In defence of milk

“Milk please,” my preschooler directed politely. “In my red cup, with a straw,” he added with a smile.

I shook the bottle of organic, non-homogenized milk, so the cream would disperse from it’s lump at the top of the bottle, then I poured it into the specified red cup.

He slurped it up happily, delighting at the funny popping sucking noise that straw made when he got the last drops in the bottom of his cup. And it got me thinking what a shame it is that cow’s milk has gone out of fashion lately. And how sad it is that people think it’s unnatural to drink the milk of another animal, yet believe it’s perfectly healthy to have a plant-based alternative that is heavily processed.

Humans have been drinking milk for over 10,000 years. Babies are all set up to consume milk from their mothers because they have the enzyme lactase that breaks down the sugar naturally found in milk, called lactose. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, when children were weaned from their mother’s milk, they stopped making the enzyme. But as animals became domesticated, evolution favoured keeping those that kept their lactase enzyme going. Now, a huge part of the world’s population can comfortably drink milk throughout their lives, taking advantage of the fantastic nutrient profile of milk and all the health benefits it gives them. So, why are they now abandoning it for plant-based alternatives?

The view I most commonly come across is that if it’s plant-based it must mean that it’s healthier. But that’s simply not true. Plant-based milk alternatives are very processed. And you don’t have to take my word for it, either. Just have a look at the ingredients of different milks…

Soy milk ingredients: filtered water, soy protein (3.5%), corn maltodextrin, vegetable oils (sunflower, canola), cane sugar, minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium), acidity regulators (332, 450), antioxidant (ascorbic acid), vitamins (B12, D2, A, B2, B1), natural flavour.

Almond milk ingredients: filtered water, cane sugar, ground almonds (2.5%), mineral (calcium), emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), natural flavour, salt, mineral salt (sodium bicarbonate), vegetable gum (gellan), antioxidant (ascorbic acid), vitamins (B12, B2, B1).

Oat milk ingredients: filtered water, milled oats (9%), vegetable oils, minerals (phosphorus, calcium), salt, antioxidant (ascorbic acid), vitamins (B12, A, B2, B1).

Cow’s milk ingredients: fresh milk.

Now, call me crazy, but a milk that contains added sugar and vegetable oils and whatnot seems to me to be far more of a health-threat that a glass of cow’s milk that has only one ingredient: milk. Soy, almonds, oats, rice, whatever, aren’t naturally a milky consistency, so lots of stuff gets added to make it closer to animal milk. Reminds me of the days when infant formula was touted as superior to breastmilk… I think it’s a pretty clear-cut case of the food industry jumping on the latest trend and marketing a cheap, processed food as healthy. They’ve done it for years and clearly it’s made them a lot of money. But I think I’ll stick with good old fashioned milk, thanks.

In case you’re wondering why I poured my son the organic, non-homogenized milk instead of regular milk, well, it’s just more natural. Homogenization breaks up large fat particles into small ones and rearranges the proteins in milk, so the milk looks whiter and stays fresh longer, etc. Now, I’ve never looked into the effects this has on health but I suspect there might be some. Ultimately, it’s just another layer of processing that isn’t needed. To this day, the best milk I’ve ever tasted was raw milk on a dairy farm. And, if my budget will allow it, I like to think I’m giving my son something close to that deliciousness by giving him the most natural milk I can find.

3 responses to “In defence of milk”

  1. 😛 love it!

    My most favorite memory on the grandparents farm in rural Lithuania is – ME drinking fresh milk minutes after my grandmother milked a cow – we would take a cup of it and grab a DIY straw that was literally a straw – dried out grass, that would be hollow enough for milk to go through :))) the fresh foam was sooo good too

    There are tons of products my gran used to get out of milk – non of it was wasted.
    My favorite is ‘cottage cheese’ oh my goodness its soooo good and any dish out of it is so delicious and healthy low in fat and high in proteins: dumplings, pancakes cakes i love them all.
    Kefir is absolutely delicious too and super good for your gut!
    next is sour cream with potatoes also grown nearby !
    butter takes a ton of milk to prepare but you just cant get store alternative to the taste you get on the farm
    thank goodness for farm markets !

    i know formula is sooo outdated by now and still so widely used!
    dont even get me started on Human milk that has one million ingredients like enzymes antibodies and sleep hormone melatonin, growth hormones to name a few. in my opinion its pure magic! and i dont have anything bad to say about cows, goats milk too 🙂
    plant based milk is fine too if its home made! i tried to make OATs milk the other day and it did not taste anything like the store which was sooo sweet in comparison. Also my homemade oats milk did had layers where is the store bough was homogenized



  2. I’m all for Milk but not so much for this trend in raw milk drinking.

    Pasteurization is needed in order to make Milk safe, despite how these raw risk takers might like to complain about the change in taste.

    • It’s actually quite sad that pasteurization is often needed to kill off bad bacteria, because it’s down to the deplorable conditions that cows are kept in, often on feeding lots. However, grass fed cows free to range on pasture and milked in sanitary conditions can effectively remove the need for pasteurization. Which is great for both the cows and the milk drinkers, as raw milk is a treasure trove of good bacteria. So the safety of raw milk is really down to where your milk comes from. In New Zealand you can only buy raw milk direct from farmers and I believe it must meet safety standards.

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