The Modern Milk
There is a myriad of reasons why people choose not to consume dairy milk: allergies, diet, bloating or simply the taste. If you’re like me, you fall somewhere between hating the taste and trying to limit your dairy intake where you can (read: drink less milk so I can eat more cheese).
I’m not the only one currently trying to limit their dairy intake. A lot of other people are and the milk industry is feeling a decline. In 2018, sales dropped by more than $1 billion dollars. At first, one would assume that the decline is due to the dairy-free milk industry taking off, but upon further inspection, that’s only half the problem. In a 2018 survey, 16% of respondents said they don’t consume any milks, dairy or otherwise, beating out the alternative milk drinkers by a mere 1%.
With this information in hand, I decided to explore whether or not we should even be drinking milk, as well as the pros and cons of dairy milk versus milk alternatives.
The Skinny on Cows’ Milk
We know that cows’ milk is a good source of some nutrients, including:
- Protein, which builds and repairs tissue
- Calcium, which helps to build and protect bones
- B12, which keeps nerve and blood cells healthy
- Iodine which helps make thyroid hormones
- Magnesium, which is important for bone development and muscle function
- Whey and casein, which have been found to play a role in lowering blood pressure
So, cow’s milk provides some benefit. However, is it necessary?
Humans are the only mammal that drinks another specie’s milk, as well as one of the only species that continues to drink milk into adulthood. While guidelines suggest that children should drink milk for bone development, there isn’t clear evidence that we need to continue into adulthood.
Some people might point to a common belief that we need the calcium in milk for optimal adult bone health, however there isn’t conclusive evidence to support that claim. In fact, one study even produced results that drinking milk raised the risk of bone fractures in a women.
Another concern around milk in recent decades is the hormones from cows’ milk, and the link between heart disease and milk intake due to milk’s saturated fat content – but there isn’t conclusive evidence that this is true. Overall, if you are an adult who is not lactose intolerant, and prefer the taste of milk, then:
- don’t overconsume
- opt for low-fat milk if you are worried about fat intake
You know that you either don’t like or are intolerant to dairy milk, so which milk alternative do you choose? Oat, soy, almond, hemp, flax, coconut? The list seems to grow by the day. When compared to low-fat cows’ milk, milk alternatives offer fewer calories, sugars and carbs while still providing a comparable amount of calcium and vitamin D.
There are different benefits to dairy alternatives:
- Hemp and flax milk are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fats and are great for people who have nut allergies in addition to dairy intolerance.
- Cashew milk is thicker and closer in texture to whole milk.
- Soy milk offers a protein count closer to cows’ milk than other alternatives.
The biggest criticism of the dairy alternatives is that many have added sweeteners and preservatives. An easy solution to the former is to make sure that you are choosing dairy alternatives that are un-flavored and un-sweetened. A growingly popular alternative to the latter is to make your own milk, like this almond milk recipe.
In summary, appropriate consumption of some form of milk is beneficial to ensure that you are getting necessary vitamins and minerals, but experiment with figuring out which milk is right for you.
Alexis Jones is a Senior Strategic Marketing Specialist for Vitality Group. She is passionate about fitness, playing and coaching water polo, and baking. You’ll usually find her training for a race or trying to master healthy dessert recipes to satisfy her sweet tooth.