Milking it for all it's worth

Whether it’s for health reasons or the taste of it, there is lots of choice when it comes to the white stuff. Here are seven good alternatives to cow’s milk.

Oats

The health properties of oats are well known: rich in fibre, especially cholesterol-lowering beta-glucans, and, being a low glycaemic index food, provide a long-lasting energy drink favoured by many athletes.

‘Studies have shown that oats are better than sports drinks at boosting endurance levels,” says Louise Sutton, a dietician at Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom.
There are commercial oat milks, but you can also make your own. Fill a large jug with one-third oats and two-thirds water. Mix and leave overnight. The next morning, sieve the mixture and you will be left with a milky liquid.

Soya

It is not only the lactose intolerant who drink soya milk, some people drink it for its health benefits. The UK’s Joint Health Claims Initiative, an independent consumer and trading standards panel, has given the go-ahead for manufacturers of soya-rich foods to announce their products’ heart-protecting benefits. After reviewing more than 50 scientific studies, experts agreed that consuming 25g of soya protein daily, as part of a diet already low in saturated fat, may help to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Research has also shown that soya is helpful in warding off breast cancer and preventing osteoporosis in menopausal women. ‘It is low in fat and a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans,” says Frankie Phillips, of the British Nutrition Foundation.

Raw

‘Unpasteurised” milk straight from the cow is being touted as a cure-all for ailments ranging from psoriasis and high blood pressure to chronic gut problems among health-conscious New Yorkers. And the trend is catching on elsewhere. Proponents claim that pasteurising milk destroys good bacteria as well as bad, thereby negating the gut-protective properties of whole milk. Heat treatment also results in a 10% drop in B vitamins and folate, and vitamin C levels plummet by a quarter. It also changes the protein composition of milk.

Sheep/Goat

Both are becoming more popular with people who are lactose intolerant.

Goat’s milk has a slightly salty taste that won’t suit all palates. It is nutritionally similar to cow’s milk, but contains a substance that binds with vitamin B12, which prevents it from being absorbed. A vitamin B12 deficiency has similar symptoms to iron-deficiency anaemia and has been found in some young children fed on goat’s milk.

Sheep’s milk has a rich, bland and slightly sweet taste. It contains up to twice as many minerals—such as calcium, phosphorus, zinc and Bgroup vitamins—as cow’s milk, but is higher in fat and calories.

Buffalo

Buffalo milk from a Bedfordshire, UK, farm has become so popular since it went on sale in a local supermarket that customers travel miles to buy it. The reason, in addition to its allergen-friendly composition, is that it is highly nutritious, with 11,5% higher protein, more vitamins and minerals (including calcium and iron) and 43% less cholesterol than cow’s milk.

Rice

Fortified rice milk (made from brown rice) contains as much calcium and as many vitamins as cow’s milk, and less fat than soya milk.

Its main health benefit comes from fibre, which helps to reduce cholesterol and keeps blood-sugar levels constant. It has a consistency similar to skimmed milk and is a good replacement for cow’s milk in cooking, although it tends to have a sweeter taste.

Most commercial rice milks are fortified with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin A, so they are good for building bones. And they are low in calories, with only 130 a litre compared with 174 a litre in whole milk.

Coconut

Considering that coconut oil is high in saturated fat, the fresh, sweet-tasting milk from the heart of the coconut is surprisingly low in calories (it contains 107 a litre).

Coconut milk sold in supermarkets is not usually fresh and is produced instead by squeezing liquid from grated coconut flesh and water. Its nutritional and calorific value is lower than the fresh stuff. Coconut milk can be served as a drink, although it is more often used as a marinade in cooking. Its protein content is very low compared with cow’s milk.—

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