Got milk?

Milk is an essential part of our everyday diet. But have you ever wondered how healthy it actually is?

Since time immemorial, milk has been an integral part of the Indian diet. The perishable, considered one of the most satvik and nourishing of all foods, also finds mention in Indian, Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology. However, over the years there have several myths related to milk and its effects on the body. Let’s dispel some of these myths:

Myth 1

Raw milk is healthier than the pasteurised one...

Although it is possible to get food-borne ailments from various foods, the riskiest of all is raw milk. Raw milk carries harmful bacteria and germs such as Brucella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, listeria, and salmonella. While the truth is that people of any age can fall sick drinking raw milk, the risk is higher in infants, young children and those with weakened immune systems. Pasteurisation is one of the best ways to kill most of the bacteria and make milk safe for consumption.

Myth 2

Pasteurisation changes milk...

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that pasteurisation kills the bacteria in raw milk and makes it fit for consumption without affecting any of its nutritional benefits. However, it has also pointed out that raw milk contains a small amount of vitamin C that does not make it through pasteurisation.

Myth 3

Milk sourced from neighbourhood farmers is healthy...

This may be further from the truth than most believe! A single glass of milk can contain several dangerous toxins, antibiotics and growth hormones. In the absence of pastures, many cattle owners allow their livestock to wander on roads, where they graze on leftover food, garbage and plastic which adulterate the milk they produce. Even in safe environments, poor storage conditions may contribute to the growth of aflatoxins in livestock feeds. Antibiotics and drugs used on livestock to keep them healthy can also end up in milk.

Myth 4

Organic milk is safe...

While it is possible that tests on a batch of organically produced milk come back negative, it may not always be the case. Dairy farms that have good safety practices and collect milk organically, can also contain bacteria and disease-causing germs. Hence, it is always better to consume organic milk that has been pasteurised.

Myth 5

Milk leads to obesity...

Changing lifestyles have put the focus on obesity and the challenge it presents in increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. This, in turn, has led to the new fad of fat-free milk. The benefits of fat-free milk though are at best, ‘overstated’. While a glass of fat-free milk contains negligible fat and 80 calories, whole milk contains 8 gm of fat and 150 calories. Recent studies have shown no difference in the risk of heart disease between those who consumed whole milk versus those that used fat-free milk. Fatty acids in whole milk are linked to a feeling of fullness, while those consuming low-fat/fat-free dairy are more likely to feel less satisfied and compensate by adding refined sugars to their diet.

Myth 6

UHT processed milk contains preservatives...

Ultra-heat treatment involves sterilising milk at high temperatures to destroy bacteria and germs. The process does not use any preservatives but preserves all the nutrients in the milk that is then packaged in pre-sterilised tetra packs. UHT enhances the shelf life of the milk, which can be stored at room temperature and need not be boiled before consumption.

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