Written by: on February 6, 2020 @ 9:50 am

When you hear the word milk what do you imagine? A cold glass of white, opaque liquid waiting for you to drink; maybe dip a cookie in.  The milk you probably picture comes from a cow, but milk can come from many different animals OR be plant-based. Milk doesn’t always equal dairy. 

Milk technically is classified as an emulsified colloid. That is just a fancy way of saying that fat and protein globules are suspended in water.  Milk is opaque because the solution is balanced, which means the globules are floating evenly throughout without sticking together in one place!  

All mammals secrete milk from their mammary glands for their babies, which means that everything from cows to blue whales produces milk! Milk production for their young is one of the main features of mammals. Do we drink whale milk? No, but humans consume milk from a variety of animals.  You probably have had cow’s milk, but what about goat or camel? There are parts of the world where both of those are also common!

Something that has gained popularity in the past few years is plant-based milk, which could include almond, coconut, cashew, soy or oat milks. Remember how I explained that milk is essentially globules of floating protein? Well these plant seeds can be transformed into milk by simply putting them into solution.  For instance, to make almond milk all you have to do is soak almonds, blend them with water, and strain.  You could also pick some up at the store!

We all drank our mother’s milk (or formula) for at least the first year of our lives, but what is the benefit of consuming milk when we’re older? Milk is a great source of fat and protein for a growing child, but can also be a great source of calcium for strong bones.  Dairy milk for a long time seemed to be the main go-to for consumers, but trends are leaning more towards these plant-based milks.  Plant-based milks are suitable for vegans, more environmentally friendly, more climate friendly, and great for anyone who is lactose-intolerant. They also can be a great source of calcium and other nutrients without the sugar you find in milk.

Lactose is a type of sugar (a disaccharide composed of glucose and galactose) and is the primary carbohydrate in the milk of mammals. All mammal milk has it but it can vary from animal to animal.  Cows’ milk, for example, has 12g/cup and goats’ milk has 9g/cup of lactose. Lactase, an enzyme produced in our intestines, is what helps our bodies break lactose down into digestible sugars. If someone lacks lactase, they won’t be able to digest the lactose, which may lead to digestive trouble. Lactose intolerance can develop at any point in your life and some cultures have a high rate of lactose intolerance since a lot of their cuisine doesn’t include dairy.  

Will you follow the trend and switch to plant milk? Or stick with traditional dairy? 

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