Fifty years ago, in the last century, milk was whole cow's milk, that was the only option, and that was what was meant by milk. To this day, however, saying milk is followed by another question, what kind of milk? Cow's milk, whole, skimmed, semi-skimmed, lactose-free ...What is the most suitable milk for children to drink? And adolescents?
According to the definition of milk, only that coming from mammals, be it cows, sheep or goats, and of course, mother's milk should be so called. However, depending on its amount of fat, the presence or absence of lactose, the extra addition of calcium and vitamin D, or its treatment (pasteurized or UHT), at present the shelves of the supermarket offer infinite options.
Whole cow's milk is the least processed, as a general rule. This milk contains approximately 8 grams of fat per cup, in addition to having a large amount of protein, calcium and vitamins, especially D and B12. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium, which makes milk the ideal vehicle to achieve an appropriate calcium intake. On the other hand, semi-skimmed and skimmed milks tend to have similar amounts of protein and calcium, but less fat and therefore less caloric content, which affects the amount of vitamin D, since it is conveyed in fat, making more difficult the absorption of calcium.
In childhood and adolescence, calcium needs are high due to rapid growth. They are also during pregnancy, as the baby's bones are being formed, while during lactation, part of the calcium in the bone is mobilized to feed the newborn through breast milk, but stabilizes and recovers after from 6 months, regardless of maternal intake.
There is also lactose-free milk, in which lactose, the sugar in milk, is divided into glucose and galactose, simple sugars that are easily digestible. Otherwise, this milk provides the same amount of protein, while, depending on the amount of fat it contains, the amount of vitamin D, and therefore the absorption of calcium, can be compromised.
The main disadvantage of whole cow's milk is that it is rich in saturated fat, unhealthy for the heart. However, during childhood, whole milk provides energy for growth, plus calcium, vitamin D, and protein, in a drinkable format with a high nutritional density, easy for children to consume.
Whole milk, therefore, is the best alternative during childhood and adolescence, not only in terms of the macro and micronutrients it provides, but also because a minimally processed option can be found, pasteurized instead of UHT and of organic origin. In case of cholesterol problems in these stages, it is better to choose a skim variety that is enriched with calcium and vitamin D, even if these have been added artificially.
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