By Andrea Slivkova
Dairy milk has been a subject of hysteria for a while, it has divided the nation for decades. In the red corner we have the virtuous 1%-ers who only ever touch skimmed milk, while in the blue corner the defenders of full fat milk have been saying that it can’t be so bad if it comes straight from the cow at 4%, as nature intended. Stuck in the middle are the semi-skimmers, waiting to see who is right.
Now we know. The truth is that skimmed, semi-skimmed or full fat, milk is a low fat food! Even full fat milk has less than 4% fat, and in the world of nutrition that is considered low fat. So unless you are drinking gallons of it every day, the fat amount is small and the biggest difference between the red top, green top and blue top milk is in the taste. Compare this with the fat content of a sausage or a HobNob, and you will see what I mean.
Now that full fat milk has been exonerated, authorities are once again recommending that children should be drinking full fat milk, at least up to a certain age. Research also shows (pass the smelling salts!) that adults trying to lose weight tend to do better if they include some full fat milk and yoghurt in their diet. Of course, a lot of this is down to the fact that full fat milk or yoghurt leaves us feeling fuller for longer, and that keeps us away from the biscuit tin.
Apart from the weight management benefits, milk is a great source of calcium and vitamin D, with both nutrients playing an important role in maintaining strong bones and teeth. It’s worth remembering that vitamin D is fat soluble – it means that we absorb more of it when we ingest it with fat, as nature has conveniently arranged it in the form of full fat milk.
If you are among the unlucky lactose intolerant population, or simply don’t like the taste of dairy milk, there are many alternatives – things have come a long way since the powdery taste of soya milk of the past.
Take goat’s milk, for instance. People with lactose intolerance are often able to drink it with no adverse effects. The flavour is a little stronger than cow’s milk and it may take some getting used to, but it’s a bit like olives or avocado – you may not like it the first time, but if you try again (and again), you’ll probably grow to like it.
Soya milk remains the most popular dairy milk substitute. Made from soya beans, it’s actually a processed food but that doesn’t make it unhealthy, far from it – eating soya has been shown to benefit health in a number of ways. Just choose the non-sweetened variety, as many options have sugar added for improved flavour.
Other alternatives include almond milk with its subtle nutty flavour of almonds; the naturally sweet rice milk, and also hemp milk with its high content of Omega 3 – all have become less expensive due to popular demand.
Recently, coconut milk has made something of a comeback, not least for its health benefits. It is packed with nutrients and although it is relatively high in fat, it provides a great addition to anyone’s diet, lactose intolerant or not. The unique taste of coconut will easily convince even the more reluctant palate, just ask anyone holding a glass of piña colada!
Andrea Slivkova is the editor of FitNet magazine
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