Which Milk is Best? Round Two

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Hi there, are you ready for round two of which milk is best? Hopefully today I can post pictures that are right side up. But who knows? Every day is a mystery at Nutty Nutrition. Yesterday we talked about cow milk and almond milk. Today its on to soy milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, hemp milk, rice milk, and last but not least, breast milk!

Soy Milk. Of all the plant-based milks, soy is closest to cow’s milk in terms of nutrition. Soy milk is a good source of protein, calcium, vitamins A and D (added), and provides some fat (but not as much as whole milk). A few years ago there was some concern over the relationship between soy intake and breast cancer due to the isoflavones found in soy (which are weak estrogen-like compounds found in plants). However, the research shows that soy does not raise your risk for breast cancer and it may even decrease your risk (although studies are mostly population based and have mixed results).coconut milk

Coconut Milk. Coconut milk is growing in popularity. From a nutritional stand point I don’t know why (if you like the way it tastes that’s one thing). It is high in saturated fat and it has no protein in it. Some people claim that the specific type of saturated fat found in coconut milk is better for you and doesn’t raise your risk for heart disease, but those claims are mostly unproven at this point.

Cashew Milk. Cashew milk is basically identical to almond milk, except with cashews. Choosing one over the other would just be a matter of taste preference.

Hemp and Flax Milk. Alright, if you really want to be granola go for the hemp milk. My grocery store doesn’t even carry it, but similar to flax milk, it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which most people could use more of.

Rice Milk. I would only recommend rice milk if you have ALL the allergies. It is soy-free, nut-free, dairy-free, etc. It is also flavor-free. But if you have a lot of food allergies or intolerances it might be a good choice for you.

Breast Milk. Breast milk is the best choice for babies, NOT adults. Believe it or not, a grown man (or woman) has different nutritional needs that an infant. There is no need to buy breast milk online, which is actually a lot more popular than you may think. Also, gross.

So, which one is best? It depends. Nearly every type of milk offers some type of nutritional advantage. If you have a milk allergy, intolerance, or just don’t believe in drinking cow’s milk for ethical reasons, plant-based milks are a great substitute! Just keep in mind that soy milk is the only plant-based milk that is going to give you any significant amount of protein.

Personally, I prefer one or two percent organic cow milk, but I’m definitely not opposed to soy or almond milk either. All of the milk alternatives that I investigated were fortified with key nutrients like vitamins A and D, but it likely varies by brand. I would recommend that you take a look at the nutrition facts and make sure that your milk has at least 30% of the DV of calcium and contains vitamin A (palmitate) and vitamin D. For adults with a balanced diet, it’s not really critical which type of milk you drink. You don’t even have to drink milk at all, as your calcium needs can be met though food (if you are eating a varied and balanced diet). However, for small children, I would be careful about giving a milk alternative if they are drinking a lot of milk and not eating much food.

What kind of milk do your prefer?

References:

Soy. http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/nutrition/reduce_risk/foods/soy

Ask the Doctor: Coconut Oil http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/coconut-oil

 

La La Leche: Which Milk is Best?

Which Milk is Best?
Me in the milk aisle, terribly confused by all the choices

Do you remember when your only milk options were red cap (whole milk) or blue (low-fat)? Ah yes, the good ole’ days. Well times have changed.  Now you are faced with hundreds of decisions when choosing something as simple as milk: dairy-free? lactose-free? sugar-free? nut-free? organic? It’s easy to see how all of these options could leave your mind spinning. Upon talking with some of my very smart friends I realized there is a lot of milk confusion out there and I am here to help clear it up.

Cow Milk. Humans have been drinking cow milk for over 7,000  years. Cow milk is very nutrient-dense providing 8 grams of protein, 33% of the daily value of calcium, vitamins A and D (Added), fat, and carbohydrates. For years, cow milk was our only choice and we didn’t question it. However, in recent years there have been growing concerns over drinking cow milk.  What about the hormones? Do I need to buy organic? How do they remove the lactose?

milk

If you are concerned about added hormones or antibiotics you should consider buying organic milk. In order to be certified organic the cow must be fed an organic diet which excludes antibiotics and bovine growth hormone (BGH or rBST). BGH allows the cow to produce more milk faster (making the farmer happy; the cow, probably not happy). However, it is worth noting that ALL milk (organic and conventional) is tested for any detectable levels of antibiotics and is thrown out if found to be positive. Additionally, one common concern such as pre-mature puberty in girls has never been linked to milk consumption.

Lactaid milk has the milk sugar lactose already broken down so it is easier to digest. This is a really simple process that is achieved by adding the enzyme lactase to milk. Babies have the enzyme lactase which does this for them, but many children and adults lose this enzyme as they get older and will become lactose intolerant. If you are lactose intolerant Lactaid milk is a good option. Or you can choose from one of the many non-dairy milks discussed below.

One last note on cow milk. Pasteurization is a good thing. Pasteurization is simply the process of heating milk (or any food/liquid) to kill 99% of the bacteria. If you live on a farm and want to drink raw milk, go for it. For the 99% of us that don’t live on farms you will be far safer drinking pasteurized milk. And no, pasteurization does not kill the healthy nutrients in your milk.

Whew, that was ALOT.  Next up – Almond Milk.

Almond Milk

Almond Milk. Almond milk is a good alternative if you want a plant-based source of calcium. It’s great for smoothies, pancakes, coffee-creamer etc. However, it is not nutritionally equivalent to cow milk. Almond milk is low in protein, calories (depending if you get original or sweetened), and fat. If you are looking to reduce your calorie intake this might be the best choice for you. If you are looking to fatten up your children it may not be the best option. Recently, there was an incident where a toddler developed scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) from being given almond milk instead of breast milk or formula. He was given almond milk from the time he was 2 months old (when babies really depend on the fat and protein in milk). Almond milk is not nutritionally complete, please do not give it to infants as their sole source of nutrition!

Another consideration with almond milk is carageenan. Carageenan is a really scary word to some people (thanks for the fear mongering, Food Babe). Carageenan is a polysaccharide (a type of carbohydrate) that is extracted from seaweed. There are two types of carrageenan, degraded carrageenan and undegraded. In 2001 one study showed that rats fed degraded carrageenan developed ulcers and intestinal damage. However, it is important to keep in mind that undegraded carrageenan is used in our food supply (not the type tested in this study). Undegraded carageenan has been used as a thickener and stabilizer in food since the 1930’s and it is approved as safe by the FDA and the World Health Organization.

If you are still questioning the safety of carrageenan, I have great news! Many nut milks have removed it from their product. Both Silk and Almond Breeze are no longer using carrageenan. Yep, go check the ingredient list on your almond milk, I bet you won’t find carrageenan (actually I’m only making this claim for the U.S., for my Canadian and Aussie readers I’m not promising you anything). Instead of carrageenan many milk companies are using gellan gum as a stabilizer, there is currently no controversy (to my knowledge) over gellan gum.

Alright friends, we just barely scraped the surface of plant-based milk. Tomorrow look for round two featuring soy milk, the ever popular coconut milk, rice milk and more!

Refereces:

Is Organice Better for Your Health?

Almond Milk and Carrageenan: Stop the Panic!

Milk, it does a body good. Or does it?

milkDo you drink milk? I do sometimes, but I’m beginning to have second thoughts about it. Growing up my mom was always concerned we weren’t getting enough calcium. Although she never made us drink milk she did encourage us to finish the milk in our cereal bowls. I always did, my sister didn’t, I thought surely she was doomed for a life of weak bones. Being a vegetarian for most of my life I’ve always felt that milk was a good source of protein for me because I wasn’t eating other animal products.  I usually try to get 1-2 servings of either milk, yogurt, or cheese per day.

For years the government nutrition recommendations have included three servings of milk or dairy foods per day. These recommendations are based on the fact that the recommended intake of calcium is approximately 1000 mg and a 1 cup serving of milk has 333 mg of calcium, or approximately one third. That logic is a little bit silly because there are many other foods that have calcium besides dairy. Some of those foods include dark green vegetables, almonds, beans, oranges, tofu, and salmon.

Non-dairy calcium rich foods
Non-dairy calcium rich foods

A couple weeks ago there was a study published in the British Medical Journal that showed Swedish women with high milk consumption (3-4 glasses per day) actually had a higher risk of bone fractures than women with lower milk consumption. How can it be? Milk builds strong bones! That is the message that has been drilled into our heads by the Got Milk Campaign. Interestingly, high milk intake was also correlated with overall increased mortality risk in both men and women. Strange. The study is just an observational study so it can not prove causation, but it does make you think twice. As any good scientist would, I scrutinized the study searching for “lurking variables” (I think my statistics teacher is proud right now). One possibility is that the women who have a family history of osteoporosis or bone fractures drank extra milk in an effort to prevent fractures. Obviously, it didn’t work. One last interesting thing about this study is that the increased risk of death and fractures was only seen with milk consumption, NOT yogurt and cheese. The researchers think it may have something to do with galactose, but it is just a theory at this point. If you to know more about galactose, let me know!

Aside from this new study, there are a few other hesitations I have with milk. For one, approximately 65% of  adults are lactose-intolerant. It does not make sense for us to drink something that makes us bloated and crampy, when we can drink water and have no side effects at all. I think this alone is pretty good evidence that milk is for babies and small children.  Lactose intolerance in babies is actually quite rare. Babies produce larger amounts of the enzyme that helps break down lactose, as we age we lose that ability. Second, Mama’s milk is the perfect food for babies and cow’s milk is the perfect food for cow babies  humans? Hmm, I don’t think so… It just doesn’t add up people! Those freaking milk marketers are really good! Finally, Harvard School of Public Health recommends drinking water instead of milk. I really like the Myplate that Harvard makes as opposed to our government’s “Healthy Eating Plate.” Perhaps the government should loosen its ties with the dairy farmers just a bit…

Heather’s Milk Recommendations

  • Only drink milk if you really love it and keep it to 1-2 servings per day
  • If your kids are drinking milk at school offer them water at home
  • Yogurt and cheese are ok, but I recommend no more than 1 serving of each per day
  • Go organic if you can afford it
  • Don’t be afraid of other calcium sources: soy and almond milk, leafy greens, tofu and beans!