One of the biggest annoyances that comes with studying nutrition is constantly having my own food choices questioned and analysed by others. Does it shock you to know that sometimes I don’t base my food decisions on their nutritional composition? I’m eating Spaghetti Bolognese and ice cream because that’s what I fancied, not because I made it fit my macros or had a high carb day.

One of my decisions that is regularly questioned and criticised is my choice of cow’s milk. I was dutifully informed that it’s ‘basically a cup full of sugar’ which was the major factor for this person choosing soy or almond milk.

This happens a fair bit at my work too. Customers come in and request almond or soy milk because we don’t use skimmed milk and ‘dairy is bad for you.’ This isn’t a good idea if I’m in charge of the till as you will get an in depth explanation about why dairy isn’t actually bad for you, or any food for that matter! Then they usually tell me that I’m wrong…… soz mate, didn’t realise you were doing a nutrition degree and self-prepped for bikini competitions too……

So there’s a couple of things that I want to clear up in the cow’s milk vs almond/soy milk debate.

The first is the most important in my humble opinion; coffee tastes terrible with soy and almond milk. It curdles if you heat it too much, almond milk is watery and cow’s milk highlights the natural caramel sweetness of the coffee. In short you don’t get to experience the full coffee flavour profile.

Phew, now that’s out the way we can get in to the boring nutrition bit.

The sugar present in cow’s milk is lactose. This is broken down by an enzyme (lactase) in to glucose and galactose. Sugar has recently become a bit of a health buzz word but cutting out milk in an attempt to reduce sugar intake is taking things too far since milk only contains around 5% sugar. If you’re serious about reducing sugar then you should probably start by not having that brownie or scoop of ice cream for dessert. There’s also something else highly controversial that I want to throw out there:

SUGAR ISN’T BAD FOR YOU.

Jamie Oliver I’ve got nothing against you but you’re a bit of a tool for all of this sugar shaming!

I’m not advocating that you go and start spooning sugar in to everything you consume because some girl on the internet says it isn’t bad for you. What I’m trying to put across is that sugar isn’t bad for you but eating too much is. Sugar is highly palatable and very easy to overconsume especially since it often comes in products which are also high in fat and consequently calories.

Overconsumption of calories will make you fat and that is definitely bad for you.

You know when people pour their fancy agave nectar or Himalayan organic gluten free raw Manuka honey over things and tell you it’s fine because it’s ‘natural sugar’…..? Well milk is basically the same thing. All carbohydrate contributed 4kcal per gram to energy intake. It doesn’t matter if your 20g of carbs comes from milk, Warburton’s toastie loaf or soy chia gluten free sprouted grain bread covered in fairy dust, it all eventually ends up as pretty much the same thing.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Cows milk has a whole host of other benefits compared to non-dairy alternatives. It’s much higher in protein than almond and soy milk and this protein is also more bioavailable and as a higher leucine content meaning that it is easier for the body to actually use for things like building muscle tissue. It also contains a lot of calcium which is essential for building and maintaining bones, especially during adolescence when peak bone mineral density is achieved. Post- menopausal women and the elderly should also look to maintain their calcium intake as this may help to prevent osteoporosis which can lead to broken bones!

Researchers are currently looking at the protective effects of dairy products against cardiovascular disease which includes heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is currently the biggest cause of death in the UK, so anything that can be done to combat this is a step in the right direction.

So the take home message of this blog…. have your milk and drink it!

 

- Charlotte Fisher
Nutritional Science Student