by Bonnie Halper
There was a time when people met in bars (social occasions) or offices (business), but coffee shops and coffee bars are literally the new go-to spots for rendezvous, both personal and professional. Coffee bars, by which we mean the Starbucks, Peet’s, Coffee Bean, Tully’s, Tim Horton’s, and Aromas of the world, although the list goes on, have become so haute, you can now find almost any flavor of coffee or caffeine strength you desire, but just try to find good, old-fashioned whole milk at many of these establishments.
Or at any of the many coworking spaces that seem to have proliferated around the world.
When did a long-standing staple like whole milk hit the no-fly list and why? Especially when the health benefits of whole milk far outweigh those in any of the lower fat versions: skim, 1%, 2% or fat free.
We live in a very health-conscious society, but the information available to us can be confusing – and often contradictory – so here’s a good rule of thumb, if you’re in doubt about which products are healthier, especially when it comes to milk: Good idea to stick with an end product that’s the least adulterated or altered from when it started. We all do at least try to avoid processed food and beverages, and I’ve yet to meet the bovine who produces skim or any of the versions of low-fat milk.
If you look at the nutrition labels on the different forms of milk – whole milk, skim, fat free or 1% or 2% fat – the chief difference is that whole milk is highest in calories and fat. However, for the protein, calcium and vitamins found in any form of milk to be absorbed by the body, fat must be present. Glycosphingolipids are a milk fat that helps to keep the immune system healthy and aid in cell metabolism. The two main vitamins are A and D; both are fat-soluble, so if you drink fat-free or one of the low-fat milks, the vitamin A and D won't do you any good, even if additional Vitamin D has been added. Your body just will not absorb them.
People who drink whole milk and eat more full-fat dairy products are significantly less likely to develop diabetes than people who go for the low-fat products, according to a study published in Circulation, which also found that, over time, children who habitually drink low-fat milk gain more weight, and those who drink whole-fat milk gain less weight.
The Skinny on Skim Milk
Skim milk has a strange and fascinating history. It was originally considered ‘industrial waste’ and fed to pigs to fatten them up for market. In fact, farmers in Denmark, for example, still do this. So how did this lowly byproduct, which has long been used to fatten up farm animals, become a staple for dieters and the health conscious?
Enter the marketing department, who turned this one-time industrial waste into a literal cash cow.
According to NaturalHealth365, “At the turn of the twentieth century, skim milk was converted into condensed milk. This was done by putting the liquid into a vacuum pan at 100-120 degrees – until sufficiently concentrated and then adding sugar. In the 1920’s, this is how skim milk was marketed to the public.
Another use for the left-over skim milk was the production of casein, the main protein in milk. Casein is used in processed foods and adhesives, paints and other industrial products. Casein fibers extracted from skim milk soon replaced fur in hats and were used to upholster car seats.”
As for the perception that because of its reduced fat, skim and low fat milks are healthier, buyer beware! These milk pro-ducts contain powdered milk, which dairy manufacturers are not required by the FDA to disclose on their labels, although it’s important to note that in the manufacturing process of powdered milk, “liquid milk is forced through tiny holes at very high pressure, which causes the cholesterol in the milk to oxidize.
Oxidized cholesterol contributes to the buildup of plaque in the arteries,” says the NaturalHealth365 piece.
Yet manufacturers are not required to disclose it because it’s all just milk, right?
So, contrary to what people have been led to believe, low- and non-fat milks are not healthier, do not help people weight-loss regimens, and low- and non-fat dairy products have no real nutritional value, since the vitamins and minerals found in milk are fat soluble.
It also turns out that saturated fats in dairy can protect against certain diseases and are not associated with heart disease or cardiovascular disease, as previously thought. In fact, there is very little scientific evidence that suggests you should be avoiding saturated fat in your diet, according to Authority Nutrition.
Then again, humans are the only mammals who drink dairy-based milk after the traditional nursing period - mostly because we can. And because we love our cheeses, yogurts, ice cream and yes, milk.
People may be starting to realize this, which may account for the sudden rise in popularity of alternative milks, such as soy, rice, coconut, oat and almond milk.
I’m just not sure that I’m one of those people who's ready to make that big
switch to rice cream.
And I do happen to be one of those people who enjoys drinking whole milk in my coffee. So next time I’m in a specialty coffee shop and there’s not a drop of whole milk to be found, I really would prefer it if they’d simply start offering it to their customers rather than do what they usually do: suggest that I mix the low- or fat-free milk with the half and half or cream. You’ll get the same result, they’ll invariably say. Once mixed with the coffee, it might look the same and it may taste some-what similar. But, like me, you might not want to stomach it, now that you know the whole story.