Just one generation ago, the case for milk was clear. Doctors recommended it, parents served it with a firm look in their eye and children drank it up, willingly or not! Lately though, it has become an issue of much debate and research, confusing parents whether or not to insist on that daily glass of milk. But despite that element of confusion, milk continues to be perceived by most Indian families as the ultimate source of nutrition for growing children.
Nutritionists Venu Hirani and Amita Grover give us some more insight into the goodness of milk and how to protect yourselves from impurity.
"It would be surprising if milk was not part of everybody's daily diet. Faith in the goodness of milk can be seen in every Indian family," says Amita Grover. "Milk is a natural product that contains many of the vitamins and minerals needed for good health. It also has good proportion of water molecules and is considered the best fluid for rehydration. Experts' recommendation of daily consumption of half litre of milk or corresponding milk products applies to everyone: children, young people, adults and the elderly. This provides a good proportion of the daily needs of most nutrients."
Milk's role as a bone builder is well known due to its high calcium content. Amita Grover explains,"The body's ability to store calcium is greatest in the years it is growing and maximum bone density is achieved between the ages of 25-30 years. It is therefore important to take in sufficient calcium in the early years, in addition to vitamin D. The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) has established that milk, cheese and other dairy products are some of the most nutritious and easily available sources of calcium."
Milk also contains the ideal mixture of vital nutrients to strengthen teeth and hair: proteins, lipids, calcium, vitamins A and B6, biotin (vitamin B8) and potassium. It is also a very good source of iodine, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin and phosphorus.
Amita also refers to the lesser known de-stressing characteristic of milk, which is due to the hormone Oxytocin found in milk. "Oxytocin is formed in the body by touch -- when we are in love and when we eat. It makes us relaxed and increases nutritional uptake from the gut. So the next time your child has a have a stressful day, reach for a glass of milk".
But are you drinking the right milk? You might think this an unusual question, but when we consider the importance we give to our daily glass of milk, you might want to consider the purity of your drink. Are you sure that by boiling the milk, you have got rid of all its harmful microorganisms?
Venu Hirani says, "Milk in its loose form is a natural breeding ground for disease carrying microorganisms. Such milk is also prone to microbial activity, if left unprocessed. The only way to prevent this from happening is to continuously and repeatedly boil milk at home. However, doing so also kills good bacteria present in the milk, hence reducing its nutritional value. Milk processed with Ultra High Temperature (UHT) technology is the safest and most reliable option. It surpasses all other forms of milk processing and packaging in the advantages that it offers".
Under UHT treatment, milk goes through flash heating process where milk is heated at a high temperature for 3-4 seconds and then cooled and packed in sterile conditions. This ensures the elimination of all harmful bacteria, keeping the milk safe from bacterial spoilage, for as long as the packaging is kept intact.
"Considering the rate at which adulteration rackets are being unearthed in most major cities, it is vital that we find a regular source of unadulterated milk. It is alarming to see the number of cases wherein people dupe others on matters related to something as critical as nutrition," says Venu.
"Besides processing, correct packaging is also essential to ensure purity of milk when it reaches you. It should be completely aseptic packaging where you can be sure the milk has not been contaminated after processing, such as a 6-layer protective packaging which keeps it safe and gives it a longer shelf life. There is no need of refrigeration until the pack is opened and no need of boiling."