Full fat, whole cream, double toned milk – if the different types of dairy milk were not enough to confuse you, today you also have nut-based and plant-based milks. As the vegan community grows in number, almond milk and soy milk have also seen a surge in popularity.
“Milk is a high-quality protein, due to the presence of all essential amino acids. These amino acids are required for tissue building and repair, playing an important role in immune function, taking part in various biochemical reactions and are vital for metabolism. Protein from dairy helps reduce muscle breakdown post exercise, due to its rich amino acid profile,” says Swati Bhushan, chief clinical nutritionist, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai.
According to Bhushan, a glass of milk (200 ml) is packed with approximately 6 – 7 grams protein and 200- 300 mg of calcium, meeting about 30 – 50% of our daily requirement of calcium.
Naturally occurring calcium from dairy products is readily absorbed by our bodies. Calcium helps build strong bones and teeth, plays an important role in improving bone density and in turn decreases the risk of osteoporosis.
Let’s take a look at different types of milk and their nutrient profiles:
Whole milk/full cream milk:
Milk from which the cream has not been removed is called ‘whole milk’ or ‘full cream milk’. “It contains more than 3.5% of fat; it is highly nutritious and provides the essential nutrients required for growth and development. It is rich in Vitamin D, A, B1, calcium, phosphorous and riboflavin,” says Niyati P Likhite, dietician, Fortis Hospital, Mumbai.
Potassium helps to maintain Blood Pressure. Vitamin B12 maintains healthy red blood cells and nerve tissue. Vitamin A is good for the skin and boosts immunity.
Full cream milk is recommended for children, teenagers, bodybuilders, and pregnant and lactating mothers.
It is made when all the cream is removed from whole milk. “It contains 0.1 % fat. It is loaded with proteins, calcium, phosphorous, Vitamin D and A. Skimmed milk has fewer calories than whole milk. With almost half the calories than the whole milk, skimmed milk provides the same amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals. It is fortified with Vitamin A and D,” says Likhite.
Vitamin D ensures that your body can use calcium properly. Vitamin A helps to maintain healthy eyes and nourishes the immune system. Skimmed milk decreases the risk of osteoporosis and obesity. It helps in weight loss and aids in maintaining ideal body weight. It also reduces the risk of heart disease and helps maintain lean muscle mass.
“It is recommended for people with heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and patients with burns. It is also good for adults who are health conscious and want to maintain their ideal weight. This type of milk is not recommended for children,” adds Likhite.
Dairy for kids:
Infants need higher fat in their diet for their growth and development, for adequate weight gain and for absorption for Vitamin A and D. Swati Bhushan recommends, “Cow’s whole milk should be introduced at the age of one. But after two years, if the child is eating a well-balanced diet and weighs as per standards, switching over to toned milk can be a good decision. Double toned milk and slim varieties are not recommended for children below 5 years and should be selected only if your kid is overweight.”
If you are lactose intolerant, allergic to soy or are a vegan, almond milk can is an alternative. It contains various nutrients, but compared to whole almonds, its nutrition profile is reduced as it is prepared by blending almonds and water and then straining it. This process removes most of its dietary fiber and some antioxidants. “The concentration of nutrients goes down but will depend upon the ratio of almonds and water during preparation. The protein content in a glass of soy milk (200 ml) is only 1-1.5 grams in comparison to milk protein and thus cannot be considered as a protein-rich beverage,” says Bhushan.
Unsweetened almond milk is low in calories with 1 – 1.5% fat, like low-fat milk varieties, and thus one need not worry about weight gain. “Replacing it with slim milk will result in 50% reduction in calories,” says Bhushan. It is a low carbohydrate beverage making it suitable for diabetics since it does not cause unnecessary spikes in their blood sugar levels.
“It contains sufficient amounts of calcium, Vitamin E, and flavonoids. Vitamin E, along with Flavonoids nourishes the skin, prevents premature aging, improves heart health, bone health, eye health and brain health. These are also cancer protective and combat inflammation and stress,” adds Bhushan.
Soy milk is extracted from soya beans and is the only good quality protein containing all essential amino acids, among plant-based diets. Unlike other competitors, soy milk has almost the same amount of protein as dairy, making it more popular among vegans and individuals with lactose or nut allergy.
“It is naturally low in fat and free from saturated fat and cholesterol. It contains moderate amounts of dietary fibre unlike dairy and almond milk with nil or negligible amounts of fiber. It contains minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron and selenium. Vitamin B9 (Folate), B6, and K are also present in soy milk,” says Bhushan.
She adds, “Unsweetened soy milk contains only 3.5 – 4gms in comparison to 10gms carbohydrates present in 200ml cow’s milk.” Low carbohydrates along with modest dietary fiber in soy milk provide a feeling of fullness and aids in weight loss. As part of low-fat diet, it helps in reducing BMI and helps in retaining muscle mass in obese individuals. “Soy Isoflavones helps reduce waist circumference in such individuals by reducing expansion of adipose tissue,” explains Bhushan. Low glycaemic index of soy milk makes it is safe for diabetics as it slows the absorption of sugar in the blood.