Cow’s milk is for cows, the saying has been told. But if we expanded on that logic, many of the foods we consume would not longer be consumable. That would mean that little fish should be eaten by big fish, eating plant seeds is a bad idea and having honey is equivalent to holding a smoking gun. But as parents how can we know the best choice to give our children and ourselves?
“Regular Milk”, you know from a cow.
In children, most pediatricians recommend a dairy based formula for infants because it more closely matches breastmilk. Both formulas will provide comparable nutrition because they are required to meet strict government standards regarding nutrient levels.
Humans have used various animal milks for centuries with great success. So why all the fuss today? The simple answer is found in the way by which modern cow’s milks are purified and processed for sale. Most of the cow’s milk we drink today, scarcely resembles the cow’s milk your grandparents grew up on. The milk is treated for various reasons, many of which are to are benefit, while others are arguably to our detriment.
In a process called pasteurization, (look on the bottle of milk/juice), milk is treated by increasing it’s temperature to both kill bacteria causing spores and enhance the shelf life of the milk. Pasteurization’s great claim to popularity is the widespread belief, fostered by its supporters that tuberculosis in children is caused by the harmful germs found in raw milk. Scientists have examined and tested thousands of milk samples, and experiments have been carried out on hundreds of animals in regard to this problem of disease-carrying by milk.
Usually through this process milk loses nutrients. Milk naturally contains a readily absorbable form of calcium, and has higher quality protein than soy milk. However with the increase of lactose intolerance in America and milk based allergies, consumers began to seek an alternative. After taking a nutrition science course in college I began to question if milk was the best choice for me. More on that later.
Soy on the Rise
So as the value of cow’s milk came into question, the rise of the soy milk phenomenon grew strongly in the late 1990’s into present day. Soy milk, at least as it is sold in most grocery stores is simply a stable mix of soy beans, oil, water and protein; it is produced by soaking dry soybeans, and grinding them with water. It is touted for it’s vegetarian roots, being lower in fat and lactose free. All good things for those looking for it. (A quick side note, what we call soy milk, is not the same soy milk found in many parts of Asia.)
But soy is not without its critics. In recent years, several studies have been made regarding the soybean’s effect on human health. The results of those studies, largely underwritten by various factions of the soy industry, were of course overwhelmingly in favor of
soy. The primary claims about soy’s health benefits are based purely on questionable science.
Michael Smith of WebMD states:
The main concern about soy formula is that it contains high levels of phytoestrogens — estrogen-like substances found in some plants. People who are worried about soy formula fear that these substances could interfere with a child’s development and even cause early puberty, thyroid problems, breast development in male children, or other difficulties. Because of these concerns, a consumer group in New Zealand tried to have soy formula removed from the market in the mid-1990s. That didn’t happen, but the New Zealand Ministry of Health did issue an advisory opinion to parents in 1998 recommending cow’s milk formula over soy.
So who wins?
In summary, the best milk for your baby is breast milk. Period. When breast milk is not an option for your baby, consult a physician as to the best formula for your child, plant or animal based. There is no substitute for clean, raw milk as a food, so far as children are concerned. Science has not yet succeeded in providing, in the pasteurized variety, those essential qualities that are the only real foundation for a healthy child.
As for your family and adults, I hope to encourage you to consider all of your milk choices before making one. Cow’s milk, almond, rice, soy, coconut and goat milk. I try to drink a bit of all of them based on my current nutritional needs. Always, question when you read information that is heavily jaded for one type of nutrition over the other. I promise if you look for a study to support your claim, you will be able to find it. I am not ready to throw cow’s milk or soy milk under the bus, but from my studies I have found that the originating source of everything you eat has a lot to do with how well it will work in your body.
What milk do you drink and why?