Milk is one of the most hotly debated food sources. Today, we’re going to look at its properties and benefits, whether it’s healthy, its myths, and much more.
What is milk?
Milk is a food source from the mammary glands of mammals, including humans, who produce it to feed their young before they can eat solid food.
Because of this, its nutritional profile aid growth.
Despite this, much information about milk is contradictory, with both advocates of milk and those who demonise its consumption.
There are compelling arguments for both cases, although sometimes unsupported by science.
Nutritional Information for Milk
Milk is a magnificent food source with an important nutritional value.
Below, you’ll find its composition of both vitamins and minerals, and the NRV (Nutrient Reference Values – established in the Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 of 25 October 2011):
|Vitamin A||275mcg (34%)|
|Vitamin C||8.6mg (11%)|
|Vitamin D||7.8mcg (153%)|
|Vitamin E||0.5mg (4.2%)|
|Vitamin K||1.8mcg (2.4%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.3mg (21.5%)|
|Folic Acid||37mcg (18.5%)|
|Vitamin B12||3.3mcg (132%)|
|Pantothenic Acid||2.3mg (38%)|
Table of Vitamins and Minerals for 1 litre of whole milk
Why you should drink it
There is probably no other food that has been the subject of so many myths and issues.
In certain respects, unless you are lactose intolerant, I don’t think there’s any reason not to consume milk, except for issues regarding the means of production, but that would be another topic. In this case, we’re looking at milk from a nutritional point of view.
Milk is the Food with the Best “Macros”
And this isn’t coming from me, but nature, and if it’s been created in such a way, there must be a reason for it…
The best food for a newborn baby is breast milk, as it provides everything a baby needs: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. It also contains a series of substances that will develop and boost the newborn’s immune system.
Milk contains all the macronutrients in certain percentages, with carbohydrates being quite high, followed by fats, and finally proteins.
In a litre of whole cow’s milk, we find, approximately: 32g of Protein, 46g of Carbohydrates, 34g of Fat.
How much should you drink?
It will depend on our requirements and how we usually consume it, as we won’t use the same amount for milk in a coffee as if we would for porridge with milk for breakfast, or if we cook a tasty rice pudding.
We can look at it from the nutritional point of view: an adult needs an average of 1000mg of calcium a day; 110 mg of calcium for every 100 ml of product, so with one cup of milk we would cover a quarter of the requirements.
What are the benefits of drinking milk?
It’s a fantastic food, which provides a very interesting nutritional balance.
Milk contains a wide range of micronutrients, but it’s in whole milk that we find the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K.
Source of high biological value protein
Milk protein is, together with eggs, on of the top two highest quality protein sources.
This refers to the fact that it contains all the essential amino acids, required in essential processes of the body: from enzyme synthesis, neurotransmitters, intervening in immune system mechanisms, to muscle growth.
On top of its great flavour (many people think it’s delicious), it’s a great option for post-training.
This is due to its high water content, which promotes rehydration, along with the aforementioned vitamins and minerals, and of course, protein, carbohydrates, and fat, which are great for improving recovery after exercise and for those seeking to increase muscle mass, meaning it truly is a great ally to have.
Strong teeth and bones
As we saw earlier, milk is a source of calcium.
This mineral is involved in maintaining the health of the skeletal system. But it’s not just calcium, other nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, or vitamin D and K support this process too.
Its consumption is related to osteoporosis prevention anda lowered risk of fracture.
Why should you not drink milk?
From a nutritional point of view, if there are no intolerances, there is no disadvantage in not drinking milk.
You can take it or leaving it depending on whether you like the taste or now.
But if we look at how milk is produced, from an ethical point of view, certain practices of certain groups in the sector don’t seem right to me, with the term “exploitation” taking on its fullest meaning.
In terms of how we humans exploit animals for our own benefit, there are also any other livestock practices, such as egg production or chicken meat.
What’s the problem with Milk?
The problem is not really with the milk itself, but with those who suffer from an intolerance to one of its components: lactose
This is because such people don’t properly generate the enzyme responsible for its metabolism, lactase. The result? Some stomach problems, such as flatulence, bloating or swelling of the stomach, which in the majority of cases will lead you to the toilet…
Non-human milk began to be drunk by adult humans around 7,500 years ago. This happened in Europe, in the central and Balkan region, from where it spread in successive waves to the rest of the continent.
As always happens, evolution favours those with genetic traits that facilitate adaptation to the environment and give them an advantage over competitors from other species or among their own kind.
Lactose is the sugar present in milk, and can also be found in other dairy products:
- When the body receives lactose, with the enzyme lactase, it will metabolise it into galactose, and from here it will finally reduce it into glucose and pass into the bloodstream.
- If there are insufficient levels of lactose: this process is not carried out correctly, and it will not be absorbed, remaining in the large intestine or colon.
Lactose intolerance is a problem that affects a certain percentage of the population, while others are still unaware of the problem…
- In the case of intolerance, the body will react to the milk itself, not to the sugar content (lactose).
- A person allergic to milk will not be able to consume any dairy product.
Today, a large part of the European adult population produces the enzyme lactase all their lives.
It’s due to an evolutionary mechanism or mutation, meaning that at birth our lactase production can be reduced or suppressed.
For many people, intolerance tends to occur when we reduce or stop consuming milk, leading to a decrease in lactase production.
Lactose tolerance among adults is a rarity and it is estimated, as reflected in this study, that around 65% of the world’s population has hypolactasia, that’s to say, low levels of lactase or even total absence, which would prevent them, to varying degrees, or degree to assimilate lactose.
The prevalence of lactose intolerance varies greatly between ethnic groups: in Latin America, as well as in many countries in Asia and Africa, between 50% and 100% of the population is unable to digest lactose.
The 3 types of milk we can find, as everyone knows, are whole, semi-skimmed and skimmed milk. The main difference being the percentage of fat in each:
- Whole milk: 3.25%.
- Semi-skimmed: 1%.
- Skimmed: less than 0.5%.
Is skimmed milk better?
Many people opt for skimmed or semi-skimmed milk because of the false belief we’ve been taught about the evil of fats in nutrition.
There’s so much fear of fat that even people without weight problems choose to drink skimmed milk.
- With skimmed milk, when the fat is removed, vitamins are also suppressed, and in their absence, through processing, they are artificially injected.
- Semi-skimmed milk still has a percentage of fat, and in it, these vitamins.
From my point of view, I prefer the whole milk version, and we can even take it with out post-training meal mixed with Whey Protein.
Whole milk produces the highest satiety index, and unlike the others, it doesn’t cause such an abrupt change in blood glucose levels.
What is Lactose-Free Milk?
The industry is used to remedying any situation, and it’s no different in this case:
This let’s people suffering from this milk intolerance consume milk without any problems.
Manufacturers have found a solution to the problem of lactose intolerance by producing low-lactose products or directly opting for others that don’t contain lactose. As a result, we have the following:
- Soy milk is another classic product that gives us the full benefits of milk without any lactose.
- In addition, there’s also rice milk. This variety has more carbohydrates than normal milk, as well as being enriched with vitamins and minerals such as calcium to improve its nutritional value.
Plant milk has no protein or calcium value, but it also has no cholesterol and its taste is great
- Almond milk is another alternative to take into account, rich in vitamin E and D, as well as having a significant amount of sodium, potassium and energy.
- Hazelnut milk could be another alternative, with lots of iron and calcium, as well as important vitamins essential for the optimal functioning of our body.
- Finally, oat milk is an alternative that contains little cholesterol, fat and sugar, but has a sweet taste that makes it a perfect product to drink with beverages or just on its own.
7 myths about milk
Milk reduces iron in children
This is why in 1993, the US National Academy of Pediatrics issued an official statement expressing its opinion that no child should drink animal milk before 18 months of age.
They also stated that it contributes to the deficiency of essential fatty acids and Vitamin E.
This is only half true, as it has been seen that there was no improvement in symptoms for children with anaemia who were given iron together with milk.
However, as we can see in the study, this phenomenon is due to an immature gastrointestinal system that is only transitory. Hence the importance of following the Beikost diet in infants.
Animal milk stimulates the body to produce mucus.
This is why when suffering from a cold, doctors recommend not to drink milk.
Totally false, there is no link between mucus production and milk consumption.
This is shown in the following article, where 600 patients were studied and concluded that there is no link between milk consumption and mucus. Even in Rhinovirus-2 patients (Rhinovirus is one of the most common agents of influenza disease).
Animal milk is full of bacteria
It is therefore an excellent medium for bacteria growth in the body.
That’s why children who don’t drink animal milk or dairy products of animal origin fall ill less, suffer less from tooth decay and get fewer ear infections.
False, dairy products such as fermented milks have beneficial effects on our intestinal flora.
Drinking and consuming milk is associated with various illnesses
Such as: diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, Chron’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and even cataracts…
False. Let’s see what the research says
In 2013, the Department of Experimental Medicine at McGill University (Canada) evaluated the effects of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics to determine whether they resulted in a variation in cytokine concentrations.
Concentrations of TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-4 and cytokines were measured. Lipopolysaccharide concentrations were significantly reduced by administration of B. bifidum and B subsp. longum. infantis.
Even the cell counts of Gram-negative and positive bacteria were clearly affected by the administered probiotic. In addition, . B. longum subsp. infantis demonstrated higher capacities to reduce TNF-alpha (Tumour Necrosis Factor) concentrations and to increase IL-4 concentrations.
Other studies at the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology in Valencia have found that by co-incubating a special type of immune system cell, the dendritic cells, with B. longum ES1 or with pathogenic bacteria (enterobacteria) detected in the digestive tract of coeliacs results in the opposite effects.
Milk is harmful for people with high cholesterol
False, milk does not “clog” arteries through high cholesterol levels.
Scientific evidence shows that milk helps to improve cholesterol levels. Although it’s true that this is most effectively achieved by eating yoghurt. It’s also false that variations are different in older persons.
Milk is associated with prostate cancer in men and ovarian cancer in women.
There is no relation between dairy consumption and increased likelihood of developing cancer.
Recent studies have shown that, after a review of 40 control studies, there is no link between dairy consumption and breast cancer.
As we can see in the McCullough study, in which almost 70,000 women participated, there is even slight decrease in the risk of breast cancer observed in those who consumed more calcium.
Finally, we come to ovarian cancer in women. Once again, the inconsistency of this statement is reflected in the analysis by Genkinger in 2009, where after 14 studies involving more than 500,000 women, the result was NO association between dairy products and ovarian cancer.
The findings are similar for prostate cancer. Perhaps the study that best illustrates this myth is the study conducted by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition.
In this study, almost 150,000 men took part. It found that dietary fat is unrelated to the development of prostate cancer, demystifying another of the article’s points about the harm of fat in milk.
Drinking milk may contribute to bone fractures
What protein does milk contain?
The protein in milk is formed by 80% casein and 20% whey.
Both fractions correspond to slow and fast proteins, respectively, and refer to the speed at which our body digests and absorbs them.
Milk contains high levels of IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor type 1), which is a hormone that promotes cell development and growth.
We can see that the essential and non-essential amino acid content in 100g of product is more than 12g, with Branched Chain Amino Acids or BCAAs almost 6g, together with more than 5.5g of Glutamine.
Essential Amino Acids
|Essential Amino Acids||Non-Essential Amino Acids|
Table of essential and non-essential amino acids in milk
How many grams of protein does a glass of milk have?
As we saw at the beginning, milk contains around 3.5% of protein.
Whey Milk Supplements
La proteína Milk Concentrate 85% is perhaps the supplement that we can find the greatest similarity with respect to milk, in terms of protein composition, as it maintains the proportion of casein and whey at 80:20, as occurs in milk.
The main difference is that the powdered format contains just traces of carbohydrates and fats..
The combination of both protein fractions, according to studies, produces an optimal response to the continuous delivery of amino acids, achieving better protein synthesis.
This is perhaps the point to note, as many users may be reluctant to consume such a large amount of milk after training, or at any another time of the day, and may resort more effectively to supplementation to obtain virtually the same protein balance.
Protein supplements such as Whey Protein Isolate offer a nutritional profile dominated by the protein fraction of whey with almost no fat or carbohydrates.
- Are dairy products good or bad for our health? We answer your question: here.