for organic.

Why? The cows that produce organic milk have diets richer in grass – whereas conventional cows typically have access to grass during summer months (if at all). Conventional cows typically consume grain and supplements. Other studies have verified the link between grass-fed cows and healthier milk.

While many people avoid milk in their diets altogether, the research does suggest that switching to organic milk is a smart way to cut saturated fats and increase your intake of desirable fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants.