“And there will be enough . . . milk to feed you, To feed your household, and to sustain your servant girls.” – Proverbs 27:27.
A healthy drink – milk, is the first food we consume when we are born. Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants during their first months of life. Children are encouraged to drink up their milk so that they can grow up big and strong. Do we, however, tend to stop drinking this nutritious beverage, milk, as we grow older? Even as adults, should we still drink milk?
For decades, scientific research has continued to emphasize the importance of maintaining bone health as we age. Gradually throughout our lives, our bones are constantly changing. Hence, when our intake of Calcium-rich foods is low, our body ‘steals’ the Calcium it needs from our bones – which can cause them to become porous and weak. In Nigeria, bone diseases are quite common. Just as an example: according to data, more than 1.5 million cases of Osteoporosis are diagnosed in Nigeria every year! Osteoporosis refers to a condition in which bones become weak and brittle, and bone loss occurs without symptoms. Consequently, most people are unaware of their deteriorating bone health.
However, the good news is that drinking milk regularly can help prevent Osteoporosis and bone fractures and even help you maintain a healthy weight. This delicious beverage – milk, has always been a healthy drink because it is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and many other nutrients which are usually under-consumed by many people.
However, although milk is a good choice for many, some people cannot tolerate it because they are unable to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products (dairy products are products containing or made from milk). It is suggested that such people stick to unsweetened varieties of milk, to limit the amount of added sugar in their diet. Some examples of non-dairy milk alternatives include: soymilk, oat milk, almond milk, and more.
For those able to tolerate milk, however, consuming high-quality milk and dairy products has been proven to provide a number of health benefits. These include: –
One, good for bones. Milk is the topmost food source of Calcium and Vitamin D for children and adults. Calcium is an essential nutrient for strong bones, muscle movement and nerve signals. Vitamin D increases the body’s ability to absorb Calcium. Sunlight is an excellent source of Vitamin D. Other sources of Vitamin D include: eggs, salmon, mushrooms, fortified milk and some yogurts.
Two, it helps in building strong teeth: Milk strengthens our teeth because it contains a high amount of Calcium. Lactose also helps prevent cavities and tooth decay.
Three, it promotes muscle health: Drinking milk is associated with a lower risk of age-related muscle loss. Also, several studies have demonstrated that drinking milk after a workout can decrease muscle damage, promote muscle repair, increase strength and decrease muscle soreness. Four, rich in protein: Your body requires proteins that can help in cell repair and boosting a person’s immunity.
Five, it promotes heart health: The Potassium in milk may help with heart health. Getting more Potassium while also reducing Sodium (salt) intake can lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Six, it reduces depression: A quote by one Nischita Nibedita says: “A glass of MILK a day keeps black thoughts away.” Yes, adequate levels of Vitamin D in milk supports the production of Serotonin, a hormone people associate with mood, appetite and sleep. Manufacturers often fortify cow’s milk and plant milk with Vitamin D. So, this can help to reduce depression.
Besides, it boosts metabolism and keeps you satisfied for a longer period; reduces risks of obesity as it can curb cravings for junk food and helps in preventing many diseases, including some types of cancer. Milk also soothes muscles and nerves and has a calming effect gives one a calming effect that coats the stomach lining and oesophagus from causing heartburn. In addition, milk makes your skin look young, soft and glowing. This is because it contains retinol, a known anti-aging and skin-restoring antioxidant.
Now that we know that milk has a wide range of benefits, how much milk should we consume daily? There is no hard and fast rule, but too much of something is not advisable. For adults, two full glasses of milk a day – once in the morning and once before bed – will provide an adequate amount of nutrients. For children below 12 years of age, two 250ml glasses of milk a day should be sufficient. And, of course, babies require regular milk intake, as it is their sole source of nutrients. It is good for us to also note that milk has healthy types that can benefit us. It is advised that we choose low-fat or non-fat milk, whole milk or skim milk.
Daniel Ighakpe, Festac Town, Lagos