In case you’ve been chilling under a boulder for the past few years, you’ll know we’ve had an explosion in the popularity of plant-based milk alternatives. Almond, hazelnut, oats: the white stuff has been concocted out of most foods at this point.
Although traditional cow’s milk is one of those things we don’t think about too much – it mostly just being what we stir into coffee or drown granola in – it’s got a lot of health benefits away from the obvious one (calcium.) And that counts for whole, semi skimmed and lactose-free varieties.
For the full low-down on the liquid, we asked Jo Travers, Registered Dietitian and author of The Low-Fad Diet to fill us in on the properties you might not have been aware of. Here’s her expert thoughts.
With 3.4g per 100ml, the drink is a strong source of protein. In milk, there are two types of protein, casein and whey. “These are important for cell and muscle structure, but also needed for making enzymes and hormones,” advises Travers.
This mineral is “a trace element found in seawater, rocks and some types of soil,” according to the NHS, and adults need 0.14mg of it daily. As the British Dietetic Association (BDA) states, an average serving of cow’s milk contains 0.05-0.1mg, although this can change with the seasons, with higher levels in the winter. As to what it does, you need it for “proper thyroid function which, in turn, is responsible for metabolism, nerve function and growth in children,” advises Travers.
An ice-y glass of milk is high in the mineral potassium (the one that you normally associate with bananas) and it’s “important for the regulation of blood pressure and nerve function,” says Travers. There’s an estimated 132 mg per 100ml of whole milk and 3.500mg per day is the recommended amount for adults from the NHS.
Another bit of milk magic. “If you eat meat, fish or dairy foods, you should be able to get enough vitamin B12 from your diet,” is the official NHS advice on this vitamin. Travers says: “It’s used in the production of DNA and the proper functioning of nerves. Also, it’s important for red blood cells.”
Fine. It’s the obvious one. But we’re still going to drill into what calcium is good for (other than bones, duh.) “As well as being what gives bones strength, it’s used for electrical processes in the body,” says Travers. You get 120mg in 100ml of milk, according to the BDA – so drink up.