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Health Benefits of Milk

In Western culture, milk has historically been equated strictly to cow milk. This is no longer the case. Now, other sources of milk are becoming more available and competing with our old stand-by. While cow’s milk is a concentrated form of nutrition, the high fat and complex proteins are sometimes difficult to digest. However, cow’s milk is never recommended for infants under six months of age, and somewhere between 1 and 7 percent of children in the United States are allergic to cow’s milk. Worldwide, the percentage of allergic and lactose-intolerant children is even higher. Milk has been linked to many diseases in women and children, including iron deficiency, childhood diabetes, and even osteoporosis. Stopping the intake of cow’s milk has been known to decrease menstrual cramps, the pain of endometriosis, allergies, sinusitis and some types of vaginal discharge. If you are not feeling well, and you consume a lot of diary other than yogurt, consider another milk. Currently, a gallon of pasteurized and homogenized cow’s milk costs between $3.29 and $3.99 a gallon.

Goat’s milk has long been viewed as a healthful alternative to cow milk. Unfortunately, it shares many of the same drawbacks It is actually higher in fat (10% versus 8%) than cow’s milk. However, the protein in goat’s milk is viewed as more digestible due to the lack of agglutinin in the milk. In cow’s milk, the protein’s are glued together by the agglutinin. Goat’s milk also has less of the casein protein, the one most commonly linked to milk allergies, but it is equally full of a second allergen, beta lactoglobulin. Studies world wide have also concluded that goat’s milk is better at staving off osteoporosis than cow’s milk, as it does not cause some of the pH imbalances in the blood often linked to cow’s milk. Goat’s milk, prior to the advent of formula, was used as a breast milk substitute but it is no longer recommended for infants under 6 months. Bought straight from a farm, you will pay $7 to $10 a gallon, upwards of $12.00/gallon in a grocery store.

Soy milk is growing in popularity and availability. Soy milk is relatively high in protein but much lower in fat at only 2% fat content. Soy Milk also contains both a significant amount of soluble fiber as well as isoflavones. For women in particular, this estrogen-like substance has been linked to lower rates of cancer and heart disease. Despite supplementation, it does not have as high a label value of calcium, but provided a person is consuming appropriate amounts of other calcium-rich foods, overall soy milk is a much healthier daily diet choice than cow’s milk or goat’s milk. Soy milk does not come without some risks. People that consume over 3 servings weekly need to ensure that they have an adequate source of iodine, as soy protein in general can interfere with iodine absorption. Soy milk is not recommended under 6 months, but there are soy-based infant formulas available on the market. Soy milk averages approximately $6.00 per gallon, although machines exist to make your own at home for a fraction of that per gallon.

Rice Milk is the last of the readily available commercial milks. Rice milk pales in comparison with any of the other milks in terms of protein content. Made from brown rice and either a rice syrup or cane sugar, the heavy sweetener load may be a concern for some. Generally, this is more of a taste substitute for beverages or cooking rather than a dietary supplement for milk and milk products. If you chose this as a milk substitute, ensure the variety you select is fortified with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin A unless you decide to get those specifically from some other part of your diet. Rice milk is not currently recommended for children under two due to its high sugar, low fat and low protein content. Rice milk costs approximately the same as soy milk at $6.00 per gallon.

While in some ways the survey is still out, the healthiest alternative is soy milk for adult women and children over 2, with the best milk alternative for children under 2 a properly formulated soy formula. It avoids many of the risks of cow’s milk, with goat’s milk a distant second in the race to good health.