Archive for June, 2013

In past years, milk referred to that creamy white liquid from contented, or not so contented, cows. Not anymore. Milk now encompasses a bevy of liquids from animal and plant sources. Although milk is available from goats and other animals, the word milk most often brings to mind cows. Cow’s milk comes in many forms and undergoes three primary processes before bought by consumers.

  • Pasteurization. Milk is heated for a certain time to a specific temperature, often 161 degrees Fahrenheit  for 15 seconds or an equivalent temperature and time. This kills harmful organisms and helps milk to keep longer.
  • Homogenization. Milk is mixed to break down fat globules and keep the cream from separating from the fluid and milk solids. It keeps the texture smooth and creamy.
  • Fortification. Substances are added to increase or replace nutritional values. Most milk has 400 I.U. of vitamin D added per quart.

In the supermarket, milk is mostly defined by fat content. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dairy products based on standards of identity. The following are the most common types available to consumers.

  • Whole milk has no fat removed and has 3.5% fat content with about 150 calories per 8-ounce serving.
  • 2%, 1%, and ½% refer to the percent of butter fat left in milk. In each case, fat content has been reduced to the amount indicated. Per serving, the 2% has approximately 120 calories and 1% has about 100 calories
  • Non-fat or skim milk has negligible amounts of fat of less than 0.02%. An 8-ounce serving has about 80 calories compared to 150 calories for whole milk.
  • Evaporated milk is whole or skim milk with approximately 50% of water removed. It has vitamin D added and is homogenized.
  • Condensed milk has much of the water removed and is sweetened with nutritive carbohydrate sweeteners. It is pasteurized and homogenized.
  • Raw milk is unpasteurized. Because it can transmit harmful bacteria, the FDA warms against drinking it.
  • Organic milk is produced by dairy farmers who raise their animals on land using only organic fertilizers and pesticides. Cows are not given supplemental hormones. The milk is processed in the same way as standard milk and the nutrient content is the same. Organic milk doesn’t offer any more health benefits than standard milk.

Plants provide alternative sources of milk. Many forms tout added benefits. Some of the most common plant sources include: soy, rice, oat, coconut, and almond milks. For those unable to drink cow’s milk for health reasons, these plant sources give viable alternatives. If you are new to other forms of milk, don’t expect it to taste anything like the familiar cow’s milk. Each type has its own unique flavor.

Whatever you choose, milk is a healthful choice to meet the daily requirements of many nutrients.


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June is National Dairy Month. Before June slides into oblivion, take a moment to reflect on milk as one aspect of a healthful diet. Milk and its products are powerhouses of nutrients. They provide nine essential nutrients; calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D, and B12, riboflavin, and niacin. These nutrients play vital roles in body functions and bone development, especially in children and teens. For adults, this food group may help reduce risks for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and help lower blood pressure. Milk and milk products may also help rid the body of unwanted weight.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults consume three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk or milk equivalent daily. Serving size equals one cup of milk or yogurt and one and one-half ounces of cheese. A 2,000 calorie diet is the standard for recommendations. Men and very active women may need to increase their number of servings.

Milk is a mainstay as a beverage whether with meals or as part of a healthy snack. Use milk instead of water to prepare cooked cereals or soup. Enjoy other forms such as yogurt and numerous types of cheeses. Shredded cheese on casseroles or vegetables or in soups, stews, and other dishes creates tempting fares and provides extra nutrients. Yogurt makes a great dip for fruits and vegetables. Use flavored yogurt for delicious smoothies. Because of their low lactose content, cheese and yogurt can replace milk to meet nutrient needs of those who are lactose intolerant.

Don’t overlook milk or its products in your diet. Enjoy its refreshing taste with assurance that you made healthy choices for your eating plan.

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