The Dairy Dilemma: Should you be drinking cow’s milk?

Despite being a nutritious choice, there are many reasons why people cannot drink cow’s milk

Courtney Gault

Courtney Gault

By Courtney Gault,

Dietetic Intern

Interior Health

When did buying milk become such a difficult task? I have found that going down the dairy aisle has become a long process, trying to pick between soy, almond, coconut, hemp, or cow’s milk. It is even more difficult when the media is saying that we should move away from cow’s milk, but is this true? The simple answer is: if you can drink cow’s milk without having any adverse reactions, it is a safe and nutritious beverage choice.

Why Cow’s Milk is a Good Choice:

Cow’s milk is an affordable source of protein. Compared to milk alternatives it has the most protein with 8 grams per cup. Soy milk is close behind with 6 grams, whereas almond milk, rice milk and coconut milk have only 1 g or less of protein per cup. If you drink a milk alternative it is important to make sure you are choosing protein foods in your diet such as lean meats, beans, nuts and tofu. This is because most milk alternatives are not considered a good source of protein.

Cow’s milk is also a great source of vitamin D and calcium, which are important for bone health. These nutrients protect you from issues like osteoporosis as you age. Some people have argued that humans cannot absorb the calcium in cow’s milk; however a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the calcium in cow’s milk is more readily absorbed than the calcium in fortified milk alternatives and foods such as spinach and almonds.

Choosing a Milk Alternative:

Despite being a nutritious choice, there are many reasons why people cannot drink cow’s milk. For example, some people have a dairy allergy, lactose intolerance or follow a special diet such as veganism. If you do not drink milk, here are some tips for choosing a healthy alternative:

-Make sure you choose a product that is fortified. The nutrition label should have at least 30% of your Daily Value of calcium and 45% of your Daily Value for vitamin D.

-Choose a product that is unsweetened. Many milk alternatives contain added sugars so check the ingredients list.

The Dairy Dilemma Solved:

No matter which milk you drink, it is suggested that you have 2 cups each day to make sure you get enough vitamin D and calcium for healthy bones and a healthy body. Adding milk into the diet everyday can be easy, especially with this delicious recipe!

Home Brewed Chai Tea:  Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cinnamon stick

6 whole cardamom pods, lightly crushed

6 whole cloves

1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

2 single-serve black tea bags or 1 tablespoon loose black tea

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 cup low-fat (1%) milk or unsweetened milk alternative

3 cups of water

Preparation:

Place cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, peppercorns and 3 cups water into a small pot and bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and set aside to steep for 10 minutes.

Return pot to the heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add tea, cover and set aside to steep for 3 to 5 minutes.

Strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding solids, and then return liquid to the pot.

Stir in sugar and milk and heat over low heat for 1 minute.

Pour into 4 cups and serve

Recipe from Whole Foods: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/homemade-chai

References:  Weaver C. and Plawecki K. Dietary calcium: Adequacy of a vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59(suppl):1238S-41S.