In ancient Egypt, milk was highly valued and was part of the daily diet of nobles and common people alike. It was stored in earthen vessels with a ‘stopper’ made from a bundle of grass. The Egyptians used honey or carob fruit as sweeteners for milk. Thousands of years later, cow’s milk is an everyday product in our lives and an object of many discussions.
Cow’s milk – Nutrition facts
Cow milk has low energy value, low protein content and very low fat. It is low in carbs, sugar and has a low glycemic index.
The positives of cow’s milk
Cow’s milk has been a rich source of nutrients for thousands of years, and it is the source product of a huge list of dairy derivatives such as yoghurts, cheeses and kefir. It is an excellent source of protein, calcium and other important nutrients for the body!
1Strengthens bones and muscles
Due to the presence of calcium, cow’s milk is a very important source for developing and maintaining muscles. Drinking cow milk in enhancing your core strength and prevents the risk of osteoporosis.
2Improves brain health
Milk is food for the brain. It contains vitamin B group, which helps calm the nerves and maintain a proper sleep cycle. For example, vitamin B12 is known to improve memory and mental acuity. It is especially important for the development of a growing child’s brain.
3Keeps your heart healthy
Cow’s milk has fats, calcium and phosphorus, which help regulate and maintain normal blood pressure. It also contains an important acid called Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which helps reduce bad cholesterol levels and thus keep your heart healthy. For example, milk from cows that eat mostly grass contains significantly higher amounts of CLA and omega-3 fatty acids.
4Protects your cells from damage
Cow’s milk is extremely nutritious and contains quality protein, which helps to give sufficient strength to the building blocks of cells. Cow’s milk plays an important role in strengthening the immune system and repairing damaged cells and tissues.
5Good for losing weight
Due to its nutritional value and healthy fat content, it is good for satiety and prevents sudden attacks of hunger. Still, you should not substitute milk for a normal meal. In addition, cow’s milk can help improve the body’s metabolism and prevents weight gain.
6Milk is the basis for an endless list of other dishes
Milk is a versatile ingredient that can easily be added to your diet. However, you should always remember that cow’s milk contains lactose, a natural sugar that can be used to sweeten things like porridge and coffee, and make sauces like béchamel.
In addition to preparing dishes that involve milk, you should also not neglect already ready-made dairy products such as yoghurts, different types of cheese and kefir.
7It’s a very inexpensive source of nutrients and energy
Massive production, a large-scale industry and a lot of incentive methods to increase production have made cow’s milk one of the cheapest sources of macro and micronutrients.
Milk is a very affordable source of protein, calcium, B vitamins and other important nutrients for your diet. It’s easy to include in your diet and difficult to miss in your local supermarket 🙂
8Cow’s milk can be enriched with vitamins essential for your health
Due to the growing consumption of highly processed food in Europe, often poor in nutritional value, the consumption of milk, including fortified milk, is fully justified in all people of all ages.
Dairy products enriched with vitamins and microelements are profiled for specific groups of recipients of different ages, who are often exposed to the occurrence of particular diseases. Dairy products enriched with microelements usually contain calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, iodine, chromium, molybdenum and cobalt. In addition, vitamins A, D, C, E and K are added, as well as, although less often, vitamin K (biotin), pantothenic acid or folic acid.
The negatives of cow’s milk
Cow milk feeds humankind. It was promoted for decades that drinking cow milk is ultimately beneficial for your health. But the benefits of cow milk are not so undisputable, and the choice in favour of cow milk is not as obvious as you can see on TV. The effect and balance between benefits and downsides can be very different from person to person and even when you are 20 and when you are 45 years old.
Although milk may be a good choice for some people, others cannot digest it or prefer not to consume it. Many people cannot tolerate milk because they cannot digest lactose, a sugar in milk and dairy products. Lactose intolerance occurs when the small intestine stops producing enough lactase enzyme to digest and break down lactose. When this happens, undigested lactose moves to the large intestine.
Bacteria that are normally present in the large intestine interact with undigested lactose and cause symptoms such as abdominal bloating, gas and diarrhoea, about 30 minutes to two hours after ingesting milk or other dairy products containing lactose.
This condition can also be called lactase deficiency. People with lactose intolerance need to avoid dairy products or consult a doctor if they notice disturbing symptoms.
Based on the review lactose intolerance has a high prevalence worldwide, ranging between 57% and 65% of the people on the planet being lactose intolerant to a different degree. And lactose intolerance becomes more severe when you age. That’s why if you liked to drink a big glass of milk all childhood and enjoy it doesn’t mean that when you are 45 your body enjoys your glass of milk to the same degree.
However, it is also worth noting that lactose intolerance can be caused by small bowel surgery, and it can also be congenital.
Casein is a protein found in milk and other dairy products. A casein allergy occurs when your body mistakenly identifies casein as a threat to your body. Your body then triggers a reaction, trying to fight it off. This is different from lactose intolerance, which occurs when the body does not produce enough lactase enzymes. Lactose intolerance can cause discomfort after consuming dairy products.
Casein allergy can cause: hives, rashes, wheezing, severe pain, food malabsorption, vomiting, breathing problems, and anaphylaxis.
What causes a casein allergy and where it can be found?
A casein allergy is most common in babies and young children. This allergy occurs when the immune system mistakes casein for something the body needs to fight. This causes an allergic reaction. Casein allergy usually goes away by the age of 3-5 years. In some children, the casein allergy does not go away and can remain until adulthood.
Casein can be found in other foods and products containing milk or milk powder, such as crackers and biscuits. Casein can also be found in less obvious products, such as non-dairy creamers and flavourings. This makes casein one of the most difficult allergens to avoid.
This means that it is very important for you to read the food labels carefully and ask what is in certain foods before you buy or eat them. In restaurants, be sure to warn the staff if you are allergic to casein before ordering food. In addition, the packaging of some foods may voluntarily indicate words such as “may contain milk” or “made in a factory with milk”. These products should also be avoided as they may contain traces of casein.
Lactose is one of the energy sources and is sometimes simply called milk sugar, as it is present in large quantities in dairy products. The sugar content of milk depends on the source and whether the manufacturing process adds sugar to the finished product. Added sugars are concentrated sources of calories with no nutritional benefit. This can be harmful to your body.
Animal kinds of milk like cow, goat, and sheep may vary in sugar content according to the animals’ diet and methods used to increase milk production.
There is no reason to demonise cow milk because of its sugar content, but you have to pay attention how many glasses of milk or milk products you drink in a day.
Some people choose low-fat milk, thinking it will be better for their health. But is this really the truth?
Taking the fat out of our milk changes the carbohydrate, fat, and protein profile. There is more carbohydrate (aka sugar) in lower or non-fat dairy products. Without the fat to balance the nutrients, this disrupts the endocrine system, interferes with weight management, increases acne, and can lead to a whole host of other problems.
One more thing we need to know, skimmed and low-fat milk can be harmful to the human body if it is consumed very often instead of whole milk. The fact is that in the process of removing the valuable milk fat, a large proportion of the healthy vitamins A and D, which aid in the absorption of proteins and calcium, are also removed from milk.
Choosing full-fat dairy products labelled organic, and grass-fed could be the best option.
Simple, better alternatives to a plain glass of cow’s milk
1. Goat milk
Goat milk is thicker and creamier than cow or plant milk, and goat milk has more nutrients that may offer health benefits, it contains calcium 14% per 100 g. Goat milk has more protein per serving. And the protein in goat milk appears to be more digestible, meaning your body can use it more easily. Goat milk still contains lactose, just like cow milk. Some people find goat milk slightly easier to digest than cow milk, but this is highly individual. It is comprised of about 4.2% lactose, whereas cow’s milk contains almost 5%.
There is a belief that goat milk has a specific smell that not everyone can bear. This is the peculiarity of milk from non-breed goats. This is why goat farms prefer to breed the Saanen breed of goats. These breed goats produce much more milk that is odourless and tasteless and lives for an average of 15 years.
2. Sheep milk
The protein in sheep’s milk is digested faster, and the fats are more easily converted into energy compared to cow’s milk. It may be better tolerated by some people than cow’s milk. The amount of lactose in it is 4.8%. It has almost twice the level of calcium, 18% per 100 g, compared to cow milk. Sheep milk delivered more of some so-called ‘good fats’ (medium-chain fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA) than cow milk.
3. Buffalo milk
Buffalo milk is a creamy dairy product mainly produced from water buffaloes. Buffalo milk provides high amounts of calcium: 17.4% per 100 g and a lactose content 4.9%. It is higher in protein and fat, vitamins and minerals than cow’s milk. It is an ideal product for making butter, cream and yoghurt. Consuming milk with higher protein content increases your feelings of fullness. And Buffalo mozzarella is a tasteful alternative to cow milk mozzarella.
Interesting fact: Buffaloes are effective at converting beta-carotene — an antioxidant with a distinctive yellow colour — into vitamin A, and their milk is whiter than cow’s milk.
Most yoghurts contain live bacteria that can help break down lactose, so you don’t have to digest much on your own. Your best choice is to look for yoghurts labelled “probiotic”, which means they contain live cultures of bacteria.
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that contains different cultures. The lactose found in milk is the primary food supply for dairy cultures. The cultures feast on the lactose and convert it into the tangy lactic acid we find in milk kefir or yoghurt. Because lactose is consumed in the fermenting process, any cultured dairy product is lower in lactose than the milk before culturing.
6. Plant-based milk alternatives like ‘oat milk’, ‘almond milk’ etc
Technically oat, almond, soy or any plant-based ‘milk’ is not milk at all. But their popularity is growing as a real cow milk substitution in coffee, overnight oats, smoothies and many more meals where cow milk was the only choice for hundreds of years.
Cow milk in the Blue Zones
Cow’s milk does not figure significantly in any Blue Zones diet except that of the Adventists community in California; they eat dairy products but not cow’s milk. This is a simple and strong confirmation of questionable exclusivity for cow milk and dairy products in our diet.
Long-livers choose alternatives to cow’s milk, including small amounts of sheep’s milk or goat’s milk products—especially full-fat, naturally fermented yoghurt with no added sugars—a few times weekly are okay in a Blue Zones diet. Goat’s and sheep’s milk products do figure prominently in the traditional menus of the Ikarian and Sardinian Blue Zones. They consume sheep and goat milk very regularly.
Fun & curious facts about milk
India is the largest producer of milk. Cows live a long life there because, to Hindus, the cow is a sacred animal and is only used for milk.
Milk was considered the ‘food of the gods’ in ancient cultures.
Cow’s Milk. Experiment by our expert
Let’s sum up cow’s milk
Milk is an excellent source of protein and energy for our daily life. It’s inexpensive and contains a good portion of calcium, phosphorus and other important nutrients. Also, the usage of milk and dairy products in your diet may prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures and even help you maintain a healthy weight. But growing with age, lactose intolerance and better alternatives available does not make cow milk unbeatable in our diet. People who live in Blue Zones just confirm this summary by their own diet and food choices.
Not enough? Here is more from our colleagues!
The popular Doctor, Dr Sten Ekberg, is a holistic doctor, former Olympic athlete and nutritionist at his office, Wellness For Life, in Georgia, USA. He is a popular YouTuber as well. His very insightful YouTube channel has 2.3 mln subscribers. We strongly recommend watching his video with the benefits and downsides of raw and pasteurised cow milk.
In this video, Lauren Mattice, on her YouTube channel, will share with us how to get legally grass-fed raw milk and what is it cows share.
Here in this video, Carolyn from her Home Steading Family YouTube channel breaks down the anatomy of raw milk, plus the different ways you can transform your milk into delicious and healthy products.
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