Milk is a healthy component of our diet, and this has been drilled into us from our childhood. Even when kids avoid food, the parents try to get them to drink at least a glass of milk. In many Indian households, a glass of milk before bedtime at night is mandatory, across people of all ages. We believe that milk is good for our health, and it is so, provided we understand which is the best milk to choose. Also, unknown to many, lactose intolerance is a reality, and hence, if you find that dairy product consumption does not agree with you, a check-up may be on the cards.
Depending on where you are residing, the milk choices in India vary; many households, especially in the suburban and rural areas consume fresh milk. But, in the urban areas, it is primarily the ones that come from the dairies like Amul, Jersey, Mother Dairy, Nandini, Aavin, Milma, Verka, Milky Mist, Arokya, Heritage and so on. The choices are vast and plenty, and only a few people realize that the different varieties of milk are meant for different types of people regarding its health benefits.
Nutrition and benefits
As is well known to us, milk contains fat, carbohydrates and protein; besides, it also contains Vitamins A, B12, and A6, and B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic acid), and Vitamin K. Apart from this, it also contains Folate and Vitamin D, and many essential minerals like Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Zinc, Selenium, and Choline. Each of these plays a vital role in maintaining our health and proper functioning of the various organs in our body. Perhaps, this explains why milk has always been an essential part of our diet, whatever age we may be.
Full cream milk
Perhaps, the form of milk in its most natural form, full cream or whole milk retains all the fat, even though it undergoes pasteurization techniques. Nothing is added or removed from milk in this form and is creamy and flavourful. This milk is best suited for desserts, adding to the creamy texture and flavour, and comes as standardized and homogenized varieties. The variation in this is only in the way the fat is distributed across the milk. This milk is recommended for children, bodybuilders, teenagers, lactating mothers, and pregnant ladies. People with health issues, especially weight issues, should avoid consuming this milk.
The fat in this variety of milk may vary from 0.1% to 0.3 % but contains all other nutrients as-is. All cream is removed in this variety of milk. The carbohydrates will be reduced to almost half of full cream milk. It contains more Calcium but may have lesser levels of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A. But in most cases, these lost Vitamins are re-added to the milk as part of the elaborate processing done. Since it contains fewer calories, this is not ideal for growing children, but suitable for adults, especially those who watch their weight. People with heart disease, diabetes, obesity can consider consuming this milk.
Single toned milk
This is obtained by adding skimmed milk powder and water to whole milk; the fat in this is limited to about 3%, whereas all other milk nutrients are retained as-is. Toned milk is mostly meant for consumption by the regular public, and is a common way of milk distribution in Asian countries, especially India.
Double toned milk
When the toned milk contains only about 1.5% of the fat, it is called double toned milk and is always pasteurized. This milk is the best for heart patients and those wanting to maintain their weight. This is not recommended for children, especially below 5 years, unless the kid is obese.
The non-dairy options
For those people who want to avoid dairy milk totally, there are options like soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk and a few other nut milk. Both for health reasons, or for following a vegan diet, these options may be explored, and some of these can be even prepared at home. It is best to know the pros and cons of the various milk varieties and make a wise choice about which one to consume.