Magazine article Vegetarian Times

Milk: TO BE GOT OR NOT?

Magazine article Vegetarian Times

Milk: TO BE GOT OR NOT?

Article excerpt

The bottom line on whether it does a body good

23.5

NUMBER OF GALLONS OF MILK CONSUMED PER PERSON IN THE UNITED STATES IN 2004

If you believe the ads, cows' milk is a powerhouse product, capable of unsticking a peanut butter mouth, making white-mustachioed celebrities look health-chic and building strong bones. But isn't soymilk better for your heart? And goats' milk easier to digest? And aren't rice milk and nut milk skinnier? The fact is, milk drinkers have never had more options or been more confused. Here, how to sort out the healthiest choices for animals, the planet and you.

Q:

Should I drink at least some cows' milk? Or can soymilk meet the same nutrition needs?

A:

A cup of cows milk provides 16 percent of your daily value of protein as well as 30 percent of calcium, about 25 percent of vitamin D and riboflavin, plus healthy amounts of potassium and vitamins A and B12-but a glass of fortified soymilk (some flavors of Vitasoy, Edensoy Extra and Silk, for example) has virtually the same benefits.

One alert: Several recent studies suggest that the calcium used to fortify soymilk settles to the bottom of the carton and doesn't end up in your glass. To be safe, add plant sources of calcium to your diet and a supplement too-it's hard to consistently get enough from food. Good options include broccoli, spinach, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, kale, collard and mustard greens and some legumes (especially soybeans and lentils).

Q:

What should kids be drinking?

A:

The nutrients that are of concern for American kids-calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, potassiumare all provided by milk," says Stephanie Smith, MS, RD, national spokesperson for the National Dairy Council. That's one reason the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) upped its Dietary Guidelines in 2005 to three daily servings of low-fat dairy foods for everyone over the age of 8. (Children 2-8 should get two servings per day, and kids ages 1-2 should drink whole milk, as fat is essential for growth and development.) However, fortified soymilk can also meet those needs.

As for the notion that milk is vital for kids' bone health, a controversial research review, published in the March 2005 issue of Pediatrics, found "scant evidence [to support] increasing milk or other dairy product intake for promoting child and adolescent bone mineralization."

Instead, Amy Joy Lanou, PhD, the study's lead author and senior nutrition scientist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, suggests that kids get 400-500 mg calcium per day from plant sources. However, other experts argue that low-fat dairy products are the easiest way to get the right amount of calcium into kids, particularly because so many dairy foods are fortified with vitamin D, which boosts calcium absorption. The debate will no doubt continue, so for now, just make sure your rug rats are getting calcium from a variety of sources.

And unless you're really desperate to get your kids to drink milk, skip those candy-flavored singleserve bottles of milk. Sold under the name Slammers, they come in Moon Pie, 3 Musketeers, Milky Way and Starburst flavors. One cup of Starburst Strawberry contains 170 calories, 5g of saturated fat and 20g of sugar.

Q:

What are my options besides cows' milk and soymilk?

A:

Goats' milk. It has more calcium and vitamins A and B6 than cows' milk and similar amounts of protein. "However, it contains less of a certain type of protein than cows' milk, which is one reason why it may be digested more easily," says Stephanie Clark, PhD, associate professor of food science at Washington State University.

Rice milk. With only 1 or 2 grams of protein, even fortified rice milk isn't a significant source of protein, but it can be a good source of calcium and vitamin D, for about 120 calories per cup.

Nut milk. A cup of Almond Breeze nut milk has 10 percent of the RDA for vitamin A, 25 percent of vitamin D, 20 percent of calcium and 50 percent of vitamin E, and only 60 caloriesbut also only 1 gram of protein. …

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