Nutrition and Fitness Expert Nadia Tejani takes a look at the different types of milk currently available and assesses their health benefits… there’s more to milk than you might think!
Each year we purchase 5 billion litres of milk and an additional 6 billion litres are used in dairy products. But is it healthy for us? Milk is essential created from the motherâ€™s blood, for the sole purpose of nourishing the baby during the first few months of its life. Once weaned, should we be drinking milk at all?
Cowâ€™s milk is the most common milk that we drink, and has recently been linked to prostate cancer, and various hormonal imbalances. The reasons for this can be realised when looking at the process of milking the cows. Cows produce milk in order to feed their new born calf, but are milked up to old age. To keep up the milk production and fend off illnesses, many cows are injected with antibiotics and other medicines. Whilst additional medication is applied topically, seeping into the bloodstream and thus the milk that is produced.
To increase milk production further, cows are often injected with both growth factors and growth hormone inhibitors which have been genetically engineered. In particular rBGH (Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) has worryingly been linked to breast, colon and prostate cancer in humans.
When cowâ€™s udders become infected causing mastitis, the pus produced is found in the milk. Studies show at least 322 million cell-counts of pus per glass. This has been linked to Crohns disease. There are also a large amount of white blood cells found in a glass of milk. Surprisingly in certain countries, the governing body actually allows up to 1.5 million white blood cells per millilitre of commonly-sold milk. Bacterial diseases suffered by cows will also affect the contents of the milk produced.
Cortisol, a hormone produced in times of stress is usually found due to the stressful living conditions of cows, and the effects of being over milked. When we drink milk with cortisol we are exposed to the same stress hormones as the cow.
To make matters worse, the process of pasteurisation, sanitises the milk killing both the bad and good bacteria and making it harder for the body to digest the nutrient value.
This healthy alternative is growing steadily in popularity. High in calcium and free from dairy, it is suitable for lactose intolerance people and vegans alike. Soya is the best form of nonâ€“animal protein, and contains isoflavones which are linked to fighting cancer.
With protein and carbohydrate including sugars in the sweetened varieties, it is great for a post training drink, just be wary of brands that contain maltodextrose. From an environmental perspective, no animals have to suffer to produce it and the growing soya plants emit utilise carbon rather than cause it to be produced as cows do. The main disadvantage is that as the demand for soya milk and soya products grow, deforestation increase in various rainforests.
The isoflavones found in soya have been found to help with menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes. However as the very same ingredients produce a similar effect as oestrogen; soya milk has been less popular with men.
Those who choose ewe’s milk often believe it is healthier as the sheep isnâ€™t subjected to the same stresses and medications as cows. Full of nutrients, up to twice as many minerals as cowâ€™s milk and creamier in taste than cowâ€™s milk, this can be a good alternative.
From an environmental perspective, sheep graze on land that is unsuitable for farming and produce less methane. However eweâ€™s milk does contain lactose so is unsuitable for lactose intolerant people, and is twice as high in fat.
Higher in calcium and vitamins and minerals, this makes another good alternative as goats as with sheep are not subjected to the same hormones as cows and like sheep, and so is far healthier. Goats produce less methane, eat a variety of crops and weeds, live in harsher environments and even rocky mountainous terrain. The taste is an acquired one, and can vary depending on the goatâ€™s diet.
Suitable for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant, lower in protein but much higher in carbs (sugars) this is unsuitable for diabetics. Full of good unsaturated fats to lower cholesterol, and various important minerals it is unfortunately low in calcium.
This is harder to source so a little more expensive but becoming more popular. Full of vitamins, unsaturated fats and protein, it is lower in sugar than soya milk. Lactose free and has a relatively low impact on the environment. However it is more expensive and different to cowâ€™s milk in taste.