The ubiquitous glass of milk is a common sight across homes. Forced down our throats by anxious mothers when we were children, we consume milk as adults in various forms—paneer, yoghurt, butter, cheese, the list is endless. Does that mean that we’ve outgrown drinking a glass of good old milk?
Well, we spoke to a nutritionist to find out.
Consultant Nutritionist and Clinical Dietician, Lifestyle Trainer and Nutrition Coach, Diet and Lifestyle Consultant and a contributor to various health blogs and print magazines, Vasundhara Agarwal wears many hats with ease. She is also a life member of the Indian Dietetic Association.
We at The Better India spoke to Vasundhara, to understand the concept of milk consumption, whether it is good only for children, and why the age-old theory of drinking a warm glass of milk in the night is more than a myth.
Is milk good only for kids, or is it good for adults as well?
“For children who are under one year of age, anything apart from mother’s milk isn’t recommended,” says Vasundhara. “After the child crosses the one year mark, protein and calcium, the two primary nutrients of milk, are made available via other sources. It is not necessary to force-feed milk to a child,” she carries on, specifying that if a child is fed ragi porridge, the nutritional requirements are being met.
When it comes to adults Vasundhara says that the nutrients available in milk can be imbibed from other sources. Paneer and tofu are two prime examples. A person can also drink a glass of milk instead of consuming paneer.
“It all depends on individual preferences at the end of the day,” she rounds off, explaining that a number of factors go into choosing to drink a glass of milk. Lactose intolerance also comes into play she says, adding that many people cannot process raw milk, but can consume milk products.
What is the main benefit we get from milk?
“Milk is an excellent source of protein and calcium as well as a number of other essential vitamins,” says Vasundhara, adding that apart from the above, it contains a number of essential vitamins and minerals. However, the quantity of carbs, proteins, fat and vitamins differs according to the type of milk consumed.
What is the ideal milk to drink?
“Full cream milk, boiled and kept in the fridge, stored for consumption is the best form of milk you can consume,” says Vasundhara, specifying that buffalo milk contains more fat than cow’s milk.
When it comes to skimmed milk, Vasundhara does not recommend consuming it because the process used strips the milk of a lot of essential elements like B Complex Vitamins, while keeping the carbohydrate and protein content constant. Which is why it makes more sense to consume full cream milk.
What is the ideal milk intake for an adult?
“Around 250 ml of milk per day is great if a person consumes paneer once a day, and curd twice a day,” Vasundhara says, explaining that as adults we tend to consume milk with cereal and in other forms rather than have a glass. If a person is getting his/her nutrient requirements per day from other sources, it isn’t necessary for them to consume more than 250 ml of milk a day.
When is it advisable to avoid milk?
Vasundhara stresses that this depends on personal choice, adding that for some people, drinking a full glass of plain milk in the morning may cause digestive issues. For them, mixing the milk with cereal may be a better way to consume it. Then there are some who prefer to consume a glass of milk before sleeping at night.
“It relaxes your mind, and gives you a better bowel movement in the morning,” Vasundhara says of the age-old habit.
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What are the consequences of excluding a glass of milk from our diet?
“There is no consequence if a person is using milk-substitutes or milk-derived products like paneer,” says Vasundhara. In fact, she declares that those who are looking to lose weight must avoid consuming milk in its raw form, as it contains a fair amount of fat.
What kind of milk is the best milk?
“Farm fresh milk is recommended, and it should be stored and consumed accordingly,” Vasundhara says, adding that skimming or other processes strip milk of nutrients. The reason being that manufacturers have to ensure a long shelf life for their products, so they put them through a lot of processing. The result is a carton of milk which will have a long shelf life, but a lower nutrient value.
What are the preferred storage options for milk?
“Avoid plastic at all costs and only use stainless steel vessels for heating or boiling, or a glass container for storage,” Vasundhara rounds off, adding that milk should not be stored for too long, as it can result in the loss of essential nutrients.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)