Be it a protein shake, a simple glass of warm milk, or a low fat yogurt, milk is and will continue to remain one of the healthiest food sources available. In fact, it is one of the most widely used food sources. Dairy nutrition forms an important part of our diet, considering the fact that there are 6 billion consumers of milk and milk products. India is the largest producer and consumer of milk. Milk is generally known for its high content of calcium, but it is a treasure of many other vital nutrients that can provide you endless health benefits. It is also a wonderful beauty aid. Milk plays an important role in the overall nutrition and health.
When we talk about milk, we usually refer to the milk extracted from the mammary glands of mammals during or soon after pregnancy. This milk is used to feed their babies as it contains colostrum that carries the mother’s antibodies to the baby, thus reducing the risk of many diseases in the baby. Apart from this, cow’s milk is most widely consumed by humans. The milk of other animals such as buffaloes, goats, llamas, camels, deer, sheep and water buffaloes is also consumed by people around the world.
Types Of Milk
Experts suggest individuals choose their milk depending on their body requirement, as there is something for everyone.
- Raw milk (not recommended for drinking)
- Pasteurized milk (heat treated)
- Full cream milk (4% fat)
- Reduced fat milk (2% fat)
- Skimmed milk (0.15% fat)
- Flavored milk (with added sugars)
- Calcium enriched milk (500mg calcium in 250ml glass)
- Lactose-free milk (for lactose intolerant people)
Milk In Our Diet
Milk is a very important part of our lifestyle. Our diets, whatever else they may contain, would surely feature milk. The creamy white liquid is not only versatile, but also is highly nutritious. Be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, milk will give you vitamins, proteins, and carbohydrates. The vitamins and minerals include calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, vitamin A, B, D, and riboflavin (1).
The nutrients offer well-rounded supplementation to necessary body functions. Most significantly, calcium in milk plays a key role in building bones and teeth (2). It also contributes to muscle building. Milk is sourced from a variety of animals, all of which provide a healthy product. The milk from cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, yaks, camels or even humans, has always proved beneficial. However, cow milk has been the most popular choice in households across the globe.
Milk Benefits For Health
1. Keeps Bones Healthy
Milk benefits the body as a whole and is mostly known for improving the calcium levels. It promotes bone growth in children, while also maintaining the bone strength in adults. Vitamin D is required for the body to absorb calcium. So if you have vitamin D deficiency, it is suggested to drink fortified milk which contains extra vitamins.
2. Helps In Weight Loss
Milk is a great appetizer and a healthy snack. Add a glass of milk to your dinner or drink it with a fruit. Women who drink skimmed or low-fat milk lose more weight easily.
3. Beats Stress
At the end of the day, a glass of lukewarm milk helps in reducing stress and relaxing the nerves. It boosts the energy and reduces the symptoms of PMS.
4. Builds Muscle
Milk helps you build muscles. When you work hard or exercise, milk helps you recover that lost energy and repairs the muscles.
5. Healthy Body
- Lowers high blood pressure and, thus, reduces the risks of strokes
- Reduces the production of cholesterol by the liver
- Gives good eyesight
- Lowers the risk of cancers
6. Controls Hunger Pangs
Cold milk is a great solution to beat hunger pangs in between meals. Not only is it nutritious, but it is also very easy to consume on the go. Heating milk and the subsequent waiting period to let it cool is a thing of the past. Simply eat a bowl of oats with cold milk. No hassles.
7. Enhance Your Coffee
On a hot day, you wouldn’t want a steaming drink, but you would surely need that coffee. Take a cup of cold coffee – half cold milk and half coffee. This enhances the benefits of both, reviving you for the day with all the goodness milk can offer.
8. Milk As A Flavored Treat
Children usually do not prefer the taste of milk, especially when it is raw. Making them drink milk every day is a challenge. Cold milk can solve that if it is given as a flavored treat. Milk can be made into nutritious smoothies. The fruit, like a mango, which is used to make the smoothie adds to its healthful goodness (3). A cold smoothie is very good in summers, and no one can say no to one.
9. Perfect Post Work-Out Drink
After any rigorous exercise, the body certainly craves energy. Traditionally, many avoid carbohydrates to avoid weight gain. At any rate, the body still needs the sugar and protein to repair muscle tissue and replenish energy. This is where the delicious cold chocolate milk comes in. It is the perfect post workout drink that performs all the required functions. As a bonus, it is easy to prepare and tastes great.
10. Natural Source Of Protein
Hot milk provides one of the best natural sources of protein, vitamins, and a whole lot of goodness. Hence, it should form an integral part of your diet (4). A cup of hot milk during breakfast gives a good start to the day. Milk helps build muscles, especially if you want a strong and muscular body. Calcium is required for our bones, and it can be derived from milk. A cup of hot milk post a gym session can be invigorating and provides hydration to the body after a strenuous workout (5).
11. Best Source Of Calcium
If you want strong teeth, have your recommended dose of milk daily. Warm milk does not hurt the teeth like cold milk does (for people with sensitive teeth). The increased amount of phosphorus, calcium, and iodine present in milk work to strengthen the teeth, strengthening the jaws and other weight bearing bones (6). Warm milk between meals is also good to promote oral health as it protects the enamel.
12. Energy Booster
A hot cup of milk can simply make your energy levels soar, especially if you feel fatigued or weak. Drinking milk works like an instant pick-me-up, and it will re-energize and rejuvenate you in no time. A glass of low-fat milk can provide even a school going child all the energy he needs to kick start the day.
13. Acts As A Food Supplement
For patients suffering from chronic illnesses such as cancer, milk acts as a rich supplement. Many people who have a difficulty ingesting food can find solace in a hot glass of milk that is easy on the teeth, and also is a wholesome drink (7).
14. Aids Good Sleep
We all know the importance of sound sleep and its role in the repair and restoration of the body. For many, sleeping at night is a big problem. Doctors the world over recommend a glass of hot milk before bed since it aids in good sleep (8). This is because a type of amino acid in milk helps calm the mind and soothes frayed nerves.
15. Soothes Bad Throat
If you are suffering from a sore throat or pain, a hot cup of milk can be the best medicine to bring relief to the pain and discomfort. You will experience a soothing feeling when you sip a cup of hot milk. You can also make a light tea that can expedite the healing process and give you the much-needed energy to fight the infection (9).
16. Improves Hydration
Hot milk is a way to recharge your body and keep it hydrated all through the day. It is especially good to drink milk after exercising as it quickly replenishes the electrolytes in the body and helps rehydrate the body quickly.
Milk Benefits For Skin
We all know that milk is good for our health and bone formation. But it has been used as a beauty aid for centuries. The Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, attributed her smooth skin and beauty to a secret ingredient, and that is milk. Thus, milk plays an important role in maintaining the beauty of your skin and keeping skin problems at bay. Its various benefits for the skin are as follows.
17. Improves Complexion
Milk is great for improving the complexion. All you need to do is apply raw milk all over your face and neck and leave it for 10 minutes. Rinse off with fresh water. This will make your skin fairer and softer within minutes. You can also prepare a face pack by mixing 2 tablespoons of milk, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Apply this on clean skin and allow it to dry for 10 minutes. This face pack acts as a mild bleach for your skin.
18. Excellent Cleanser
Raw milk is an excellent cleanser. You can dip a cotton ball in raw milk and wipe your face with it. Rinse off your face with fresh water after 5 minutes. Doing this daily will provide you with a squeaky clean skin from the inside out, besides making it fair and supple. You can also make a cleanser by blending 2 slices of papaya with milk. Apply this mixture all over your face and neck and wash off with cold water after some time. This will make your face clean, fresh and fair.
19. Shrinks Pores
Sour cream or sour milk can help in shrinking pores. If you have large and open pores, you can take some sour cream and apply it on your face and neck. Leave it for 15 minutes and wash clean. Dairy products are quite effective in counteracting large pores.
20. Milk For Radiant Skin
The combination of milk and honey works wonders on your skin. Mix 2 tablespoons of powdered milk with 1 tablespoon honey and 2 tablespoons of warm water. Apply this all over your face and neck and allow it to dry and become stiff. Rinse off with warm water after a while. Apart from this, the daily consumption of milk can beautify your skin naturally. It is loaded with vitamins, minerals and proteins that can make your skin fairer and radiant internally.
21. Soothes Skin Irritation
Milk helps to lighten red spots, reduce allergic reactions and heal wounds. Apply sweet milk, sour cream, or buttermilk on irritated or sensitive skin, and allow it to dry.
22. Milk For Smooth Skin
To get a smooth skin, you can prepare a facial and body scrub by mixing a cup of milk with 3 tablespoons of oatmeal. Apply it as a scrub on your face and body. Allow it to dry and then rinse off with warm water. Using this regularly will make your skin softer and smoother.
23. Removes Dead Cells
Using milk scrub on your skin removes dead cells, thus imparting it a natural glow. All you need to do is dissolve some salt in boiling water and add 4 cups of instant non-fat milk to it. Soak for 20 minutes in lukewarm water and do the scrubbing.
24. Smoothens Fine Lines And Wrinkles
You can make a smooth paste by mashing half a banana with a few teaspoons of raw milk. Apply it on clean and damp skin and leave it for 15 minutes. Wash off with water. This mask will help smoothen the fine lines and impart a natural glow as well.
25. Treatment Of Sunburns
Milk is a great aid for sunburned or sun tanned skin. Just apply some buttermilk directly on your skin to soothe and heal the sunburn.
26. Good Moisturizer
Milk can help in keeping your skin moisturized throughout the day. You can take some raw, unboiled milk along with its cream. Dip a washed cloth in it such that it is fully saturated. Apply this milk on your washcloth and allow it to dry for about 5 to 15 minutes. Now scrub your face gently with the washcloth for 3 to 5 minutes. This will restore the natural moisture of your skin, improve its elasticity and make it smooth and supple such that your skin looks fresh and glowing.
Milk Benefits For Hair
Apart from your skin, milk is great for your hair as well since it is rich in vitamins and minerals that are vital for your hair health. Whether consumed or applied topically, milk offers the following benefits for your hair.
27. Treatment Of Dry And Rough Hair
Milk is a boon for dry and rough hair. Rubbing it on your scalp can nourish your hair from the inside out. Just smear some milk all over your scalp and wash off after a few minutes. This will make your hair naturally soft and silky.
28. Milk As A Conditioner
Milk can be a great conditioner for your hair. All you need to do is fill a spray bottle with some cold milk. Spray your hair thoroughly with this milk. Comb your hair gently and wash off after 30 minutes. You will not require a conditioner as the milk has already conditioned your hair.
29. Milk For Shiny Hair
Using coconut milk on your hair makes it soft, shiny and manageable. Milk based products are also available that are meant for making your scalp healthy.
Let’s look at some expert views on cow milk benefits and side effects:
In terms of nutritional benefits, there are many conflicting opinions on whether cow milk is good for health or not. Long mooted as the complete nutritional food, leading doctors of the past and present have studied and detailed their findings on cow milk.
Dr. William Sears, leading pediatrician and Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Irvine, said in a study in 2006: “Milk is one of the most nutritious foods. It contains most basic nutrients growing children need in fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals (except iron). Although you can derive most of these nutrients from seafood, legumes, and other vegetables, milk is a one-stop shop for most of these nutrients. Children eat more amounts of dairy products more consistently than other foods. Although whole milk might not be the best calcium source, it is the most practical.”
Dr. Benjamin Spock, Author of “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care”, one of the most comprehensive books ever written on the subject, concluded in 1998: “There was a time when milk was in vogue and considered to be one of the most nutritious foods. However, we need to rethink this as dairy products lead to many health problems. Dairy products inhibit iron absorption in children and can lead to faint blood loss from your digestive tract. Moreover, milk has no iron of its own, and this leads to iron deficiency.”
Cow milk is rich in essential nutrients and is also rich in Vitamin D. Although it is generally assumed that this is what makes milk an effective anti-carcinogenic, many experts disagree.
The Director of Clinical and Pediatric Studies at Creighton University, Joan Lappe, Ph.D., conclude in a study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007: “This is the first clinical trial to show that boosting vitamin D status can affect the overall risk for cancer – a proposition that has tremendous public health potential. By choosing vitamin-D rich foods like milk and taking a supplement, Americans can help improve their vitamin D levels and potentially impact their cancer risk.”
While the study concludes that vitamin D can potentially reduce cancer risk, there are many other factors that can lead to other forms of cancer. Alison Stewart, Editor of the Consumer Health Journal, concluded in 2004: “Milk consumption can lead to cancer risks as it contains an insulin-like growth factor, IGF-1. This is because milk is primarily produced for children and IGF-1 is essential for growth. Although IGF-1 helps growth, excessive levels may stimulate cancer cells.”
3. Heart Disease
With many experts speaking about the ill-effects of high amounts of saturated fat in whole milk, there are many possible implications of drinking whole milk. Saturated fat can cause complications in diabetics and people who are at risk of heart problems.
Dr. Peter Elwood, MD, Professor of Epidemiology University declares that cow milk does not increase any risk of cardiovascular disease. He concluded in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 2005: “Men who consume more milk experience lowered risk of ischemic (inadequate blood flow) stroke and heart disease. These results are quite beneficial. Although milk is perceived as harmful and something that increases cardiovascular risk, you need to make every effort to restore milk to its rightful place in a healthy diet.”
Dr. Margaret Moss, MA, Director of the Nutrition and Allergy Clinic in Manchester, had an entirely different opinion. She noted in the Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine in 2002: “Many studies conclude that milk consumption and rate of death due to CHD (Coronary Heart Disease) are closely associated. Countries where milk isn’t really popular exhibit low rates of CHD death, while Portugal (one of the countries with a high rate of milk consumption) records a higher rate of CHD death.”
4. Bone Health
Milk contains calcium, and you need it for strong bones. Although milk contains high levels of calcium, experts still conflict about how good milk consumption is for preventing osteoporosis.
Connie M. Weaver, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Food and Nutrition, Purdue University, concluded on the National Dairy Council website in 2002: “You should usually have four to five servings of calcium-rich foods like milk and dairy products per day. And you need to get to the optimal bone mass during adolescence. Low calcium levels can impact bone growth periods, and the youth of today might face serious public health problems in the future.”
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine concluded in a 2007 study: “The debate over the long-term consumption of milk rages on; studies don’t clearly imply or state whether milk consumption is good for your bones. Evidence has suggested that milk consumption does not improve bone health. Bone health is related to physical activity and not how much milk or calcium you had as a teen. Apparently, milk has no benefits later on in life either.”
Walter Willett, MD, Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology Head of the Nutrition Department at the Harvard School of Public Health has this to say about cow milk. “The point isn’t that you have to give up dairy, but it’s also important for people to know that they don’t only have to drink milk to be healthy.”
The best thing to do is have no more than 2 cups of milk in a day and eat other foods that offer the same kind of nutrients along with the milk.
How To Select And Store?
Different varieties of milk are available nowadays, and you can choose between condensed and evaporated milk. While shopping, always ensure you buy milk and cream towards the end so that they stay cold for as long as possible. Moreover, select your milk from the coldest part of the refrigerator case, which is mostly the lower section. Smell the top of the container to ensure that the milk is fresh, and it doesn’t smell of spoilage that is usually caused in the course of storage outside the refrigerator. Avoid the cans or containers that are swollen or have dents. Always check the ‘best before’ date given on the container as it gives the indication of the shelf life of milk.
Once the package is opened, the best before date no longer applies, and the shelf life depends on how the milk has been stored and handled by the consumer. Pasteurization (heating the milk rapidly, holding it for a short period and then cooling it rapidly) eliminates most of the bacteria from the milk and cream. The remaining bacteria are harmless, which can multiply slowly at refrigeration temperature, eventually causing spoilage. Hence, the milk should be kept as cold as possible. During warm weather, take an insulated cooler with ice to keep milk, cream and other perishable goods cold on your way home. For optimum quality and safety, it is advisable to use the milk within the ‘best before’ date.
Milk is highly perishable in nature and hence, proper storage is vital to prevent spoilage. Both condensed and evaporated milk should be refrigerated after opening the package since a higher temperature can cause it to turn sour quickly. Ensure to seal or cover the milk container while storing it so that it does not absorb the aromas of other foods in the refrigerator. Storing milk on the refrigerator door should be avoided as it exposes the milk to heat each time the refrigerator is opened or closed.
Refrigerator temperature should be regularly checked. It should record 4 C (40 F) or lower. Condensed milk generally lasts longer than evaporated milk after opening because it has high sugar content. Both should be used within 5 to 7 days of opening. Since the milk solids settle down to the bottom, the cans should be turned upside down every few weeks and used within six months. Avoid freezing evaporated milk as the milk solids separate from the water when thawed and even shaking or stirring cannot homogenize it back to its original texture.
Tips For Usage (Cooking/Eating)
Children often detest having a glass of plain milk. But milk is extremely versatile and can be made more interesting by adding other healthy ingredients. Milkshakes and smoothies are widely popular. In fact, both condensed and evaporated milk are being used in various recipes. Since evaporated milk can stand high temperatures without curdling, it is often used to impart creaminess to thick sauces, puddings, and crockpot recipes, and as a dipping liquid for breading meat, fish and poultry.
Condensed milk, being high in sugar, is used in desserts and sweets and is a main ingredient in the old fashioned “key lime pie”. When used in baked goods, it lends crust color, tenderness, moisture, and flavor. Condensed or evaporated milk is also used as a creamer for tea or coffee. Given below are a few tips for using milk in various recipes.
- Milk can be added to your morning bowl of hot cereal, such as oatmeal, for a nutritious breakfast. It can also be added along with raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg to a pot of cooked brown rice to make a rice pudding.
- In India, “kheer” is one of the most popular milk dishes. It is delicious and quite simple to prepare. For this purpose, soak about 75 grams of white rice in water in a small bowl for an hour. Drain the rice and heat it in a large heavy pan over low heat. Cover it and allow it to cook for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally till it becomes tender. Add sugar and 4 cardamom pods. Stir and cook for 20 more minutes. After removing, stir in rose water and serve it topped with almonds.
- You can blend milk with banana and some other fruits you like to prepare a delicious shake. You can also prepare hot chocolate by heating milk, unsweetened dark chocolate and honey in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.
- You can also prepare a delicious dessert combining milk with dry fruits. For this purpose, soak figs, apricots, dates and almonds in hot water for 4 hours and drain. Grind into a fine paste and blend after adding milk and sugar. Then, add honey and cream and blend again. Refrigerate it and blend again till it becomes frothy. It can be garnished with chopped pista and grated chocolate.
- Milk can also be used to prepare a creamy soup. For this purpose, boil about 300 grams of milk and dilute it with 3 cups of warm water. Add about ½ cup rice and salt and boil until cooked. After removing, mix around 60 grams butter and thicken with 2 beaten eggs. This can be served with crushed brine cheese.
Milk has more benefits than we can think of. If you do not care much for a glass of milk, flavor it up with fruits, almonds, or even dates. This will make your drink more tempting and help improve your health in a number of ways!
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