Milk is the primary source of nutrients for the majority of mammalian offspring, including human beings. Although the benefits of breastfeeding override that of any other feeding methods’ for infants, consuming cow milk is considered a controversial topic for all age groups. A recent meta-analysis, the one that inspired this post, acknowledged that despite evidence on both sides, milk consumption is more often associated with benefits than harm.
What does milk contain?
Whole cow’s milk contains protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and hormones like insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), estrogens, and progestins.
Milk is also an important source of micronutrients like:
Benefits of consuming milk
Milk is proven to have anti-carcinogenic , anti-inflammatory , anti-oxidative , anti-adipogenic , anti-hypertensive , anti-hyperglycemia , and anti-osteoporosis  qualities. Consequently, milk consumption is associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, hypertension, colorectal cancer, metabolic syndrome, obesity and osteoporosis. Milk is also found beneficial against type 2 diabetes mellitus and Alzheimer’s disease.
Harmful effects of consuming milk
According to research, milk intake might be associated with higher risk of prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease, acne and Fe-deficiency anemia in infancy. Estrogen or saturated in milk is found to have no health concern.
Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk products that can be difficult for some people to digest. The enzyme “lactase”, which cleaves the lactose , is added to lactose-free milk. The final lactose-free milk has nearly the same taste, texture and nutrient profile as regular milk. If refrigerated properly, lactose-free milk can last about 7 days after being opened.
While the content varies based on the type and the brand, plant-based milks contain no lactose or cholesterol, and generally little saturated fat. These milk are often fortified with nutrients naturally found in milk; however, there is no evidence whether fortified nutrients have the same benefits as the natural ones.
Soy milk is found to be the best replacement for cow’s milk due to its protein content. However, the quality of this content may not be enough for children and elderly, as they need to consume quality protein. Almond milk is not as nutritionally dense as soy milk or cow’s milk, but might be consumed if nutritional discrepancy is compensated. This discrepancy is wider for rice milk and coconut milk.
On another note, production of cow milk emits three times the greenhouse gas than that of a similar amount of plant-based milk.
Choosing which to consume depends on an individual’s daily requirements, health status, and preference. So, do not forget to have a balanced diet that is working for you!
How much milk should you consume?
The USDA says adults should consume three servings of milk (or cheese or yogurt) each day.
Who should think twice while consuming milk?
Those who have milk allergy or lactose intolerance should be cautious in their milk consumption.
How should you preserve milk?
Raw milk can contain dangerous bacteria, like Brucella. However, pasteurized and homogenized milk, which is the one generally being sold, is processed to kill most of such microorganisms.
Pasteurized milk should be kept below a temperature of 40 F towards the rear of the refrigerator. If stored at room temperature for two hours or longer, milk is recommended to be discarded as it would lead the considerably small amount of bacteria in pasteurized milk to quickly grow. Once opened, milk will last about 3-5 days.
How can you understand if the milk in your fridge is spoiled?
If spoiled, it would have a strong, sour odor and lumpy texture.
Zhang X, Chen X, Xu Y, Yang J, Du L, Li K, Zhou Y. Milk consumption and multiple health outcomes: umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses in humans. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2021 Jan 7;18(1):7. doi: 10.1186/s12986-020-00527-y. PMID: 33413488; PMCID: PMC7789627.