For years, we have been taught that milk is the best source of calcium. It helps strengthen and develop the bones. At the same time, there has been a lot of confusion surrounding cow milk. But that apart, several milk substitutes have popped up in the market that claims to be better than cow milk. So the question is should we avoid cow milk?
Types of Cow Milk
When it comes to purchasing and consuming cow milk, there are several types to choose from. To begin with, Whole Milk contains 3.25% milk fat with 150 calories and 8 grams of fat per cup. Reduced-Fat Milk contains 2% milk fat with 120 calories and 5 grams of fat per cup. Skim milk contains 0% milk fat by weight with 80 calories and 0 grams of fat per cup.
In addition to that, organic milk comes from cows that are not treated with antibiotics. These cows are not provided drugs that trigger hormone production to increase either growth or reproduction. Plus, their diets contain atleast 30% pasture.
And then there is Lactose-Free Milk. Lactose is a type of natural sugar that is broken down by an enzyme found in our bodies called lactase. Since some people do not produce enough lactase, the manufacturers will add lactase to the milk so that it is broken down outside the body. This is why lactose-free milk tastes relatively a bit sweeter due to the presence of free glucose.
Is Milk Healthy?
Over the years, thousands of studies have been conducted to determine the health benefits of milk. Experts suggest that irrespective of the milk type you choose, your body will receive essential nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, riboflavin, and niacin, etc. These are essential compounds that are important for the normal functioning of our body. Moreover, since these compounds are not naturally produced, we have to consume them through sources such as milk.
The benefits of milk have long been associated with the development and strengthening of the bones. Nutrients such as vitamin K, vitamin D, protein, magnesium, and phosphorus help repair and sustain strong bones. This also leads to the prevention of bone-related diseases such as osteoporosis.
Although the same nutrients are also found in plant sources such as beans, leafy greens, and nuts. But most people do not prefer eating them. And since the consumption is far less as compared to milk products, the body does not receive a sufficient amount of essential nutrients. And then there is the variety of drinks and dishes you can prepare using milk.
For instance, you can make protein shakes, smoothies, and healthy pies and cakes, etc. within a few minutes. On the other hand, plant-based sources neither offer such variety nor taste.
Concern with Cow’s Milk
Even though cow’s milk tends to provide several health benefits but some people still refuse its consumption due to several reasons. Allergies, lactose intolerance, antibiotics and pesticides, and hormones being the biggest concerns, the consumption of cow milk is reducing with time as people search for alternatives.
It is estimated that around 68% of the world’s population has some degree of lactose intolerance. This is a type of disorder in which the body does not produce enough lactase that breaks down natural lactose. As a result, people consuming cow milk happen to experience intestinal discomfort.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that cows are given antibiotics and steroids to increase the production of milk. This can lead to health concerns such as cancers amongst humans. Meanwhile, many manufacturers claim that their organic milk does not contain such chemicals. But consumers still find it hard to believe.
Plant-Based Milk Alternatives
With the attention now shifting towards plant-based milk alternatives, Soy Milk and Nut Milk tend to be the most popular types. Soy milk is produced by soaking soybeans in water. It offers the same amount of proteins as cow milk and also contains disease-fighting isoflavones.
Plus, soy milk is proven to contain calcium along with other minerals and vitamins found in cow milk. Although several health concerns such as breast cancer have been associated with the consumption of soy milk but there is no proof as of yet.
Nut Milks are produced by soaking nuts in water. Since there is a variety of nuts out there, you can create different types of nut milk. For instance, pecan, hazelnut, and walnut, etc. Similar to some cow milk manufacturers that claim their milk is organic, there are some nut milk producers as well that only use nuts and do not include filler ingredients.
As a result, analyzing the differences between organic nut milk and nut milk produced using other formulas becomes necessary.
Plant Milk Benefits
Plant-based milks offer more nutritional and environmental benefits. As compared to dairy cattle, plant-based milk beverage alternatives require less land, water, and fertilizer. Even though plant-based milks tend to offer a lot of healthy nutrients but both plant and cow milks are not nutritionally comparable. Plant milks tend to contain a lesser concentration of calories and saturated fat than cow milk along with the benefits of plants themselves.
Concerns with Plant-Based Milk
Plant-based milk also carries some concerns similar to cow milk. Perhaps the biggest concern is nutritional gaps. Although nut milk also features important health benefits but only soy milk comes close to being compared to cow milk.
The second concern is the price. Plant-based milk as compared to cow milk are significantly pricier. You can opt for relatively expensive ones but at the same time, you should consider the value proposition.
Unfortunately, in the end, there is no clear winner here. The answer totally depends on your preferences, needs, and budget, etc. Plus, you should also consider how you incorporate milk into your diet. If you consume cow milk regularly, switching to plant-based milk is not going to offer the same nutritional benefits. If you do opt for plant-based milk, make sure that they are a good source of essential nutrients.