Milk often gets a bad press nowadays. Fat and sugar content, lactose intolerance, the rise of veganism, and the rapid proliferation of non-dairy milk products have all pointed us away from traditional cow’s milk. So, is milk good or bad for you? How is milk actually produced and processed? Read on to find out if milk is healthy and nutritional after all.
When we hear the word “milk”, most of us automatically think of cow’s milk. However all female mammals produce milk to feed their young. Around the world goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, milk from water buffalo and from camels, yaks and mares are also popular, as are nut, rice, soy milks and more. However, this article focuses on cow’s milk since it is one of the most popular types of milk here.
Pasteurised, Homogenised Milk – What Does That Mean?
The route from the dairy to our refrigerator is a long one. Once the cow has been milked the product must be made sufficiently non-perishable to survive its journey in good shape. For this purpose, the milk is heated to at least 72°C in order to kill off unwanted germs – this process is called pasteurisation. The milk is then separated so that cream (which contains the fat) is separated from the watery skimmed milk. Cream is then added back to the skimmed milk in a processed called standardisation, so that the milk ultimately has the desired fat percentage.
Milk also contains varying sizes of fat globules. During the homogenising process, these are broken down to prevent the larger globules from rising to the top and to provide a more even overall taste. Filtered milk undergoes a filtration process (in addition to the usual steps of milk processing) to remove further souring bacteria, further increasing the product’s shelf-life. UHT milk is milk which has been heated at such high temperatures that all potentially harmful bacteria are killed. This particular heat treatment produces longer shelf-life milk compared to conventional milk.
How Many Calories Are There In A Glass Of Milk?
In a 200ml glass of milk there are:
- 136 kcal in Whole milk
- 95 kcal in Semi-skimmed milk
- 70 kcal in Skimmed milk
(Source: The Dairy Council)
Is The Sugar In Milk Bad For You?
One of the concerns people have is the amount of sugar in cow’s milk. In relation to sugar content, a quick comparison will tell you that 200ml of full-fat Coca Cola contains 10.6g of sugar. A 200ml glass of milk contains around 9.4g to 10g of sugar regardless of fat content. (Source: Diabetes UK)
What’s more the sugar in milk, lactose, is naturally occurring and does not count as the ‘free sugars’ that we should limit our consumption of. It also doesn’t affect your teeth in the same way. But what exactly is lactose?
Lactose In Milk
Alarm bells start ringing for some when they hear the word “lactose”. Lactose is a so-called disaccharide consisting of glucose and galactose which has to be broken down by the body into the two components during the digestive process. This requires an enzyme (lactase) – and it is this which is lacking in people affected by lactose intolerance. With those who have this intolerance, lactose is instead broken down by bacteria in the gut, creating gases which produce bloating and, occasionally, also stomach pains.
Humans normally only have the enzyme required to break down lactose from breast milk as babies. However for some of us, our bodies continue to produce lactase as we grow and enter adulthood – this is especially so if milk has been an important dietary component throughout our lives.
How Do The Nutrients In Milk Benefit Us?
The calcium in milk contributes to the health of our bones, teeth muscles and nerves. Cow’s milk also offers high-quality protein and vitamins B2, B5 and B12 as well as potassium, phosphorous, and iodine. And you might not be aware, but protein and calcium content is not dependent on the fat content and the processing of the milk – this means that protein and calcium levels remains largely the same whether you choose skimmed, semi-skimmed or whole milk.
The protein found in dairy products such as milk may also help us feel fuller for longer while the calcium it contains may ultimately reduce the amount of fat that is absorbed in our gut. Although milk is an easily consumable source of protein, for some individuals – e.g. those with chronic kidney disease – excessive consumption of milk can actually be dangerous due to its phosphate levels.
Fun Fact! Do you enjoy having a warm mug of milk to help you settle late in the evening? The “skin” which forms when heating milk actually consists of coagulated protein. So, if you remove this skin, you are also losing valuable protein. It is better to stir milk whilst heating so that the skin does not form. This also prevents the milk from boiling over. The boiling over is actually also connected with the skin formation. The boiling produces steam – if the pressure is high enough, this causes the protein skin to break and the milk to boil over.
How Long Does Milk Stay Fresh?
Regardless of the types of milk, it will generally only keep for around 3 days and should always be stored in the fridge. Alternatively, if you have a Liebherr fridge with a BioFresh compartment, milk will remain fresh for up to 12 days.
If milk smells or tastes sour, or is thickening, this indicates an increased formation of micro-organisms. Having said that, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the milk is hazardous to health. Dairy products like yoghurt are nothing more than milk in which lactic acid bacteria have multiplied quickly.
Pregnant women, the elderly, and the sick are advised to be on the safe side and not to consume sour milk. Otherwise, to avoid wastage, there is a simple way to check if milk is still good for cooking or baking. Simply boil up some milk in a saucepan – if it curdles then the milk is no longer fresh.
Milk – A Remedy For Spicy Food
We’ve probably all heard people say that a glass of milk can help if a dish is just a little bit too spicy. But why is that? If you find food or meals spicy then, in most cases, that’s due to the chemical compounds contained, e.g. capsaicin in chillies or piperine in pepper. Many of these compounds are not very water soluble, but are much more soluble in fat. Drinking water is therefore not much help with spicy food. Milk, on the other hand, brings rapid relief due to the fat it contains.
There you have it, milk is indeed good for us in so many ways. Enjoy your daily glass of milk and keep it fresh in a Liebherr BioFresh refrigerator!