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 Foods: Dairy Products 

Source: Nutrition Almanac, McGraw-Hill, 1984.

A great concern with milk is its fat content. The regular drinking of whole milk and intake of dairy products leads to excess fat intake and all of its potential problems. Whole milk is described as 3.5 percent fat, but about half the 150 calories in a glass are from the 8–9 grams of fat (at nine calories per gram). Skim milk has most of the fat removed and has about half the calories of whole milk; low-fat, or 2 percent, milk is in between, with about 50 of the 120 calories coming from fat (two-thirds saturated). Yet whole, low-fat, and skim milks are very similar in their vitamin and mineral makeup, as well as their protein and carbohydrate levels. The only difference is the amount of fat. Another concern is that these milks are also processed products. This natural white substance that comes from cows is heated, treated, and diluted to make even the “normal” homogenized, pasteurized milk. It loses some vitamin E, biotin, B12, and other vitamins with pasteurization; often, vitamin A and irradiated vitamin D are then added to “fortify” this food, which some erroneously consider a “drink.” Homogenization is possibly the biggest concern in milk. It basically involves the blending of the milk fat into small globules so that it does not separate as it normally will do when it sits. It is possible that this process interferes with the body’s ability to digest and utilize this fat in homogenized milk. The increase in cardiovascular disease has been correlated with the rise in the use of homogenized milk; however, further epidemiological study is needed to prove this relationship.

In general, I do not recommend the drinking of milk for adults. A warm glass before bed can be helpful for sleep, likely due to the tryptophan content. Generally, though, calcium and protein needs can be met with many other foods. Chamomile flower or valerian root tea may be helpful for sleep in nonmilk drinkers. For adults who seem to tolerate milk products well, are not overweight, and do not have high blood pressure, high blood fats, or a family history of heart disease, I would suggest moderate use of milk products, but not daily because of the possibility of developing milk sensitivities. I think that yogurt and kefir, the cultured milk products that get predigested by friendly bacteria, even though that may sound disgusting to some, are probably the best choices of the dairy family. Low-fat milk products and a low-fat diet in general are also wise guidelines to follow.

Butter. Butter, made from whole milk through a churning process, is mainly the milk fat. It is a high-fat (two-thirds saturated fats) and high-cholesterol food that is also high in vitamin A and added vitamin D. It has minimal amounts of some other vitamins and minerals, usually is salted so that it is high in sodium, and is fairly high in calories (100 per tablespoon). Because of its sweet flavor and the fact that it is saturated and so doesn’t break down as easily as the unsaturated fats, it is used commonly in cooking and baking, and slathered on potatoes, noodles, vegetables, and other hot foods or poured over popcorn. A little butter is okay, but butter is one food that it is very easy to overuse.

Yogurt. Yogurt is considered the “health food” of the milk family. One of the foods thought to promote longevity, it is commonly consumed by those peoples who tend to live a long time. Yogurt is the end product of the fermentation process of either whole milk or low-fat or nonfat milk acted upon by bacteria and yeasts. The friendly human intestinal bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus and the one originally used, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, are the common ones used to make yogurt, which resembles a milk custard. Yogurt is a form of soured milk that becomes reduced in fat and calories, usually with an increase in the B vitamin levels. Many of the minerals become more concentrated as well. The calcium content of yogurt is very good. Yogurt, like the other cultured or soured milk products, is more stable and resistant to spoilage than fresh milk, and this can be helpful in many instances.

(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
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