Cow’s or buffalo’s milk is one of the most popular drinks all over the world. It is considered to be the healthiest of all the drinks available in the market and very versatile in nature. It is a natural food source for mammals. Humans also produce milk to feed their young children until they are ready for solid food.
It contains nutrients, calcium, and protein that help support a growing body. Research about it states that it can be good or bad both for the people who are lactose intolerant. So plant-based milk and dairy alternatives are available in the market.
Benefits of milk
Strong bones and teeth, muscle movement, and nerve signals depend on the calcium present in our body. According to Health authorities, enough calcium helps to prevent bone fractures and osteoporosis.
Dairy products are a rich source of calcium and dairy intake can help in maintaining the calcium level of the body.
It contains good amount of potassium, that helps the blood vessels to dilate and reduces chances of blood pressure. While reducing intake of sodium and getting more potassium can lower blood pressure, and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
It is recommended to take 3,400 milligrams (mg) in males and 2,600 mg for females. Some potassium-rich food apart from dairy are dried apricots, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, bananas, prunes, and yogurt.
Two nutrients that help in protecting against cancer are calcium and vitamin D, both of these are present in dairy. Calcium helps in reducing the risk of colon cancer or rectum cancer. Vitamin D helps in cell growth regulation in the body.
It may help in reducing breast cancer or prostate cancer. But researches on these kinds of topics are still going on.
Adequate vitamin D levels help in the production of serotonin. It is a hormone that is associated with mood, appetite, and sleep. Deficiency in vitamin D can also lead to depression. So adequate amount of dairy intake can help in curing depression.
Cow’s milk contains high-quality protein and essential amino acids that help in muscle growth. The saturated fat present in it also helps in muscle mass from being used for energy.
Osteoarthritis of the knee has no cure at present, but researchers say that having dairy every day can reduce the progression of the disease.
Nutrition: Milk and its alternatives
As per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020, the dairy group includes cows and soy milk. The group contains the following key nutrients:
Milk and dairy products are the richest dietary sources of calcium. It is important for bone and tooth health, blood clotting, and blood pressure. Calcium-rich foods along with sources of magnesium and vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium into the bones easily.
It is an essential nutrient for sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory and it also helps with nerve signals, fat absorption, and inflammation.
Potassium reduces the risk of stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure and it is a very important nutrient for the heart. Always include cow or soy milk in your daily diet to reduce heart-related issues.
Fortified vitamins and minerals
Manufacturers fortify most milk, including cow’s, soy, almond, and others, with additional vitamins and minerals that are not present naturally. The added nutrients include vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, and pyridoxine.
There are so many alternatives available in the market for those who are allergic or intolerance to cow’s milk, or who is avoiding it for ethical or environmental reasons. Substitute milks are soy, almond, coconut, hemp, and oat.
Milk alternatives that are made from plants may contain calcium but are not part of the dairy group as their nutritional profile is not similar to soy or cow’s milk.
Concerns and precautions
There may be some adverse health effects of drinking milk. Some of them are discussed below:
Milk or dairy products are high in saturated fats. According to The American Heart Association (AHA), eating too many saturated fats can increase cholesterol levels, that can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.
It is a condition where the body does not produce an enzyme called lactase. This enzyme breaks down a sugar called lactose that occurs in dairy. Those who are lactose intolerant needs to avoid cow’s milk but can consume other alternatives.
Allergy related with dairy is different with lactose intolerance. In an allergy, the body reacts to the proteins, not the sugars, in milk. Symptoms of these kind of allergies are wheezing and asthma, diarrhea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal distress.
Too much potassium or phosphorous
Getting too much of any nutrient can be harmful. Over consumption of anything can cause serious side effects. Person with kidney problems can face more problems if too much potassium or phosphorous is present in the body.
Too much calcium
Too much calcium, can cause constipation, kidney stones, or kidney failure. It is rare for this to happen from diet alone, but it can be a risk when a person is taking calcium supplements. As such, the net benefit of calcium in cow’s milk may be lower than expected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) say that infants should not drink cow’s milk before 12 months of age. This is because cow’s milk has too many proteins and minerals for an infant’s kidneys to handle and may put them at risk of intestinal bleeding.