Hello friends! I just have to start with a massive THANK YOU to everyone for understanding and continuing to support me whilst I’ve taken some time off blogging to concentrate on placement. Whilst it was a hard compromise to make, my current focus is on getting to the end – so close now and I want to make sure I’m the very best professional I can be!
But woo! I’m back gang. Back for another little chat about another controversial topic.. yep, today we’re talking about milk.
Hang on… what, milk? Controversial?!
If you haven’t noticed, recently there’s a lot more milk available than your standard blue and green tops that you pick up from your local corner shop. But where’s this all come from? Health? Money? Product development? Why is there just SO many to choose from?! Can’t someone just simply explain to me what’s the difference and which is the best one for me?!?! Well hello lovely readers, I’m gonna try my very best. And I’m going to try and avoid milk puns while I’m at it (I say try…)
So. Milk. What’s so important about it?!
From the moment we are born, that is the moment we’re no longer reliant on the comfort of our Momma’s body and her lovely nutrient supply. We’re on our own now. And we need to grow. We need nutrients. And milk… that’s where it comes in. Before the age of around 4-6 months, babies can’t eat food because of an undeveloped gastrointestinal tract (aka, the slip and slide of our insides). Milk is the only option.
Historically and still today, breast is best. We get all the nutrients that our tiny baby bodies need to help give us energy and let us grow. Of course, today formulas have been development to an excellent standard to meet babies nutritional needs and specialist requirements, for those who cannot or choose not to breastfeed. But of course, it has to be highlighted the amazing benefits breastfeeding has: it creates a bond between mother and child, provides antibodies to baby to help build up the immune system and can reduce Momma’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers!
But as we grow, our bodies grow tough and strong and we can now move away from the boob or the bottle. At about 12 months to be precise. And milk is a product that is SO important through the lifespan. It helps provide protein, fat, calcium and vitamins which helps us grow, protects our bones and provides us with needed nutrients to keep our body healthy and ticking. But what is the right choice? Animal milk? Plant milk? DUST? Right, come on now, let’s talk this through.
Starting off with the classic cows milk.
Oh cows milk. Probably the milk most consumed and the most easily accessible in the UK.
Blue is 3.5% fat (aka whole milk), green (semi skimmed) is about 1.8% fat and red milk (skimmed) means it has less that 0.3% fat. The most common colour consumed by households is green – this actually used to be blue, but over the years, good old public health and persuasion has changed the norm.
Blue topped milk is recommended for children to support their growth and development, but is also recommended for people who aren’t eating too well or are poorly and have higher nutritional requirements, as blue topped milk has more calories.
Cow’s milk is probably also the most affordable of milks and the most widely available. This means it is easily accessible for the majority of the general public, helping them achieve their health requirements and reach their recommended intakes for calcium, protein and vitamins. Unlike some plant milks (which I’ll go into explain further later..) cows milk is protein complete. However, like plant milks, cows milk is fortified with extra vitamins – such as vitamin D!
My weapon of choice is red (skimmed). I will drink the other milks however if skimmed isn’t on offer. This is because I like to watch my overall fat intake (as I eat a lot of cheese, gotta balance it out somewhere) and I don’t actually like the creamy taste of fuller fat milks. My own health choice and preference.
With my student experience, I’ve come to also understand that cow’s milk doesn’t stay fresh for long. I like to opt for UHT milk – it’s heated to really high temperatures for short amounts of time in order to preserve it for longer! Some people say it tastes different, but I keep mine chilled and add it into my hot drinks and it tastes fine! It saves a lot of money and a lot of waste too – I usually pick up a 1l for around 50p!!
But it’s not just cows that produce milk….
Yep. We can drink sheep milk too! We actually can drink sheep, goats, buffalo, donkey, reindeer, moose, horse and yak – but typically, you’ll only find sheep and goats milk in your local supermarket. Goats milk in particular has different fat contents, just like cows milk, but it has been thought to be easier to digest and contains a little bit less lactose and a lot of calcium. People who have a mild lactose intolerance MAY find goats and sheep’s milk more tolerable than cows – but of course, always consult a health professional first before making the decision!!!!
Also, goats and cheese milk combined makes this wonderful cheese called halloumi. You may have heard of it… BEST THING EVER.
There’s been a few issues raised regarding the safety of drinking mammalian milks. A few non-evidence based sources have raised concerns that animal milk is bad due to the growth hormones given to the animals and therefore passed on through the milk to us. WELL, good ol me has been rooting through some journals and seeing if I can find an answer. Well, the evidence is a bit mixed and confusing. A study by Malekinejad and Rezabakhsh is 2015 did show that hormones from mammals passed on through the milk could be considered a risk for cancer in humans. But this research is pretty limited and can be pretty biased in researchers who may or may not be pro mammalian milk. The fact is, mammals produce hormones just like us humans. The hormone mostly in question ‘Bovine growth hormone’ has actually been shown not to have no biological activity in humans. So, probably need to wait til more evidence emerges and for now, avoid that Facebook posts your Auntie Barbara has been sharing to her 87 friends.
Right, shall we move onto the plants?
Over the last few years, the dairy free industry has BOOMED. The rise of veganism, the increase gap in the market in the allergy sector and their unique tasty personalities have all been contributing factors to the rise in plant based milks. Up until recently, soya milk was probably the only non-mammalian milk you’d heard of, right? Well plant based milks also include almond, cashew, oat, rice, hemp, hazelnut, coconut and even.. pea milk!?
Now the thing with a good plant based milk is that is will be fortified with lots of extra goodness. This means that the manufactures add in vitamins and minerals that us humans need to make the drink more of a nutritionally complete option over the animal equivalents. Vitamin D and calcium are the big ones here, because ya know, strong bones kidz.
All plant milks taste different and have different nutritional compositions. Almond tends to be very popular as it’s low in fat, sugar and kcals but really high in calcium, where as coconut is also often a top choice for having a creamy, tropical taste whilst having a little bit more fat in then the other options.
Luckily, plant based milks are becoming more widespread and accessible – usually shops will include at least one plant based item (usually soya) and the price is becoming much more affordable than back in the day. Restaurants and coffee shops are also becoming aware of the rising request for animal-free alternatives, so you will probably start to see a lot of people offering things such as almond, soya and coconut on their premises.
Plant based milks are also amazing because they’re suitable for a variety of people, such as vegans, lactose free or those who simply, don’t like cows milk. They provide a wider variety of choice for diets that can otherwise be restrictive with is FANTASTIC! This can help widen nutrients available, increase choice and can also help people feel included – how would you feel if all your friends were having lattes but you couldn’t because you were lactose free and no free from option was available? A little bit left out if anything I would assume.
Unfortunately, for someone like me with a nut allergy, plant based milks aren’t my greatest choice. I also don’t like rice or oat milk, soya milk can give me bad stomach cramps occasionally… but I do love coconut milk. Can’t beat a coconut latte! I also add the thicker, creamier tinned stuff into curries and sauces which provides the most incredible flavour.
So, which milk do you go for? Well, the choice is up to you… your preference, your health, your beliefs. Choose the milk for you and don’t let society make the choice for you.
Happy milkin kids,
Emma is a Registered Dietitian and Registered Associate Nutritionist based in Cheshire, England. Emma works in community healthcare and writes freelance alongside her work: topics including Dietetic life, nutrition, mental health and lifestyle. Emma also writes and photographs recipes for the platform, as well as being the author of the ‘Mummy and Me’ series for SR Nutrition. Emma’s Food Stories is PR friendly brand.