World Milk Day: Nutrition Facts And Health Benefits Of Milk
The word ‘milk’ brings back vivid childhood memories to me. From being a mandatory morning ritual, an integral ingredient in mom’s home-made sweets, to playing the role of a saviour in the days of illness; milk has always been a core ingredient in my household. I am pretty sure all this resonates with your experiences too. In recent times, however, the goodness and purity of milk have been largely speculated for many reasons.Let’s first dig into the basics first! This article focusses on cow’s milk.
Nutrient facts: What are the nutrients present in cow’s milk?
Milk is composed of water, lactose, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Its unique composition contains almost every single nutrient that your body needs.
Milk protein: What proteins are present in milk?
Milk is a rich source of protein, providing approximately 1 gram of this nutrient per 30 ml. It is referred to as a high biological value protein, as it contains all essential amino acids to promote growth.
Milk protein can be divided into two groups based on their solubility in water. Insoluble milk proteins are known as casein. It is the protein that coagulates and is the solid part; which when separated is commonly known as paneer. Soluble milk proteins are known as whey proteins which are present in remaining whey water after paneer has separated. Milk proteins are considered to have high biological value due to its high proportion of essential amino acids, good digestibility, and excellent quality of proteins.
The fat content of cow’s milk is around 4%. In India, the quality of milk is assessed as per the fat content of the milk and not as per the protein or mineral content.
Milk fat is the most complex of all natural fats, consisting about 400 different types of fatty acids. It is very high in saturated fats, which make up about 70% of its fatty acid content.
Carbohydrates in milk are mainly in the form of lactose, which makes up around 5% of milk.
What is lactose intolerance?
In your digestive system, lactose breaks down into glucose and galactose. These are absorbed into your bloodstream, at which point your liver converts galactose into glucose. Some people lack the enzymes required to break down lactose and may experience symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and flatulence. This condition is called lactose intolerance.
What are the vitamins and minerals provided by milk?
The following vitamins and minerals are found in particularly large amounts in milk:
- Vitamin B12: Foods of animal origin like meat, egg, milk, and milk products are the only rich sources of this essential vitamin. Milk is very high in B12.
- Calcium: Milk is the best dietary source of calcium and the calcium found in milk is easily absorbed in the body.
- Riboflavin: Dairy products are the biggest source of riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2. But this vitamin is easily destroyed on exposure to sunlight. Hence, nowadays milk is packed in opaque containers or boxes and never in transparent glass bottles; this is done to prevent direct exposure to sunlight.
- Phosphorus: Milk is a good source of phosphorus, a mineral that plays an essential role in many biological processes.
What are the top health benefits of milk?
Brings down the risk of osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by a decrease in bone density and is the main risk factor for bone fractures among older adults. Being a rich source of calcium, milk promotes increased bone mineral density, cutting your risk of osteoporosis.
Reduces the risk of high blood pressure: The unique combination of calcium, potassium, and magnesium in milk are responsible for reducing the risk of high blood pressure.
Last but not the least, milk is one of the most nutritious drinks in the world. It’s rich in high-quality protein and an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, vitamin B12, and riboflavin. For this reason, it cuts down the risk of osteoporosis and reduces blood pressure.
A part of the population is allergic to milk proteins or intolerant to milk sugar (lactose). At the end of the day, moderate consumption of cow’s milk is healthy for most people, but you should avoid drinking it in excess, as moderation is the key.
Fatema Valikarimwala is a Mumbai-based Clinical Nutritionist/Dietitian and Founder of Heal-Thy and a self-proclaimed foodie. She is also a Health Council Member at Healthhunt.