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  • Writer's pictureKathy Ozakovic

What Milk Should I Drink

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Low fat, no fat, full cream, high calcium, high protein, soy, light, skim, omega 3, high calcium with Vitamin D and Folate or extra dollop? That's just cows milk! Over the next few years since that commercial came out our shelves have expanded to make room for plant based, lactose free and now barista varieties! With so many varieties of milk nowadays on the shelves and in the fridge, what should I be choosing? It all depends on your values, beliefs and individual goals. In this blog I share the truth about milk and milk sources, so you can make a more informed decision for yourself.


Let's debunk some myths and know the truths first:


Lactose Intolerance

Did you know about 75% of the human population is lactase deficient? (1) Most humans normally cease to produce lactase after weaning and as a result become lactose intolerant. Some populations have developed lactose persistence, in which lactase production continues into adulthood. It is true, if you continue exposure to lactose you can build up your tolerance, to a degree. Once you remove lactose from your usual daily intake, you are likely to be more sensitive to it next time you consume even small amounts!



Dairy, Calcium and Bone Health

Research has actually shown no association between calcium intake and reduced risk of bone fractures later in life (2). It has actually shown that "A high milk intake in women and men is not accompanied by a lower risk of fracture and instead may be associated with a higher rate of death, suggests observational research. Women who drank more than three glasses of milk a day had a higher risk of death than women who drank less than one glass of milk a day" (3). Another study showed that: "Greater milk consumption during teenage years was not associated with a lower risk of hip fracture in older adults" (2). We have all been lied to. This was observed with the consumption of dairy milk. Research papers in references. What does this tell us?



Full Fat Vs Low Fat

Full fat milk is only recommended for infants and children up to the age of 2 years old! At this age the children receive a large proportion of their energy from milk, and using reduced fat varieties could potentially limit the energy needed for growth. The recommendation for children over the age 2 years is the same as for growing children and adults: low fat milk and alternatives are suitable (3). Children are now eating a more varied diet and will get their calcium and energy reequipments from other sources. Full fat dairy from animal sources delivers a lot of saturated fats and energy (calories). Therefore, the best choices for most people 2 years and over, are low or reduced fat milk, yoghurts and cheeses.


The recommendations actually go on to specifically state:

  • Full fat cheese should be limited to 2 - 3 serves a week, or replaced with cheeses that have reduced levels of fat such as cottage cheese

  • Alternatives to milk, yoghurt and cheese can be used in place of dairy products, but choose varieties with added calcium, such as calcium-enriched soy or rice drinks. Check the nutrition information panel on the label of these products to ensure they contain at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml



Absorbing Calcium

Vitamin D is the hormone that helps the gut absorb more calcium (4). So all that calcium is going no where if you are sunshine deprived! In fact, I am more worried about my clients not getting enough sleep and sun, than calcium. The gut will absorb what the body needs when we optimise the 6 pillars to wellness: Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep, Stress, Mindset and Light.


Psychology affects Physiology: Research has shown the rate at which a child deposits calcium into their bones is affected by their proximity to a loved one(5). Growth hormones are reduced in kids that are neglected and psychologically emotionally stressed. So if you want your child to have strong bones, your child needs your attention, affection and affirmations more than that glass of milk.


So, now that we have that cleared up, what does that leave you with? It really depends on your goals, taste preferences and what you choose to believe. It depends on the way you use it and how much you will be consuming. People who are having a dash here and there in their tea or coffee don't really have to worry. However, chai latte's and coffees have gradually gotten larger and more luscious thanks to barista coffees. Below you will learn why this is and what it means.



Cow's Milk Summary

  • Go for low fat or just water down the full fat variety because that is in fact what low fat and skin milk is...

  • Lactose Free Cow's Milk - Lactase has been added for easier digestion. Remember, 75% of us actually don't produce enough lactase to digest lactose (the sugar in milk)

  • A2 Milk - This milk does not contain the A1 protein present in regular cow's milk and has been found easier to digest by some people. Give it a go and see if you feel a difference. You wont know if you don't try.



Plant based milks Summary

  • Healthiest: choose unsweetened varieties with minimal processing. This means when you look at the ingredients list you actually understand it. Use in cereals and smoothies.

  • Look for 120mg calcium per 100g product.

  • Good option: Original varieties will be a little sweater and useful for those who like sugar in their tea/coffee. Leave the sugar out and use a sweeter milk instead.

  • Barista varieties have more protein and fat: this makes them more creamy and stable at higher temperatures meaning a barista soy or almond milk is less likely to curdle! However, the trade off here is more fat adding energy (calories). Not necessarily always a bad thing! A black coffee is not energy. Coffee with a luscious milk choice can be a snack, sometimes. Plant based milks will have less saturated fat (bad fats) than animal milks. This can be a winner, sometimes!


Okay cool, so overall plant based milks seem to be healthier and easier to digest for most of us. However, there are so many types nowadays! This is where a little bit of trial and error and correction leads to success. What is this milk giving you? Are you consuming it for the calcium? For the creaminess in your oats or coffee? For the sweetness in you tea? For the health properties (not related to bone health btw, debunked that above)? Taste properties? I looked at the Pure Harvest range for ease of comparison. If you have a preferred brand, use the above and below outline to see how it stacks up. A serving is 250ml (1 cup).



Soy Milk

  • Unsweetened Organic Pure Harvest with 120mg calcium per 100g meets the mark of the AGTHE calcium recommendations (even though we debunked this).

  • The ingredient list is very simple: Filtered Water, Organic Whole Soy Beans (Min 15%), Organic Hi Oleic Sunflower Oil (a natural stabaliser), Plant Calcium, Sea Salt.

  • Higher in protein than other plant based milks and delivers all 8 essential amino acids (7.5g per serve)

  • 8.5g fat per serve - not a bad thing, mostly unsaturated

  • Use in meals, on cereal and in smoothies.

  • Soy has heart protective properties and helps reduce cholesterol levels.

  • Some people are sensitive to soy! Most likely related to IBS. This is where it gets tricky for some people:

- Soy milk made from soy beans tends to be high in the FODMAP galacto-oligosaccharide (GOS). By contrast, soy milk made from soy protein extract tends to be low in FODMAPs as the carbohydrate component (GOS) is removed in processing

- This means the Pure Harvest variety is not the best choice for people with sensitive bowels! And I also want to highlight that a sensitive gut lining can be strengthened over time through working with me.



Almond Milk

  • Low in protein (1.5g per serve)

  • Low in carbohydrates (7.3g per serve)

  • Low in energy (300kj per serve)

  • 120mg per 100g serve, okay that's pretty good - remember the other roles of calcium I highlighted

  • It can be useful if you're not looking to drink your calories overboard. I also want to make sure you are actually eating food to fuel you the rest of the day!

  • Main point: you will not be getting any protein from this milk so make sure you're adding protein powder if you're using it in your smoothie or breakfast cereal, otherwise you'll be hungry soon after! Good source of calcium.



Macadamia/ Hazelnut/ Cashew (original variety, no unsweetened available)

  • These are all very similar in energy and fat content (500kJ per serve)

  • Low in protein (<2g per serve) cashew has the most protein, followed by hazelnut and macadamia is very low in protein (but they're all extremely low)

  • 80mg calcium per 100g (low calcium)

  • Ingredients List: Filtered Water. Organic Whole Roasted Cashews (3.5%), Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic High Oelic Sunflower Oil, Plant Calcium, Sea Salt.

  • Brown Rice syrup is added for sweetness. Not necessary if you have fruit in your smoothie.

  • Save your money, add a tablespoon of nut butter and water. That's basically what this is.

  • Might be an option for tea/ coffee at home because of the sweetness.



Coconut Milk

  • Luscious, higher in carbs, sugar and fats! (even the unsweetened variety)

  • Useful for post workout smoothie

  • Use as a treat when ordering coffee at a cafe

  • no calcium here (not in the Pure Harvest variety)



Oat Milk

  • Similar to rice, with a tony bit more protein and tiny bit less carbs so read below



Rice Milk

  • Very little to no protein per serve, unless fortified

  • Easier to digest for many with IBS

  • Higher carbohydrate (not necessarily a bad thing if used as a strategy)

  • Useful in post workout smoothies where you will get enough protein from your own protein powder and you need the extra carbs from the rice milk to refuel your muscles glycogen stores

  • 120mg calcium per 100g products



Pea Milk

  • Australia's Own Pea Protein Like Milk

  • ZERO carbs and packed with other nutrients

  • Ingredients: Water, Pea Protein Isolate (4%), Sunflower Oil, Minerals and Vitamins (Calcium Phosphate, Vitamin B2, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12), Natural Flavours, Stabilisers (418, 415), Salt.

  • A note on the stabalisers:

    • Stabilizer 418 - Gellan gum which grows naturally on water lilies but is artificially produced by fermenting sugar with a specific strain of bacteria, Sphingomonas elodea. May slow down digestion in some people, hence it is best to limit its intake.

    • Stabilizer 415 - Xanthum Gum made when Xanthomonas campestris, a specific type of bacteria ferments the sugar. May cause digestive issues in some people.

  • Pea protein contains all 8 essential amino acids amino acids

  • A serve of LIKE MILK Unsweetened contains 8.3g Protein Per Serve

  • 120mg calcium per 100g product

  • Minimally processed foods is best, I would recommend this milk occasionally because of the high nutrient profile but stabalisers



But Kathy, didn't you say that calcium is not related to bone health? Why are you telling us to still look for 120mg calcium per 100g plant milk? First of all, I provided what the evidence says. I did not say anything. Secondly, It says that our risk of bone fractures is not reduced with a higher intake of dairy. What I am highlighting is that you can get calcium form other sources and don't have to obsess about getting it from cow's milk. Yes, calcium is still important. It plays an important role in blood clotting, helping muscles to contract, and regulating normal heart rhythms and nerve functions.


Bottom line.... it's not even about the milk. It's never about the milk.





REFERENCES


1) N.Silanikove et al. 'The Interrelationships between Lactose Intolerance and the Modern Dairy Industry: Global Perspectives in Evolutional and Historical Backgrounds' Nutrients. 2015 Sep; 7(9): 7312–7331.

2) Diane Feskanich et al., “Milk Consumption during Teenage Years and Risk of Hip Fractures in Older Adults,” JAMA Pediatrics 168, no. 1 (January 2014): 54–60, https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.3821.

3) Karl Michaëlsson et al.,“Milk Intake and Risk of Mortality and Fractures in Women and Men: Cohort Studies,” BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.) 349 (October 28, 2014): g6015, https://

5) Robert M Sapolsky - Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers



Did you find this blog helpful and informative? Tag & Share with your friends who would love it too! Sign up for my Free NuFit Wellness Newsletter to stay in the loop. Attend my Wellness Workshops. I help clients Achieve & Maintain Wellness through Nutrition for Gut Health so that they can thrive in life. Wellness Dietitian & Holistic Nutritionist, Health Coach, Health Presenter, Gut Health Specialist - Kathy Ozakovic.

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