Milk, wonderful milk

From the ultimate superfood, to completely unnecessary and fattening – milk has been awarded many titles. We find out the truth about milk and it’s nutritional benefits.

The many benefits of milk

Milk is a food for which there seems to be no adequate substitute. It is a complete food in itself, containing all the nutrients, viz., carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. With our huge cattle population, India is the second largest producer of milk in the world.

Nutritional benefits of milk

Since our nation’s population is primarily vegetarian in their food choice, milk and milk products are a major source of protein and calcium in their diet. A 250ml glass of milk contains 8g of protein and 300mg of calcium. The nutrient content of milk varies depending on its source.

What does a 250 ml of milk contain?

Nutrient Cow’s Milk Buffalo Milk
Energy 168 kcal 216
Protein 8g 16g
Fat 10.3g 16g

 

Though milk has only 3-4% protein, the quality of milk protein is extremely good due to which milk protein absorption is very high. Milk is classified as full-fat, half-toned, or double toned. This classification is on the basis of its fat content. The calorie content varies, but the amount of protein and calcium remains the same.

How much milk do we need?

Each person’s calcium requirement varies with age. Adult men and women require 400mg of calcium each day, while children in the age group of 10-15 years require 600mg of calcium each day. Calcium can also be absorbed from different food sources like some pulses, leafy vegetables and nuts.

Due to the different nutrients present in milk, it is extremely beneficial. Milk sugar or lactose is essential for making nerve tissues. Milk fat is easily digested and that is the reason that infants are easily able to digest milk. Calcium in milk is important for bone development. Although it’s important to note that calcium deposition in bones occurs only till the age of 30 in both men and women. Post-menopausal women need an extra supplement of calcium, as with age, demineralization of bones begins.

Myths around milk

There are a lot of myths are associated with milk. For example, many parents think that giving their children only milk can make up for any other kind of food. This is incorrect as milk does not contain adequate amounts of iron, Vitamin C, A and D.

Many also believe that milk can aggravate a cough or cold. In fact, milk does not lead to mucus production or cause asthma. It only thickens the saliva.

Another myth that prevails is that milk leads to the production of kidney stones. Again, this isn’t true as kidney stones occur due to high uric acid levels, and milk or milk products do not lead to elevation of uric acid levels in the body.

Lactose intolerance and soy milk

Soy milk is used as a substitute for milk by people who are lactose-intolerant or unable to digest milk. While individuals who are lactose intolerant may not be able to digest milk due to the presence to lactose sugar, they are able to digest curd or paneer as the lactose is converted to lactic acid.

Those who’re having soy milk in place of regular milk should be aware that soy milk needs to be fortified with calcium. Also, the intake of soy milk needs to be much higher to get the benefits of calcium. This is because the absorption of soya milk calcium is less than that of cow’s milk absorption.

Milk is an extremely beneficial food item  that should be incorporated in the daily diet, either as milk or as curd, paneer or cheese. Weight conscious individuals stop consuming milk as they believe it leads to weight gain. But milk is important for improving the bone density. Skim milk provides the same amount of calcium and protein as full cream milk. Hence, a low fat milk option should be chosen.

Written and reviewed by Misha Sharma, Nutritionist

Photograph by Uros Kotnik via sxc.hu

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The mDhil Editorial Team consists of several highly experienced writers with a passion for healthcare, who work in tandem with a dedicated group of physicians to create our high-quality content.

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