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Milk nutrition

Milk is a nutritious liquid that occupies an important place in the promotion of health of humans, especially young children. It is consumed as a drink or employed in the preparation of other dairy products such as yogurt, cheese and in the cooking.

Milk is produced by the mammary glands of female mammals. Cow's milk is the most widely used, but water-buffalo, sheep, goat, donkey, mare, and camel milk also consumed as the principal source of "milk-drink" in different regions. The word milk without any mention of the animal species refers to cow's milk.

milk nutrition
Fresh milk. Photo: Zeyus Media

Milk nutrition facts

  • Milk and other dairy product consumption are common in the United States and other Western countries, Australia and New Zealand. Milk contains lactose, an important disaccharide carbohydrate. Humans carry the enzyme "lactase" which breakdown lactose to glucose and galactose in the stomach. The ability to digest lactose after early infancy is a genetic adaptation in populations that consume milk.

  • Milk basically composes water, fat globules, and protein; and minerals and vitamins in small amounts. The rich taste of milk comes from its fats which are among the most easily digested and dietary fats. Fats constitute 49% of the calories of whole milk. Fats are made up of 62% saturated fatty acids, 29% monounsaturated fatty acid and 3.7% polyunsaturated fatty acids. Milk also contains the essential fatty acid, linolenic acid.

  • Milk nutrition is a complete source of proteins, since all the essential amino acids are present in it. They represent 38% of the non-fatty solids in milk. Among these casein represents 82% of the protein in milk.

  • The lactoserum or "whey" the liquid left over after the fat and casein have been extracted from milk represents 18%. It is particularly high in lysine which makes milk a good compliment to cereals and grains, nuts and seeds.

  • Lactose accounts for 97% of the carbohydrate in milk and 30% to 56% of the calories depending on the type of milk.

Health benefits of milk

  • Milk is indispensable food as it is plentiful, inexpensive and very nutritious being an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals.

  • 100 g of whole milk carries 64 calories, 3.66 g fats and 3.28 g of protein.

  • Milk nutrition composes all the essential amino acids, and therefore, it is recognised as high quality protein source.

  • Milk is rich source of calcium; 100 g of fresh milk contains 119 mg. Calcium it provides ensures proper teeth development, acts on the functioning of the heart cells, nerves and muscles, encourages bone growth and plays a role in the prevention of osteoporosis, hypertension and, possibly, colorectal cancer and hypercholesterolemia.

  • It is a good source of B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, vitamin-B12, magnesium and Zinc.

  • Apart from calcium, it contains healthy amounts of phosphorus (93 mg) and potassium (151 mg), and a moderate amount of sodium (49 mg).

  • Natural grass-fed cow's milk is a rich source of vitamin-A and β-carotene. β-carotene is the pigment responsible for the yellow colour of milk, more noticeable in butter.

  • It is, furthermore, considered that for the overall population, there is a greater risk of calcium, riboflavin, vitamin-D (in fortified milk) and Vitamin B12 deficiencies if dairy products, particularly milk nutrition, are not part of the daily diet.


See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:
Milk nutrition, fluid, 3.7% milkfat, Nutritive value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 64 Kcal 3%
Carbohydrates 4.65 g 3.5%
Protein 3.28 g 6%
Total Fat 3.66 g 18%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 0 g 0%
Vitamins
Folates 5 μg 1%
Niacin 0.084 mg <10%
Pyridoxine 0.042 mg 3%
Riboflavin 0.161 mg 12.5%
Thiamin 0.038 mg 3%
Vitamin A 138 IU 4.5%
Vitamin C 1.5 mg 2%
Electrolytes
Sodium 49 mg 3%
Potassium 151 mg 3%
Minerals
Calcium 119 mg 12%
Copper 0.010 mg 1%
Iron 0.05 mg <1%
Magnesium 13 mg 3%
Manganese 0.004 mg <1%
Zinc 0.38 mg 3.5%

Buying

Fresh milk is readily available all across the United States. However, the sale of raw milk is banned in many European and Americas. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidelines that milk sold across state must be pasteurized and meet the standards (A-grade) of the US Pasteurized Milk Ordinance.

It is usually sold fortified with Vitamin-D, homogenised and whole, fat-reduced, skimmed, evaporated, flavoured or powdered. Buy fresh milk in cans, bottles, tetra-packs, etc.


Storing

Heat, oxygen and light affect the nutritional value of milk. It must therefore be refrigerated as quickly as possible, preferably, bought in a non transparent container which is closed tightly after use. Never return a used milk to the original container as it may contaminate the rest.

It keeps well in the fridge for 10 days but it will not keep as long if it has been previously left at room temperature for longer periods.

Here are some steps to storing tips:

  • Always boil and cool milk before use (pasteurisation).

  • Avoid keeping it at room temperature as much as possible.

  • If in deep freezer, preferably defrost it in the fridge (upper shelf) itself.


Serving ideas:

As food, milk occupies an important place in the cuisine of several countries, especially Western countries.

  • It is consumed as a drink or added in cookings.

  • It is made into yogurt, butter, clarified butter (ghee) and cheese.

  • It is used in the preparation of delicate and hearty soups, sauces such as béchamel sauce, crepes, cakes, pastries, desserts such as flans, custard, cooked creams or sweet dishes.

  • It is often employed in vegetable, meat, poultry dishes.


Safety profile

The inability to digest lactose, known as lactose intolerance, is caused by the deficiency in lactase, an enzyme that turns lactose into a substance that can be absorbed in the intestine. Individuals who are lactose intolerant can suffer from abdominal pain, diarrhoea, gas, bloating, nausea and cramps. Milk with a lactose content reduced by 90% is available in the market.

Oxytocin and bovine somatotropin (sometribove (rBST) hormones often used for stimulating an increase in the production of milk in cows. Oxytocin residues in milk often be a cause of hormonal side effects in humans.

Milk nutrition is generally poor in iron and vitamin-C. Infants and young children often require iron supplementation to avoid iron deficiency anemia. (Medical disclaimer).


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Further Resources:

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database. (opens in new window).

  2. US Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. (pdf-opens in new window).

  3. Bovine somatotropin. (opens in new window).

  4. Vitamin D for Milk and Milk Alternatives.. (opens in new window).




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