Both my husband and I have been milk drinkers our entire lives. Some of our fondest memories growing up include milk. For my husband it was spending summers working on his grandfather's dairy farm. For me it was greeting our milkman Mr. McVay each week as he delivered our milk and collected the empty bottles from the silver milk box on the front porch. I think I have just dated myself! Our teen children are wonderful milk drinkers as well and today our family goes through many gallons each week.
Of course, I have heard the many comments that milk from animals is only for animals and that many people are lactose intolerant especially if they are of non-European ancestry. Some opponents of milk say it is only promoted to benefit dairy sales and that alternatives such as rice, almond or soymilk are more nutritious. National Nutrition Month presents a wonderful opportunity to talk about why dairy offers superior nutrition and value.
According to the author of Nature's Perfect Food: How Milk Became America's Drink, social reformers have used milk as a tool and marketing angle for generations. When you look at a a brief history of cow's milk from the ancient world to the present, you find that dairy has been a primary part of our society since early colonial times.
As with any issue there are many pros and cons and ultimately each of us have to weigh those pros and cons and decide what is best for us. Here are some reasons why many like myself choose to include milk as part of their healthy nutrition plan.
Nine essential nutrients - Essential nutrients are those the body must have to function properly. They must come from food because the human body cannot manufacture them to keep up with the need by the body. Not only does milk provide calcium, it also provides eight other essential nutrients necessary for optimal health including vitamins A, D and B12, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, riboflavin and protein.
Great way to stretch your food dollar - We all want to get the most nutrient rich foods for our food dollar. Milk can help you do that because it provides more nutrition per calorie than many other grocery alternatives. To get the same amount of calcium as an eight-ounce glass of milk from a plant source you would have to consume three cups of broccoli. An eight-ounce glass of milk costs about 25 cents when you purchase it by the gallon. This provides a very low cost, nutrient rich option to round out a meal or as an inexpensive snack.
Easy way to meet nutrients you may be missing - There are seven nutrients of concern identified by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Adults tend to have an inadequate intake of fiber, vitamins E, C and A, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Milk and dairy foods supply four of these nutrients (calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin A) to your diet.
Great source of high quality protein - Like it or not all proteins are not created equal. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, and soybeans are considered complete proteins because they provide all nine essential amino acids. These amino acids (histamine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, trptophan and valine) are necessary since the body cannot make them and they are needed as building blocks to make specific proteins for the body.
May be possible to enjoy with lactose intolerance - It is estimated that about 65% of adults experience a decrease in intestinal lactase production which makes including dairy difficult. There are some that believe when dairy is included regularly from childhood, there are less issues with intolerance. If you experience intolerance problems, many people find success when they try drinking milk with meals, select lactose-free products, and aged cheeses like Cheddar that contain less lactose or select cultured products like yogurt to help lactose digestion.
There may be a variety of reasons you and your family do not include milk in your healthy eating plan. For my family, it is the drink of choice for meals and snacks right next to water. Milk provides a cost effective wealth of nutrition from a compact serving size. If you have not given milk a try recently, perhaps National Nutrition Month 2010 is the time to see if it will do your body good.
Are you a milk drinker? Why or why not.
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