Most of us consume dairy products without even thinking about it. It’s obvious that milk is present in foodstuffs such as cheese or yoghurt, but milk protein is also routinely added to baked products such as bread or cakes, and you will also find it in a large number of pre-prepared meals. For those with an intolerance to cows’ milk, or who simply wish to look for a healthier alternative, there are now a whole range of different milks on the market. Are these milks really any better than standard cows’ milk though, and will they help people who want to lose weight?
Cows have been domesticated for many thousands of years, and dairy products have historically formed a large part of the Western diet. Nutritionally speaking, the composition of milk varies slightly depending which breed of cow it comes from, but a standard carton of milk from the supermarket will be 3.4% protein, 3.6% fat and 7% sugars and carbohydrates. Skim milk is the most popular version sold in the supermarket, and the difference between skim milk and whole milk is that the far content reduces from 3.6% to 1.8%.
Milk is a healthy food and as part of a balanced diet can offer a good way to get protein, vitamins and minerals into the diet. However, many people are intolerant and become bloated or sick on cows milk and some babies are dairy intolerant too so if you are breastfeeding and increasing your dairy milk consumption then keep on eye on your baby too for any signs of discomfort and talk to your Doctor if you are concerned.
In certain areas of the world where cattle are not routinely kept, the local population keeps goats and drink their milk instead. Goat milk is often made into cheese, and has a stronger flavor than cows’ milk, which puts some people off trying it as a drink. In terms of composition, goats’ milk has very similar levels of fat, carbohydrates and proteins. Goats’ milk was very fashionable through the 1980s and 1990s, with many people believing that drinking goats’ milk would help with allergies and conditions such as eczema. However, these beliefs have been widely discredited and the use of goats’ milk for children, especially for very young infants, has fallen out of fashion. For adults though, goats’ milk is a great alternative but as fat and sugar levels are so similar, making the switch is unlikely to make a big difference to weight loss.
Rice milk is made from brown rice. In an industrial setting, the milk is made by pressing the grains and running them through water. Some people also make rice milk at home by boiling up grains of rice with water. One of the main advantages of rice milk is that it does not contain any lactose, which is the component of milk which many people are allergic or intolerant to. It can be safely substituted for cows’ milk in recipes, on cereal or in cups of tea and coffee. As well as the absence of lactose, there is very little calcium and protein in rice milk, which means that it may not be suitable for children or other groups who require a source of these in their diet. However most rice milks today are fortified with calcium and protein so nutritionally speaking you are not at a disadvantage from using it. Also – make sure you buy non genetically modified rice milk so you are not taking in chemicals.
Soy Milk is one of the most common forms of milk found in Asia and is made by soaking and grinding up soy beans with water. When processed, soy milk can be made into tofu which is used extensively in Japanese and Chinese dishes. Looking at the composition, soy milk has more protein and less fat than cows’ milk, which makes it a popular choice with those watching their weight. Soy milk is widely available around the world and is the most popular alternative to dairy products for vegans and people who are lactose intolerant. Soy based infant formula is regularly prescribed to babies who cannot tolerate the relatively high levels of lactose found in formula based on cows’ milk. Just make sure you buy a low fat brand and one that is not genetically modified