Right smack in the middle of the food pyramid is an entire segment dedicated to dairy products — you have cheese, yogurt and all that’s in between within that section. Ever wondered what the common denominator between these food items is? If you are waiting for an answer, these food items all derive from milk.
While some may ponder the relevance of dairy products in the food pyramid, they do have their uses, since dairy products are rich in calcium and in so, are important in the building of strong and sturdy bones. Besides its calcium-rich properties, milk is also high in a number of nutrients, like protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fat. Just a single glass of this liquid ivory is known to contain around 8 grams of protein.
Is Milk for Everyone?
When we think of milk, we think of it as a yummy treat found in nearly every fridge. But within milk, there is lactose, the main form of sugar in milk that supplies drinkers with carbohydrates. If you have come across the term ‘lactose intolerant’ in conversations with your colleagues or friends, you might have realised that a lot of your friends are unable to digest any amount of lactose beyond a certain threshold. Across the world, an estimated 65 percent of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. While that number might shock you, most of us may not even realise that we suffer from this issue and continue to consume fresh milk. The aftereffect is that it might cause your stomach to bloat, cramps or result in diarrhoea.
But for those who can’t deny their love for milk, there are many options from almond, soy and rice to coconut milk that you can choose to go with your cereal.
How almond milk is made is by grounding up blanched almonds and straining the flesh with a cheesecloth — the negative aftermath of this is that most of the fibre and antioxidants are removed in the process. But that’s not to say that most people buy almond milk as an aesthetic choice. When produced commercially for the general public, almond milk from a carton is usually fortified with vitamin D, calcium and the antioxidant vitamin E.
The common perception that people have of nuts is that they are high in fat and in calories. But that is not the case for almond milk, since almond milk is mixed with water to have around 1% fat. A serving of unsweetened almond milk contains around 60 calories, almost half that of the caloric count found in skim milk. If you are worried about how milk might affect your waistline, almond milk is that one alternative for you, as a replacement for cow’s milk in your coffee, tea or cereal.
A popular alternative that has been readily accepted by most Singaporeans is soy milk. To create a batch of soy milk, a base is extracted from mature soybeans before it is then mixed with water and a natural sweetener (mostly cane sugar). The result is a beverage that has a much lower count of saturated fat and is cholesterol-free.
This works to the advantage of people who are looking to lose weight, as the amount of healthy unsaturated fat is believed to improve cardiovascular health and help consumers maintain their weight. On the other hand, dairy milk, which has saturated and trans fats, has been known to contribute to weight gain. Not to mention, a serving of soy milk has a healthy amount of dietary fibre that helps prevent overeating, since it is able to keep your hunger pangs at bay.
A slight dampener is that soy milk is plant-based, thus it contains much less protein than cow’s milk, but the upside is that it is thought to help in preventing osteoporosis.
An alternative that has gone largely under the radar is rice milk. Created from a blend of partially-milled brown rice and water, rice milk is often served in a multitude of tasty flavours, like chocolate and vanilla. This sweet milk is often fortified with calcium, vitamins A and D and it is compatible with cow’s milk as a solid substitute. A big negative is that due to its source, rice milk is thought to be inappropriate for those dealing with diabetes, as it is high in carbohydrates.
If you are looking to rice milk for consistent weight loss, you can do so by reducing your calorie intake and picking out organic rice milk that does not have any added sugars or flavours. Since rice milk is much lower in calories, swap out your regular milk for the same amount of rice milk to reduce the calories and fats.
Milking It for All It’s Worth
As an educated consumer, your next trip to the supermarket would be an interesting one, as you compare the product labels on each type of milk. In particular, look out for the columns under calories, fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Regardless of the variety of milk that you choose (be it cow’s milk, almond milk or rice milk), the best plan is to have them in moderation or to pick out low-fat versions. Anything above a glass a day should not be a problem, if you are looking to keep to your calorie intake, while taking in the health benefits of each type of milk.