Many foods have had their turn at facing misconceptions and myths. Milk is a good example. Milk has traditionally been labeled as Mother Nature's most perfect food, but is sometimes surrounded by mistaken beliefs. This article takes a look at some milk myths and outlines the facts about milk and milk products.
FACT: Most people with lactose intolerance can include small amounts of milk products in their diets. Lactose is the natural sugar found in all milk products and is easily digested by most people. Individuals with lactose intolerance, however, often cannot digest this sugar properly. The results can be stomach cramps, bloating and diarrhea.
There are many ways in which people with a lactose intolerance can have milk products without feeling any discomfort. It is best to experiment to find your own level of tolerance. For some this may mean they can drink 375 mL of milk on a daily basis, while others can only tolerate 75 mL.
Some specialty milk products contain reduced levels of lactose, which allows people with lactose intolerance to consume a wider variety of milk products. Two such products are Lactaid and Lacteeze. These are lactose-reduced milks that are available in most grocery stores.
Aged cheeses and yogurt are also generally well tolerated by those with lactose intolerance. Such foods enable individuals with lactose-intolerance to obtain some calcium from milk products without relying on supplements.
FACT: We need calcium and vitamin D at every stage of life to develop and maintain strong, healthy bones and teeth. Recent nutrition surveys in Nova Scotia and Quebec have indicated that men and women are not getting enough calcium in their diets.
According to Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating, adults need 2 to 4 servings of milk and milk products daily. Examples of one serving include 250 mL (1 cup) of milk, 50 grams ( 1.5 ounces) of cheese or 175 mL (3/4 cup) of yogurt. Bones are mostly made of calcium and phosphate deposited in a protein structure. Although bones have stopped growing in length when we are in our 20s and width in our early 30s, old bone is replaced by new bone throughout life.
A small but crucial amount of calcium is found in your blood and is important for normal blood clotting. Calcium is also essential for the proper functioning of muscles, nerves and the heart. Since the body cannot produce this vital mineral, it is necessary to eat adequate amounts of calcium-rich foods every day. Bones act as a mineral storage house. If you do not eat enough calcium-rich foods, you will begin to use the calcium stored in your bones for other functions in your body.
In addition to calcium, milk products are important sources of other essential nutrients. These include riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and protein. Regular, evaporated and powdered milks also provide vitamin D, which helps your body use calcium.
While there are some foods which provide dietary calcium, it is difficult to meet daily calcium needs without consuming milk products on a daily basis. Broccoli, Chinese cabbage and kale are the only vegetables considered to be good sources of dietary calcium. The calcium in other vegetables such as spinach is not easily absorbed and used by the body. Other good sources include tofu which has been set with calcium, salmon with the bones, almonds and white beans.
Dairy products are the major dietary source of calcium in the Canadian diet. Typically about 78 per cent of our dietary calcium comes from milk products, 9 per cent from vegetables and fruits, 7 per cent from meat and alternatives, 4 per cent from grain and 2 per cent from other miscellaneous foods.
FACT: Pasteurization helps keep our milk supply safe and free from dangerous bacteria. It does not affect the nutritional quality of milk. Harmful bacteria which can cause disease are destroyed when milk is pasteurized. Pasteurization was invented by the French microbiologist Louis Pasteur in the l860s and introduced into Canada in l906.
This process involves heating the milk to a prescribed temperature to kill any bacteria which could cause disease. Modern methods involve heating the milk to 72.8°C for 16 seconds or heating it to 89°C for one second and then rapidly cooling the milk to 4°C. This process does not affect the nutritional content of milk, nor does it change the flavor. Pasteurization not only makes milk safe to drink, it increases the length of time milk can be kept before spoiling. All milk sold in stores is pasteurized. A dairy farmer cannot legally sell raw (unpasteurized) milk to consumers.
FACT: Dairy products are important in any healthy eating plan. Lower-fat eating can and should include two to four servings of milk products daily. This helps to ensure a balanced diet and provides the calcium your body needs on a daily basis.
The dairy industry has developed a variety of lower-fat cheeses, milks, sour creams and yogurts to help you meet your daily calcium requirements. For instance, tour the cheese section of specialty shops or your local grocery store. You'll find an assortment of lower-fat cheeses with 20 per cent butter fat (B.F.) or less which can be used in a variety of recipes.
Milk is available with 3.25 per cent (homogenized), 2 per cent, 1 per cent and 0.1 per cent (skim) milk fat. Light sour cream (7 per cent B.F.) can be substituted for regular (14 per cent B.F.) sour cream. The milk fat content of yogurt depends on the particular brand you choose. Check yogurt labels because the milk fat content varies with different brands. The container with the lowest per cent milk fat (% M.F.) or butter fat (% B.F.) will have the least amount of fat. Frozen yogurt and ice milk are also great lower-fat dairy desserts.
Last, but not least, keep in mind that a variety of foods should be included in a lower fat eating plan. This means balancing your favorite higher fat food choices with the wide array of lower-fat food products. Try not to become overly focused on one food group as you fine-tune your eating plan. For instance, you will not improve your overall eating style if you only make lower-fat dairy choices but continue to use generous amounts of mayonnaise, gravy and higher-fat snack foods such as doughnuts or potato chips.
In conclusion, milk and milk products offer nutritional benefits throughout life. Whether you are concerned about fat intake or lactose intolerance, milk or milk products can provide important nutrients such as calcium for strong and healthy bones and teeth.