Do We Need Cows Milk?
Milk. It’s not exactly the first thing to go when approaching a new healthy living approach, but could this ‘wholesome’ family drink actually be doing you more harm than good? We take a look at the pros and cons of consuming cow’s milk so you can decide whether it’s time to ditch the dairy:
PRO: It’s packed full of nutrients…
Milk is a one-stop shop for nutrients. It’s full of the essentials we need growing up, such as: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals (excluding iron). It’s no wonder it’s the recommended staple of a young child’s diet. And for those who aren’t overly interested in food - or for children who regularly shun nutrient rich solids like vegetables, legumes and seafood – milk is a simple and inoffensive way to consume a good dose of the nutrients we need each day. It’s particularly high in calcium and potassium.
CON: It’s high in calories and fat.
Yes, with all those nutritional benefits comes the downside - cow’s milk is high in calories and fat. While many think low-fat or skimmed milk is an alternative, in 2013 reports by the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care found dairy fat in milk is actually more beneficial to reduced abdominal obesity than lower dairy fat choices.
While the calorific impact of milk may not be detrimental, it’s something to keep an eye on. A cup of semi-skimmed milk is approx. 115 calories, meaning 3 glasses adds a hefty 345 calories to your daily intake.
PRO: It’s good for your bones…
Milk is an undeniably good source of calcium, a mineral essential to strong teeth and bones. There’s almost 300mg of calcium in a cup of semi-skimmed milk, while phosphorous (important in strengthening tooth enamel) is also found in large quantities.
CON: It’s not THAT good for your bones!
There’s more to strong teeth and bones than calcium intake. Osteoporosis isn’t usually caused by a mere lack of calcium in the diet, but rather an inability to absorb calcium.
In fact, the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis also have the highest rates of dairy consumption – so clearly milk alone is not enough to prevent bone weaknesses.
PRO: It’s vitamin D heavy…
Vitamin D is also present in milk. And given that few foods naturally contain vitamin D, you can see why many would applaud milk as a healthy choice. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium, supports the immune system, and helps in neuromuscular function.
PRO: It’s easy for most to consume…
Fridge. Glass. Pour. There’s not much to preparing a refreshing glass of ice cold milk, and it’s a vital component for an early morning bowl of cereal, so it’s no wonder cow’s milk is a popular grocery purchase.
In total, the UK consumes around 5.2 billion litres of cow’s milk each year!
CON: It’s problematic for the lactose intolerant
Lactose intolerance is an insufficient ability to digest a sugar found in milk (lactose). Up to 15% of the UK population are thought to have the condition.
Symptoms include: diarrhoea, flatulence, bloating, cramps and pains, nausea and rumbling stomach. These can range from mild to severe, making milk an impossibility for many.
When it comes to consuming cow’s milk, it’s a personal choice which needs to take into consideration the rest of your diet and lifestyle. In moderation, milk is not harmful and, is in fact a great source of many micronutrients that some people are deficient in. Yet, if you’ve been choosing cow’s milk but suffer from symptoms of intolerance – it’s time to recognise alternatives are available which may be just as healthy.