Milk has been in human’s diets for thousands of years. Milk is also available to animal infants through their mothers. However, #funfact, humans are the only species that continue to drink milk in adulthood. So, should we or shouldn’t we?
Calorie for calorie, cow’s milk is in fact pretty nutritious. A cup of milk (237ml) contains:
- Calcium 276mg (28% RDI)
- Vitamin D (24% RDI)
- Vitamin B2 (25% RDI)
- Vitamin B12 (18% RDI)
- Potassium (10% RDI)
- Phosphorous (22% RDI)
Besides the above, milk is also a good source of Vitamins A, B1, B2, selenium, zinc and magnesium, as well as fat, protein and carbohydrates.
Lactose is a form of carbohydrate in the form of milk sugar found in cow’s milk. This milk sugar is made up of glucose and galactose. When we were babies, our body produces a digestive enzyme called lactase to help us digest the lactose. As we become adults, we stop producing this enzyme.
This partially explains why 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant in their adulthood. This is more profound in continents like Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and less so in continents like the US, Europe and Australia. For the latter group, some scientists argue that adults with continued exposure to dairy in their adulthood slowly alter their genes to adapt to dairy. This may be partly true.
If you are able to take dairy and enjoy it, you should look into the source of your dairy. Like all foods, not all milk is made the same. Cows that are raised in pastures produce milk that has more Omega 3 fatty acids and 500% more conjugated linoleic acid. They also contain more fat-soluble vitamins, especially Vitamin K2, which is important for absorption of calcium and magnesium.
How do you know you are lactose intolerant? If you experience nausea, vomit or diarrhea, you may be reacting to dairy. Some people may be allergic to dairy products like milk and cheese, but can tolerate fermented milk products like yoghurt and butter.
You can find out by taking a food allergy test, or some DNA tests will cover it as well.
What other milk alternatives can you also consider?
Goat milk is a common go-to alternative, though it is not always easy to find in Hong Kong.
Nut milks like almond or cashew are good too, if you have no nut allergies. Other options are oat, rice, quinoa, coconut…. All these options differ in taste, nutritional value, and richness. Unsweetened options are recommended. For nut and coconut milks, look out for carrageenan, which is a preservative in these products you will want to avoid.
The best way to get nut milk is to make your own! All you need is a blender and a mesclun cloth.
Soak nuts overnight (minimum 8 hours). Put soaked nuts in a blender with distilled or filtered water, adjusting to the desired thickness. Milk can keep refrigerated for about 2-3 days. Use in cereal, coffee or tea, desserts and any milk replacement recipes.