Milk and its health benefits

Milk is a white nutritious liquid produced by female mammals for feeding their young. The milk most used in this world is that obtained from cows. Goats’ milk and ewes’ milk can also be used.
Milk is a white nutritious liquid produced by female mammals for feeding their young. The milk most used in this world is that obtained from cows. Goats’ milk and ewes’ milk can also be used.
A glass of milk

Food Value of Milk

Milk can make valuable contributions to our daily eating pattern and can help to meet out nutritional needs as part of a balanced, varied diet. Milk is one of the most nutritionally complete foods available, containing a wide range of nutrients, which are essential for the proper functioning of the body. In particular, milk is a good source of protein, calcium and B group vitamins, and whole milk is a good source of vitamin A.

Healthy Storage of Milk

Milk is a perishable product and therefore must be stored with care. It will keep for four to five days in refrigerator conditions. Milk can easily be contaminated and therefore stringent precautions are taken to ensure a safe and good-quality product for the consumer.
  • Fresh milk should be kept in the container in which it is delivered.
  • Milk must be stored in the refrigerator (four to five days).
  • Milk should be kept covered as it easily absorbs smells from other foods, such as onions and fish.
  • Fresh milk should be ordered daily.
  • Tinned milk should be stored in a cool, dry, ventilated rooms.
  • Dried milk is packaged in airtight tins and should be kept in a dry store.
  • Sterilized milk will keep for two to three months if unopened, but once opened must be treated in the same way as pasteurized milk.
  • UHT (ultra-heat-treated) milk, always check the date stamp, which expires six months after processing, and make sure to rotate stocks. Once opened it must be refrigerated and will keep for four to five days.

Milk heat treatment and types of milk

Milk is heat in one of several ways to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present. Approximately 99 per cent of milk sold in the world is heat treated.
  • Pasteurized milk – the milk is heated to a temperature of at least 71.7°C (161°F) for 15 seconds and then cooled quickly to less than 10°C (50°F).
  • UHT (ultra-heat-treated) milk – milk is homogenized (see below) and then heated to a temperature of at least 135°C for 1 second, the milk is then packed under sterile conditions.
  • Sterilized milk – milk is pre-heated to 50°C, separated and standardized to produce whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk. Filled bottles are then passed through a steam pressure chamber at temperatures of between 110°C and 130°C for 10-30 minutes, and then cooled in a cold water tank.
  • Homogenized milk – milk is forced through a fine aperture that breaks up the fat globules to an even size so that they stay evenly distributed throughout the milk and therefore do not form a cream line.
  • Whole milk (blue cap) – comes as pasteurized or pasteurized homogenized, and has a fat content of an average 3.9 per cent.
  • Semi-skimmed milk (green cap) – comes as pasteurized and has a fat content of between 1.5 and 1.8 per cent.
  • Skimmed milk (red cap) – comes as pasteurized and UHT, and contains just 0.1 per cent fat.
  • Channel Islands milk – milk that comes from the Jersey and Guernsey breeds of cow, and has a particularly rich and creamy taste and distinct cream line; it contains, on average, 5.1 per cent fat.
  • Evaporated milk – a concentrated sterilized product with a final concentration about twice that of the original milk.
  • Condensed milk – concentrated in the same way as evaporated milk but with the addition of sugar; this product is not sterilized but is preserved by the high concentration of sugar it contains.
  • Dried milk powder – milk produced by the evaporation of water from the milk by heat, or other means, to produce solids containing 5 per cent or less moisture; available as a whole or skimmed product; dried milk is skimmed milk powder to which vegetable fat has been added.
  • Soya milk – can be offered as an alternative to vegans and people with intolerance to cows’ milk.
  • Goats’ milk – nutritionally similar to cows’ milk and can be useful for people with lactose intolerance. Did you know that Goat Milk is superior to Cow Milk? Its benefits include; it’s easier to digest, it has fewer allergenic proteins and causes less inflammation, it’s high in calcium and fatty acids but low in cholesterol, it keeps skin looking good, and it absorbs nutrients and minerals better than cows’ milk.
  • Rice milk – an alternative to dairy milk for vegans and those with an intolerance to lactose. It is heat stable, which makes it a good replacement for cows’ milk in cooking although it tends to have a sweeter taste.
  • Coconut milk – is high in saturated fat but low in calories. It can be served as a drink but is more often used as a marinade and in cooking.

Milk is used in:

  • Soups and sauces.
  • The making of puddings, cakes and sweet dishes.
  • The cooking of fish and vegetables.
  • Hot and cold drinks.

Consumption of milk and dairy products is associated with numerous health benefits. They include;

Bone health - Milk and dairy products are providers of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and protein which are all essential for healthy bone growth and development. Adequate consumption of milk and dairy from early childhood and throughout life can help to make the bones strong and protect them against diseases like osteoporosis (a debilitating, brittle bone disorder) in later life.
Teeth - The amounts of calcium and phosphorous in milk and dairy products are also beneficial for the development and maintenance of healthy teeth. The most abundant protein in milk is casein and is protective as it forms a thin film on the enamel surface which prevents loss of calcium and phosphate from the enamel when the teeth are exposed to acids in the mouth. Studies have suggested that milk also reduces the effects of cariogenic foods on teeth when consumed together with them in the diet. In fact, dentists recommend that milk is the only safe drink to have between meals (except for water) as it has been shown not to cause tooth decay even in conditions perfect for damaging teeth!
Milk and blood pressure - An increasing number of studies suggest that consuming 3 portions of dairy each day, along with 5 portions of fruit and vegetables as part of a low salt diet can reduce high blood pressure in both adults and children. Although the exact mechanisms involved are not clear, it is thought that the calcium, potassium, magnesium and proteins within milk are all likely to be involved.
Milk and cardiovascular disease - Several studies have linked milk and dairy consumption with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. A recent study in Welsh men found that those who drank the most milk had fewer heart attacks than those who had little or no milk in their diets. This connection could be due to many factors in milk, but epidemiological studies have shown that higher intakes of calcium in particular are linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. More specifically, studies have shown that high calcium intakes may reduce high levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, and increase low levels of good cholesterol both of which are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In addition, it is also thought that calcium may bind harmful fats together in the gut and prevent their absorption, which in turn prevents levels in the blood increasing.
Obesity - Contrary to popular belief, research has shown that people who consume milk and dairy foods are likely to be slimmer than those who do not. Studies have also shown that consumption of milk and dairy foods as part of a calorie controlled diet is associated with increased weight loss, particularly form the abdomen. This is particularly beneficial since excess fat around the trunk region of the body is associated with greater risks to health. The precise mechanisms involved are unclear but are likely to involve calcium which is found in milk and dairy foods.
Type 2 diabetes - Studies suggest that regular consumption of low fat dairy products can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, which has been a longstanding problem in adults, and is becoming increasingly common in children and adolescents. A recent study of more than 37,000 middle aged women found that those with the highest intakes of dairy had a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. The strongest association was found with low fat dairy products.
Similarly a study of men in 2005 found a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes with increased consumption of low fat dairy, interestingly, every extra portion of dairy consumed was associated with increasingly lower risk.
It is thought that this effect may be due to the combined effects of many beneficial nutrients found within dairy foods including calcium and magnesium, or the fact that dairy foods have a low glycaemic index, which helps to control blood sugar levels.
Cancer - There is considerable evidence to suggest that milk has a protective effect on risk of both colorectal and breast cancer with increased intakes. A recent study of 45,000 Swedish men reported that men who drank 1.5 glasses of milk per day or more, had 35% lower risk of the disease than those who had a low milk intake of less than 2 glasses per week.
Additionally a study of over 40,000 Norwegian women found that those who drank milk as children and continued to do so as adults, had a lower risk of developing breast cancer. Calcium and a naturally occurring fat in dairy products known as Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) have been suggested as protective components in colon cancer.
Hydration - In order to remain adequately hydrated, it is recommended that we consume 6-8 cups of fluid each day. If we become dehydrated, it can result in poor concentration and memory function and leave you feeling irritable and unwell. Milk is an excellent choice of fluid as it not only re-hydrates the body, but provides a host of beneficial nutrients and protects the teeth at the same time! Re-hydration after exercise is particularly important to replace lost fluids, and a recent study in the USA found that chocolate milk helped the body to recover after exhausting exercise!
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