5 Things You Need To Know About Milk
Dairy has its fair share of detractors. But does it still have a place in your diet?
Once a refrigerator staple, milk sits squarely in the middle of opposing camps: For some, it’s verboten, while others (endurance athletes, for the most part) champion milk as an essential part of their recovery. Even more recently, legions of health fanatics have come out in favor of the unpasteurized kind. So, should dairy be demonized, or does it (actually) do a body good? We went to the experts to find out.
If I’m not lactose intolerant or lactose sensitive, is there a good reason to cut out milk?
No.“Cow’s milk gets a bad rap, but it’s actually an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, nutrients most Americans lack,” says Torey Armul, RD, a Chicago-based dietitian, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and ultramarathoner. And it has 8 grams of protein per cup, which helps you feel full and can control appetite. Skeptics say that we’re the only species that drinks the milk from another species, yet humans have a much more diverse diet than probably any other species, Armul says.
Even if I drink milk, should I make non-dairy milk part of my diet?
Probably. Non-dairy milks come in lots of forms: soy, nut, rice, hemp, quinoa and more. The key is to determine the nutritional need it fills. For instance, almond and cashew are low in calories, but also lack protein, while soy milk has as much protein as cow’s milk but may be higher in calories, Armul says. Hemp milk falls somewhere in the middle, with about 70 calories per serving, along with some protein and fiber. No matter what, go for the unsweetened kind.
Some athletes tout milk for post-workout recovery. Should I try it?
Yes. There are a few reasons milk’s a go-to. For one it’s a truly all-natural alternative to protein bars and powders. And research suggests it’s great for building muscle after a strength training session. It may even help stave off post-workout hunger: Researchers at Northumbria University in the UK found that women who drank 2½ cups of skim milk after 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous cycling ate significantly less during lunch an hour later compared with women who drank the same amount of orange juice. Go organic, which research suggests contains more omega-3 fatty acids, which is important for staving off heart disease.
Raw milk is trendy—but is it dangerous?
Yes. This is milk that skips pasteurization—a process that kills bacteria through heating. Proponents say that heating kills immune-boosting compounds, but there’s no science-based evidence that raw milk has any health benefits, says Lloyd Metzger, PhD, a professor in the Dairy Science Department at South Dakota State University. Milk is the most highly regulated food in the U.S. because it’s so widely consumed and one of the few sources of several essential nutrients—calcium, and vitamins A and D. Left unpasteurized, you’re 150 times likelier to contract a foodborne illness such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Not to mention raw milk is illegal or restricted in most states. Bottom line: Don’t risk it.
Is ultra-filtered milk worth the price tag?
Up to you. “Ultrafiltration basically takes out some of the small molecules and water, thereby concentrating the proteins,” says Douglas Dalgleish, PhD, professor emeritus in the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph in Canada. Fairlife—the type you’ve probable seen on shelves—“is correct in saying that its milk has more protein per unit volume and less sugar (lactose) than regular milk.” At the end of the day, do you need it? “Ultrafiltered milk is nutritious, but you pay a price for those extra nutrients,” Armul says. “Regular cow’s milk is significantly cheaper and still provides an excellent amount of protein and calcium.”