Milk is essentially the first and the only “food” for a newborn baby world over, be it humans or any other mammal. No doubt then, that milk is the best and most wholesome food for any baby. God, the almighty, has made it so, so that it is easily digestible in raw form, without any fortifications, by the weak and vulnerable digestive tract of the tiny baby.
But what are the health benefits of milk for an adult? Often it is argued that milk is needed only for the first six months of life in an infant and thereafter it is unnecessary and indeed instrumental in decreasing the life span in humans. Well, before deciding, let’s read through to educate ourselves:
Milk is the most complete and wholesome food that contains all the nutrients needed by the body in exact amount and proportion. It has proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins and of course sufficient quantity of water to keep the body well hydrated. One cup i.e. approx. 240 ml of whole cow’s milk with 3.25% fat fulfills approx. 149 calories of our daily energy requirement. The composition of the milk obviously varies from cow to cow and from day to day for each cow depending on their diet and health and also from season to season. However, roughly the average composition is as follows:
Water: 88% Protein: 7.7 grams Carbs: 11.7 grams Sugar: 12.3 grams
Fiber: 0 grams Fat: 8 grams Calcium: 276 mg Potassium: 322 mg
Sodium: 105 mg Vitamin B12: 1.10 ug Vitamin A: 395 IU
Milk is rich in proteins needed for healthy growth, maintenance and repair of the normal muscles and other tissues of our body. Milk protein primarily consists of 80% Casein and 20% Whey protein. Whey protein is needed for muscle development and it is taken as a nutritional supplement by the body builders and wrestlers for the excess growth of their muscles. Casein on the other hand is a “complete protein” which supplements your body with all the essential amino acids needed for growth and repair of your body. Casein also has other positive health effects on such as anti-bacterial and increasing immunity and reducing BP.
Calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth. It is also necessary for proper muscle contraction and blood clotting. Milk is invariably rich in calcium. Though there are other richer vegan sources of calcium such as chia and green leafy vegetables like spinach, that may attract the vegan loving consumers, however, the bioavailability of calcium from milk and related products is far greater naturally than these other sources since they contain more of calcium chelating compounds that limit their easy digestion and absorption. The calcium in these vegan sources are better detected at lab level in test tubes rather than by the human gut for easy absorption and assimilation. Rather the calcium in these vegan sources are meant for the naturally herbivorous mothers such as cows who come in the ruminant’s category of animals and have a habit of chewing the cud. These animals chew the cud and digest the veggies in a much better way than the humans, whose gut has mainly evolved from previously carnivorous ancestors. Thus, the bio-availability of calcium from veggies is better suited to the ruminants than humans and other primates. Hence, milk becomes essential component of a daily balanced diet. The demand for daily calcium requirement is higher in pregnant and lactating women to afford for not only healthy growth of the fetus but also to maintain the bone density in the women of reproductive process. Women in the menopausal age group of approx. 45yrs to 60 yrs are under the effects of estrogen deficiency and hence, at the risk of loosing their calcium reserves much faster than the men of same age group. Hence, these women and the elderly are more prone to bone fractures, reduced bone density, blood clotting diseases, muscular weakness, Osteoporosis and even Osteomalacia.
Sugars and carbohydrates present in the milk is mainly in form of Lactose. Lactose is a disaccharide sugar which upon digestion releases one molecule each of glucose and galactose, both of which are easily digested and absorbed by any normal healthy individual. Only specific people with inherent Lactase enzyme deficiency have a trouble digesting the lactose of the milk, a genetic disease called Lactose intolerance. Lactose is present naturally in the breast milk and is easily absorbed by all babies. It is rare to see lactose intolerance in children under five years of age. With increasing age, however, the production of Lactase enzyme in Lactose intolerant people decreases resulting in the weird symptoms associated with dairy consumption. However, such people may still have the other benefits of milk by either opting for lactose-free milk or taking normal milk fortified with probiotic bacteria such as yoghurt. The probiotic bacteria help breakdown the lactose in the milk and aids its absorption.
Milk contains fats in form of Triglycerols and Fattyacids of both saturated and unsaturated types. Fat in organic milk is supposed to be healthy and provides the newborn baby with warmth and necessary insulation. It is only due to the fat present in milk that the main fat-soluble vitamins present in milk i.e. Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K are easily absorbed by the blood and aids in increasing the nutritive capacity of milk. Skimmed milk devoid of fats, are hence lacking in these fat-soluble vitamins and hence, are of less nutritive importance.
Milk contains Vitamin A (retinol), Carotene, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin B1(Thiamin), Vitamin B2(Riboflavin), Vitamin B3(Niacin), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Folate, Vitamin B5(Pantothenate), Biotin, Vitamin C and only trace amounts of Vitamin D. The lack of these vitamins in diet causes multi-vitamin deficiency, night blindness, dryness of skin, decreases immunity and many other nutritional diseases such as Pellagra, Beri-Beri, nerve conduction disorders, etc. Just as breastmilk naturally contains antibodies and immunoglobulins like IgA that protects a newborn from infections for the first six months of life, similarly, cow’s milk too contains natural immunity boosters to help improve upon the natural immunity and stamina of people and fight against diseases and stay healthy the natural way.
Milk is the cheapest and best medicine to avoid a hefty medical bill. It’s the medical insurance against a lot of unnecessary nutritional diseases. So, unless your doctor is really handsome and you wish to marry him, milk is your best friend forever… stay healthy…stay fit.