Milk is one of the most nutritious and comprehensive foods we have and its numerous
properties have been known since ancient times. It is consumed in large quantities
by people of all ages, particularly athletes, as it is a good thirst-quencher,
and it is especially recommended for young children and the elderly. Milk is rich
in calcium and vitamins A, B and D (which is fundamental for bone and tooth formation)
and it contains amino acids, which our bodies need in order to stay healthy.
Lactose is a sugar found only in milk and the fat found within milk is different from all other fats as it can be good for our bodies and is easy to digest. Many people are intolerant towards milk because they lack the enzyme lactase but these people can still consume milk: soya milk can be drunk (a plant milk) which is tasty and free from cholesterol, lactose and casein. Soya milk is, therefore, a valid substitute for animal milk and it is also recommended by experts for those who are at risk of arteriosclerosis since it contains very little animal fat.
Milk, a complete food
A glass of full fat milk normally contains 35g of protein, 37g of fat, 45g of sugar and 10g of minerals. Everyone knows about the beneficial properties of milk but this food, as mentioned, is particularly important for the growth and development of bones and teeth. It also encourages the coagulation of blood and provides the energy necessary to carry out physical activity, which is especially good for those who burn calories quickly. The proteins found in milk are lactalbumin and casein and the vitamins present are vitamins A, B2 and B12.
The large amount of calcium in milk is very good for us as it is easy to absorb and is used in many ways by the body. Phosphorus is another significant mineral found in milk and this also helps to make and maintain healthy teeth and bones. So why is milk considered a ‘complete’ food? The answer is because the proteins found in it (casein – 80% - lactalbumin – 20%) represent a third of our average daily food requirements. Carbohydrates are also present, in the form of lactose, and they are particularly important for the development of nervous tissue during the first few months of a child’s life.
Soya milk as an alternative to cow’s milk
Soya milk, like all plant based products, must be organic because if not, it could contain genetically modified soya. This milk is a legitimate substitute for cow’s milk, particularly for those who are at risk of arteriosclerosis, because soya reduces LDL cholesterol. Furthermore, some statistics show that amongst the men who consume this milk regularly, the number of prostate tumours is lower. Some studies have also shown that soya milk has protective properties against tumours often found in females, as well as supposedly protecting against problems connected to osteoporosis, however this has not yet been proven.
Plant milk, in comparison to cow’s milk, is less calorific and there is less fat in the former than in whole milk and only slightly more fat in soya milk than in semi-skimmed cow’s milk. Plant milk also contains fibre, vitamins A, B and E and minerals, including iron, of which there is double the amount compared to cow’s milk.
In conclusion, soya milk is a great ally for our bodies and for problems related to high cholesterol.
The difference between pasteurised and sterilised milk
Pasteurised milk is called ‘fresh’ milk and it can be used for up to 4 days from the day it was packaged, as long as it is stored in the fridge. Pasteurisation happens when milk is subjected to temperatures between 74°-76.5°C for 16 seconds and then immediately cooled down to 2°-4°C. Sterilised milk, on the other hand (also known as UHT – ultra high temperature), can be kept for up to 90 days from the date it was packaged as long as it is not opened and is stored at room temperature - once UHT milk is opened, however, it can only be kept for 3-4 days. Sterilisation consists of heating the milk to 115°-135°C for 15-20 minutes and then cooling it down. After this treatment the milk can then be preserved for longer however it looses a large amount of its vitamins and protein content during this process.
The importance of lactic enzymes
Once fermented correctly, lactic enzymes, which are found in milk, cheese and yoghurt, contain lactic acid, a substance that is particularly beneficial for our bodies. It has many properties including; encouraging vital processes, which are essential for physiological development, sorting out intestinal floral bacteria, which in turn inhibits the development of many harmful microorganisms, preventing intestinal infections, promoting the recovery of adequate intestinal floral bacteria after following a course of antibiotics, improving digestion and the functioning of the intestines, reinforcing the immune system defences, which in turn creates antibodies, and working against food poisoning. Our bodies often need to reorganise intestinal floral bacteria however, eating the food we do, this is not always possible, therefore introducing lactic enzymes every now and then is a good idea as they contain alkalinisers.
Finally, an important factor to remember is to avoid eating sweet foods and foods that are high in protein together with lactic enzymes because this causes the enzymes to loose their abovementioned abilities.
Is it true that milk is fattening?
Like all foods, milk is fattening if too much of it is consumed but, as part of a healthy, balanced diet, it is not fattening. What is more, it does not contain a large amount of calories (130Kcal per glass) so it makes for a good snack and breakfast as it gets rid of hunger pains, preventing us from eating other, usually unhealthy foods.
The American discovery: loose weight by drinking one glass of milk a day
Researchers at the University of San Diego, America, claim that the large amount of calcium contained in milk helps the body to burn fat therefore one glass of milk a day (or one medium portion of cheese a day) can make a difference as it helps the body to loose weight without having to low calorie intake.
The importance of calcium in our diet
A diet that is poor in calcium and thus milk and other dairy products progressively causes bones to weaken. In some cases calcium deficiency can even be dangerous, for example during pregnancy, as calcium is absolutely essential for the foetus, as well as during the breast-feeding period, because babies can only obtain calcium from the mother in these cases. Furthermore, elderly people need to consume extra calcium as, at this stage of life, the intestines absorb this mineral less quickly, bringing on osteoporosis.