Does Milk Really Do My Body Good?

milk-carton12Last week, I talked about giving our underweight loved ones good food to gain weight and gave some menu ideas.  I had a particular type of milk as a menu suggestion and thought that I should expand on milk

I have a very personal connection with milk.  My sister and I drank tons of it when we were kids.  Milk is supposed to be good for you and has great nutrients like Calcium, Protein and my favorite vitamin, Vitamin D.  Milk normally has the first two nutrients, but the third is supplemented.  I could go into details about the who, whys and how, but that is a whole can of worms I could open on another day.  Let’s just say I drank lots of milk and was eventually diagnosed with MS, which is connected with a Vitamin D deficiency.  I would suggest you take a Vitamin D supplement, especially during the winter months, and get more sun on your skin.

What about whole milk vs. 2% milk vs. skim milk?  I am a big advocate of whole milk for many reasons.  You are paying for the fat, whether it is removed from the milk or not.  That removed fat gives the milk producer more profit on something you already paid for.  Why not buy the whole milk and add water if you want less fat per cup?  You’ll save money and may get other benefits that I will open up at another time with the other worms.

Is conventional milk as good as organic milk?  Although the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Dietetic Association (ADA) say that there are no antibiotics or hormones in conventional cow’s milk, I wonder how that is possible since conventional milking cows are regularly fed antibiotics and hormones to keep them from getting sick in their less-than-healthy, cramped environment and to produce more milk than a normal cow would.

I don’t know about you, but I know a nursing human mother cannot take a daily dose of antibiotics and hormones and not have any effect on the milk produced for her baby.  Even the flavor of the milk is affected from the things the mother ingests.  So how is it possible that cows can remove the antibiotics and hormones before they can get to the milk?  Or is it that conventional dairy farmers have a process to remove these things from the milk?  I seriously doubt that.  The whole idea of conventional food is to produce food in the cheapest way possible, so adding another process that would probably add more expense to production does not make sense.  However, denial is really cheap.

It reminds me of a slogan used in the tech world, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”  Animals cannot be given unnatural crap to eat, not normally eaten on their own, and be placed in an environment that is not conducive to them thriving, which means not forcing them to be in a dark, crowded dirty space and doing things they would not naturally do, such as producing three times more milk.  I know!  The cows don’t know they are in a dirty space, because the farmer blindfolds them and sprays that air freshener that begins with an F, so they will think they are in the open field down the road at the organic farm with the happy cows—and not in California with those other conventional cows.  (Feel the sarcasm?)

Due to the Federal government shutdown, I could not get the most recent statistics for you, because the USDA funds have been cut.  It is considered a “non-essential” agency.  In other words, who cares if our food is safe?  It is not important.  We can just drink arsenic milk and live in the doctor’s office, because we have nothing better to do anyway, right?  (I do have a lot of sarcasm.)  Check out the website when it is up or the information on the contingency plans when it is down:

I will point out that a few years ago, while saying there are no hormones or antibiotics in milk, the USDA came out with a report on pesticides and other toxic chemicals found in milk.  Most were conventional, but there were a few that were labeled organic.  There were traces of DDE, a breakdown product of DDT, which was a pesticide banned in the 1970s, found in the milk.  Given this information from the “non-essential” agency that also declared there were no antibiotics or hormones in conventional milk, how can we believe that conventional milk is the same as organic?  Remember the phrase, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”  There is wisdom in those four words.

Organic milk has been found to have more naturally-occurring—not supplemented—nutrients, such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), α-tocopherol and β-carotene among others.  (I’m sure raw milk has even more incredible benefits.)  CLA is an amazing nutrient that needs its own page, but some of its achievements are blood glucose control, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory. You may know α-tocopherol as Vitamin E, an awesome antioxidant, however, it is also a major topic.  Naturally-occurring Vitamin E—or RRR α-tocopherol—is the only form of Vitamin E that will do your body good.  The synthetic stuff is worthless.  You definitely have heard of β-carotene, a precursor—or predecessor—to Vitamin A.  β-carotene is also an anti-inflammatory that is anti-cancer and helps keep the eyes healthy.  Yes, grandma was right.  “Eat your carrots.  It is good for your eyes.”  In this case, “Drink your organic milk.”

Now that I have slammed conventional dairy farming, I guess you can see where I lean in the conventional milk vs. organic milk debate.  Well, I want to go farther than that.  I want you to see that there are many more options.  Not everyone can drink cow’s milk, no matter how it is produced.  I would like to go over the vast varieties of milk.  There are so many options that I want people to know about.  Experiment with your food.  If the conventional cow’s milk is not working for you—or even if it is—then try another type of milk.  So let’s take a look at cow’s milk alternatives in Food Stuff.

Food Stuff

Here are some alternatives to cow’s milk.  The nutritional values vary from brand to brand.  Don’t just try one.  Try several.

Goat’s milk.  This is more easily digested than cow’s milk, because there a more short-chain fatty acids and less lactose in goat’s milk.  Often, someone with lactose intolerance can drink goat’s milk.

Soy milk.  This may or may not be a good alternative, even for vegetarians.  I would mix up the different varieties of milk and not use this one exclusively.  Soy is a product that many people are allergic to and the “estrogenic” effect soy has may cause problems that can be fat- and cancer-promoting.

rice milkRice milk.  This is a sweeter alternative that does not have much fat, so I would not recommend it for making creamy soups.  It works drinking it alone or if milk is called for baking, and some are satisfied with it as an additive in coffee or tea.

Almond milk.  I like this alternative when you want a nutty flavor.  I don’t like it in my grain cereal, because I like it sweet and full-bodied, but I do like in my smoothie; and it works for some creamy soups.  Adds a nutty flavor to coffee.

Oat milk.  It is great for the morning cereal or drinking by itself.  I have not tried it with anything else.  This is not for the gluten-free folks, unless you make it yourself.  Here’s a link if you are interested:

Hemp milk.  Yes, hemp is a variety of the Cannabis (Marijuana) plant, however it contains only a small amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive drug component.  I have used this milk and have not gotten high.  Being a non-pot user, I can say the commercial milk is pretty good.  I’ve made potato soup with it, which beat out all the other vegetarian milks for thickness of the soup.  Hemp is used for making clothes, paint and paper, to name a few.

Multi-Grain milk.  This tastes like breakfast cereal by itself, very tasty.  The content of this type of milk depends on the manufacturer.  Some have seven different grains or more and some only have two or three.

I hope this enlightened you and opened up your world on milk choices.

In Good Food We Trust,


thurston county food bank


Picture of rice milk in a cup courtesy of Reiskeks.

The views and opinions in this blog do not necessarily represent those of the SouthSoundCommunityGuide. We do however value your opinion.

Renee Paden About Renee Paden

Renée graduated with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University in 2010, after over 20 years in the IT corporate world. Her first nutrition teacher was her grandmother, who showed her how to prepare a balanced plate. Renée spent hours in the kitchen with her grandmother, learning the importance of our relationship with food. She wants everyone to understand how urgent it is for our families to appreciate real food. Our lives depend on it, literally.

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