Milk is an important part of the diet – containing calcium and good amounts of vitamin A and D. Now we have the choice of organic, full fat, semi-skimmed, skimmed, cow’s, goat’s, rice, almond, soya, coconut and raw. But which one should you have?
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All animal milk contains lactose and milk protein. If you have a milk allergy you will need to avoid these milks. Other than this, there is no reason for you to have to avoid these milks at all. Even if you have a lactose intolerance then you will have a certain tolerance level so can have lactose in small amounts e.g. in teas and coffees.
One easy alternative for those with a lactose intolerance is lacto-free milk. This tastes exactly the same as normal milk but has had an enzyme added to it to destroy the lactose. However, it still contains milk protein so those with an allergy will have to avoid it.
Another factor to consider with these milks is that nearly all the fat in them is saturated which is bad for your heart. Regardless of whether you have heart disease, high cholesterol or are perfectly healthy you may want to look a swopping to skimmed or semi-skimmed versions of these milks in order to protect your heart.
Normally animal milk undergoes a process known as pasteurisation. This is a process where the milk is heated in order to destroy harmful bacteria, however, it can also reduce some of the nutritional value of milk. Raw milk isn’t pasteurised.
Some individuals who have a lactose intolerance report that they can tolerate raw milk. However, there is no reason as to why this would be the case and it is thought that placebo may have a role.
At present, raw milk can only be bought in farm shops and if you decide to use it then please be mindful of potential food poisoning. It certainly wouldn’t be a good idea for those with a low immune system, the young or the elderly. Another thing to consider is that all raw milk contains saturated fat.
A2 milk only contains the A2 protein compared with other cows milk which contains both A1 and A2 proteins. The claim being that A1 protein is linked to certain conditions such as autism, heart disease, and type 1 diabetes.
Unfortunately though, as with many new health claims on food, there is little scientific evidence to support this idea. This was highlighted in a 2009 report from the European Food Safety Authority.
There are many plant based milks on the market and these are just a few commonly found in supermarkets. Switching to plant milks can provide you with many health benefits such as cholesterol lowering and avoidance of high purine foods (related to gout). At just 60 calories per glass, coconut milk is the lowest in calories closely followed by almond milk. Most of these milks do have added vitamins in them such as D, B12 and D so this is one area you won’t be missing out on and almond milk has an added benefit of vitamin E.
In recent years, soya milk has had a lot of bad press. However, the studies which show that links may be present between soya milk and certain diseases have only been carried out in rodents which do not have the same systems as a human. Not only this, but there are many human studies showing the benefits of soya in the diet such as reducing certain cancer rates, lowering cholesterol and reducing hot flushes in menopause.
One consideration for those following a higher protein diet would be the lack of protein in most plant milks. A glass of rice milk for instance contains just 0.3g of protein compared to 10.8g that you would find in a glass of cow’s skimmed milk.
What would I recommend?
If you have a milk allergy – Almond or Soy milk
If you are lactose intolerant – A combination of cow’s skimmed milk (to your tolerance), lactose free cow’s skimmed milk or any plant milk
If you are on a high protein diet – A combination of cow’s skimmed milk and soya milk
If you are looking for a general healthy diet – A combination of skimmed cow’s milk and soy/almond milk.
© The Food Treatment Clinic LTD 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Kirsten Jackson is a UK registered Consultant Gastroenterology Dietitian and founder of The Food Treatment Clinic. She has undergone many qualifications to get where she is today, including a UK BSc Honours Degree in Dietetics and Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Dietetics. In addition to this, she has FODMAP Training from Kings College London University. Kirsten set up The Food Treatment Clinic in 2015 after first experiencing digestive problems herself. She felt that the NHS was unable to provide the support individuals needed and went on to specialise in this area before opening a bespoke IBS service. Kirsten also participates in charity work as an Expert Advisor for the IBS Network. In addition, she can be seen in publications such as Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph discussing IBS as an Official Media Spokesperson to the IBS Network.