Milk Myths

Along with bananas and artificial sweeteners, milk is one of the hottest nutrition topics among my clients. While I could spend ages answering questions about milk, today, I’m only addressing the most commonly asked dairy questions.

Myth #1: Conventional milk contains antibiotics. Only organic milk is antibiotic-free.

Both conventional and organic milk is antibiotic-free. While antibiotics are prohibited on cows used to produce organic milk, conventional dairy farmers can use antibiotics to treat an ill cow. That cow can eventually be used for milk production after the antibiotics are out of its system. During antibiotic treatment, the milk of the ill cow is not mixed with the milk of the antibiotic-free cows. Also, a lab tests every batch of milk for traces of antibiotics. If there is even the slightest amount of antibiotics in the milk, the milk batch cannot be used, and the dairy farmer pays a HEFTY fine.

I often hear that antibiotics are regularly used in dairy farms to increase milk production; this is false. Antibiotics are expensive, so just as with humans, farmers aim to use as few antibiotics as possible. The USDA and farmers are working together to create more sustainable practices, which has resulted in significantly decreased antibiotic use. You have your choice of whether or not you want to buy organic, but let me be loud and clear, you do not have to buy organic to be healthy and have a safe source of food.

Myth #2: Raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk.

Pasteurized milk is milk that has been treated with heat to kill harmful bacteria, whereas raw milk has not been treated and can contain deadly bacteria. You likely have been drinking pasteurized milk your entire life without realizing it, unless you grew up on a dairy farm. Pasteurized milk is not only safe, but its nutrients are the same as raw milk. There are claims that raw milk has healthy enzymes that improve GI health, lactose intolerance, and allergies. These claims are udderly 😉 false. Trust me; raw milk is not worth the price or risk. If you want to increase the amount of “good bacteria” in your gut, eat yogurt instead. But seriously, please stop drinking raw milk.

Myth #3: Almond milk contains more nutrients than cow’s milk.

In high school, fad diets convinced me that almond milk was the only healthy”milk” beverage. This idea couldn’t be farther from the truth! While almond milk can be a milk alternative in baking and cooking for those who can’t drink dairy products, it isn’t nearly as nutrient-dense as cow’s milk.

Cow’s milk has a comprehensive nutrition panel. One cup contains 15 g carbs, 8 g protein, and 0-5 g fat, and multiple vitamins, making it a perfect snack! While almond milk is also a tasty beverage, it only contains 1 gram carbs, 1 g protein, and 2.5 g fat per cup. The lack of protein and carbs will likely leave you hungry later. Plus, not every brand of almond milk is nutrient fortified, so you’re missing out on vitamins and nutrients found in milk.

If you are looking for a dairy-free, milk alternative with a similar nutrition profile to milk, try calcium-fortified soy milk. If you can’t have dairy and aren’t a fan of soy milk, make sure to look at the nutrition labels of different plant-based beverages to find which one is the best pick for you.

Myth #4: Milk contains harmful hormones

Before I start, I want to remind you that all foods from plants or animals contain hormones. Milk isn’t any different. The good news is these hormones don’t affect our bodies, due to how they are digested in the body.

If you have ever looked at a milk jug, you likely saw a label talking about rBST. rBST is a growth hormone that was commonly used in dairy cows to promote milk production back in the day. While the evidence shows milk with rBST is just as safe as milk without it, most farmers do not use rBST today. Instead, farmers increase milk production by showing the cows TLC, by providing comfortable environments and healthy diets.

What other questions do you have about milk? Let me know @isabellabrownnutrition

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