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A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.

Milk

As we all are aware, milk is the basis of any and all dairy products. Besides this, milk itself is a wonderful and nutritious drink. Milk has a rich content of superior variety protein and is also the finest source of calcium. Additionally, milk also encloses vitamins A and D, several B vitamins, magnesium and phosphorus. Over several centuries, people believed whole milk (milk from which no constituent, including fat, has been removed) to be a standard of healthy nutrition as well as essential food for healthy children. Milk used to be one drink that the adults were persuaded to continue consuming even after they had crossed their childhood.

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However, even to this date, the consumption of whole milk is on the decline and, instead, skimmed milk and milk low in fat content has been gaining recognition. As a result, presently, more people consume these two varieties of milk compared to whole milk. Happily enough, even when the fat content of milk is taken away, it does not lose its other nutritious constituents or any of its basic properties. Perhaps the most important constituent of milk is calcium and even today milk happens to be a major source of this vital mineral. Calcium is equally important for children and adults, as it helps in bone formation and the human body is constantly replacing bone throughout an individual's entire existence. While calcium is present in several other foods, especially green leafy vegetables, its presence in milk is said to be the most exploitable form. Consuming only two cups of skimmed milk every day supplies 75 per cent of the adults' Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for calcium for below 200 calories. In addition, phosphorus, which is present in reasonable quantities in milk, is another valuable constituent of this nutritious food. In fact, phosphorus works in combination with calcium to build bone in our body.

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Similar to meat, milk also offers superior quality protein. Additionally, the protein present in milk is finely balanced in the composition of its amino acid. Nevertheless, different from the protein present in meat, the protein found in skimmed milk and low fat milk is not accompanied by fat. In fact, milk contains a high proportion of amino acid lysine, which is found in restricted amounts in foods obtained from plants, especially grains. This virtue, in fact, makes milk a perfect balance for bread, cereals and other grain food products. For an average man, consumption of two cups of milk supplies 27 per cent of the RDA for protein, while the RDA for protein for average women from the same amount of milk is even higher - around 33 per cent.

It may be mentioned here that the FDA has made it mandatory to fortify skimmed milk as well as low-fat milk with vitamin A. This is primarily owing to the fact that vitamin A is soluble in fat and much of it is lost from milk when the fat content is taken away. In addition, all varieties of milk are strengthened with vitamin D, a natural constituent of milk found in very small quantities. In fact, shortage of vitamin D may obstruct the body's capacity to soak up calcium and result in rickets, an ailment that is distinguished by the deformity of bone. In fact, this disease has distressed numerous children during the early part of the 20th century. If you closely observe the milk cartons, you will find that the terms 'homogenized' and 'pasteurized' are quite common on them. Pasteurization is a process whereby milk is heated to a great temperature to eliminate bacteria, which are responsible for several diseases, molds and yeasts. In effect, when milk is not pasteurized or raw, it is considered to be a precarious food. But when milk is pasteurized, it guarantees that the food is safe for consumption. In addition, the process of pasteurization also augments the shelf life of packaged milk. What is important is that pasteurization does not have any significant effect on the dietary assets of milk.

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On the other hand, homogenization is a process where fat content in the milk is uniformly dispensed all over the milk. When we look for packaged skimmed milk or low-fat milk we presume that the milk has undergone both the processes and is safe for consumption. Although the process of homogenization had been developed way back in 1900, usually most of the milk that people received from the stores or households was actually not homogenized till the 1950s. This could be ascertained from the fact that the milk supplied to people in those days had a thin creamy sheet on the top of every bottle. People either skimmed off the cream from the milk and utilized it discretely or shook the bottle thoroughly to blend the cream with the milk again.

Presently, just about all types of liquid milk passed through the homogenization process. In order to homogenize liquid milk it is forced through a small aperture under a great pressure. This process disintegrates the fat contained in milk into such minuscule units that they continue to be blended in the milk instead of floating on the top.

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It may be noted that lactose is another ingredient of milk and for a number of people this is a hindrance rather than being an advantage. In fact, lactose comprises two chemically blended sugars - glucose and galactose. Several people are unable to digest little more than a small amount of milk as they suffer from insufficiency of lactase - an enzyme produced in the intestine that disintegrates lactose into its basic constituent sugars to make them absorbable by the body. During infancy, the human body produces the maximum amount of lactase because during this stage of life milk is essential for survival. Gradually, as a person grows, the production of lactase also declines. People who suffer from lactase deficiency usually cannot consume milk or dairy products without having symptoms, such as bloating, gas, diarrhea and even cramps. In fact, about five to ten per cent of the Americans who have their origins in northern Europe suffer from lactase deficiency that makes it difficult for them to ingest lactose. However, lactose intolerance is more common among the Asians, Blacks, a number of Mediterranean and Hispanic peoples as well as the Native Americans.

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Despite this, there are millions of people worldwide who are fond of milk and other dairy products and intend to keep on take pleasure in these foods all through their lives. In fact, majority of the people who cannot tolerate lactose are still able to consume a minimum of a few dairy products not individually, but as a component of their meals. There are several other lactose-intolerant people who are even able to consume a full glass of milk with their meals. People who are lactose-intolerant find it much easier to absorb yogurt and buttermilk that are considered to be refined dairy products. They are also able to digest cheese easily as it contains a very small amount of lactose, which is removed during the process to make cheese. Nevertheless, lactose is present in considerable amounts in liquid, evaporated, powdered and condensed milk.

Varieties of milk

There are different varieties of milk and cream enclosing dissimilar amounts of fat. Some of the types of milk and cream have a number of elements added or removed, while there are others that have been given flavor to allure different kinds of tastes. While most milk is sold fresh for consumption in a short while, some varieties of dairy products are processed and packed in order to enhance their shelf life. These types of milk products can be used whenever necessary, especially during any emergency.

Milk solids, comprising milk protein, minerals, carbohydrates, vitamins, and often fat, but never water, are available in the market and may be used to homogenize the milk solid content of milk obtained from various sources. These milk solids not only contribute protein to any form of milk, but also provide the body, opacity as well as taste to skimmed milk and low-fat milk. In addition, milk is generally evaluated on the basis of its superiority and the proposed usage.

Whole milk
Any milk that enclosed a minimum of 3.25 per cent of milk fat and 8.25 per cent milk solid in terms of weight is categorized as whole milk. When an individual consumes whole milk, he or she obtains approximately 50 per cent of their calories from the fat contained in the milk. Since whole milk contains a very high amount of fat, it is suitable for consumption by infants and young children, while it is better if grown up children and adults avoid consuming whole milk.
Low-fat milk (one- or two-per cent)
A variety of milk whose fat content ranges between 0.5 and 2.0 per cent is described as low-fat milk. Nevertheless, such small proportions of fat as well as the description 'low-fat' are actually misleading. In fact, the expression 'two-per cent milk' denotes that the milk fat contained in the food is two per cent in terms of weight and the major portion of the milk's weight is owing to water enclosed by it. For instance, when you remove the water from 'two-per cent milk', you will actually find that the residual product contains as high as 20 per cent fat by weight. Consuming such milk enable an individual to obtain 35 per cent of calories from the fat contained in the food. On the other hand, 'one-per cent milk' derives 23 per cent of its calories from fat. In fact, consuming 'two-per cent milk' is a good way to give up your habit of drinking whole milk initially, however, it is not wise to continue consuming this type of milk for long or permanently as it also contains high amounts of fat. Only people whose diet comprises very small amounts of fat may continue to consume this type of milk. Although skimmed milk is the most suitable variety of milk to be consumed regularly, many people have a preference for low-fat milk. And in such cases, it is advisable to consume 'one-per cent milk' instead of the 'two-per cent milk' variety.
Skimmed milk or non-fat milk
When we talk of skim milk or no-fat milk, it denotes a variety of milk from which maximum possible fat has been removed. In fact, such type of milk will possibly not contain anything above 0.5 per cent milk fat in terms of weight and normally, a cup of skim milk or non-fat milk will enclose even less than one gram of fat. Thus, this type of milk only derives five per cent of its calories from fat and contains only 50 per cent of the calories contained in whole milk. Skim milk or non-fat milk is perhaps the best for consumption by adults and is the only variety of milk that people on austerely low-fat diets ought to consume.

Specialty milks

Specialty milks are a type of milk where elements are added or removed with a view to cater to the specific health requirements of individuals as well as satiate the taste buds of some others. This type of milk is especially made by the dairies and supplied according to demand. For example, keeping in view the widespread lactose-intolerance among a vast majority of the Americans, the dairies have started offering milk that has reduced lactose content. On the other hand, the increasing consciousness among people regarding osteoporosis and other bone-related ailments has encouraged the dairies to introduce special milks that have rich calcium content. Similarly, buttermilk too contains much less fat that it used to have earlier. However, the fact is that though buttermilk has lost its popularity as a drink over the years, it is presently widely used in culinary.

Acidophilus milk
This variety of milk also has low-fat content and possesses identical nourishment worth as the milk it is made from. However, it is dissimilar from the normal milk, as the bacterium Lactobacillus acidophilus has been added to it whereby it has an affinity for acid stains. However, acidophilus milk is different from acidophilus yogurt, as it is not fermented. Many people are of the view that acidophilus milk is beneficial for digestive disorders or it may be useful in neutralizing the lactose intolerance endured by several people. In addition to these virtues, acidophilus milk is considered to be useful in reinstating the beneficial bacteria to the intestines following ingestion of antibiotics. There is a general belief that L. acidophilus is commonly found in the intestines.
Buttermilk
Buttermilk was initially a derivative obtained during the process of making butter. However, presently, buttermilk is prepared specially by culturing milk, normally the skimmed of low-fat variety, with a lactic acid culture. Perhaps owing to the culturing, several buttermilks possess very low amounts of lactose and these can be easily consumed by people who are lactose-intolerant or suffering from a deficiency of lactase. At times, a little quantity of butter is added to buttermilk with a view to enhance its flavor as well as give it a softer texture. In addition, you may also add a tad of salt to buttermilk to augment its essence. Nevertheless, usually buttermilk derives 20 per cent of its calories from fat. However, it may be noted that normally buttermilk is not strengthened with either vitamin A or vitamin D.
Calcium-supplemented milk
When you are drinking low-fat or skimmed milk, you may enrich the drink by adding more calcium to it. Usually, low-fat milk or skimmed milk is strengthened with 500 mg of additional calcium for each cup; you may add more calcium to your glass of milk to prevent osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions.
Low lactose milk
Low lactose milk contains lactase, the enzyme naturally occurring in the intestines, with a view to enable people who are lactose-intolerant or suffer from a deficiency of lactase to digest this product without problems. As lactase is added to this milk product, it has a somewhat sweet taste, but possesses all the nutritional values contained in 'one-per cent milk'.
Low sodium whole milk
Despite the fact that no salt is added to milk, generally all dairy products contain a reasonably high amount of sodium. In fact, whole milk is usually processed to substitute around 95 per cent of its sodium content with potassium to produce low-sodium milk. When you are consuming low-sodium milk it means that one cup of the product will contain around six mg of sodium, compared to 120 mg of sodium in normal whole milk. Processing the whole milk to produce low-sodium milk actually enhances the product's potassium content two-fold - from 370 mg to 617 mg in every cup.

Other varieties of milk

In addition to the above mentioned forms of milk, there are several other varieties of this natural food that are especially meant to prolong its shelf life and made available whenever necessary for use. For instance, the canned, dried or paper/ pulp packaged, commonly known as 'boxed' milk varieties are specially treated so that they may remain on your kitchen shelf for several months and be of emergency use when you run short of your regular milk supply and also when it is a problem to rush to the store. In addition, a number of of these milk products are distinctive as they not only possess special virtues, but are also useful in culinary. Hence, many people do not use these products just as an emergency supply of fresh milk, but regularly use them as ingredients in their cooking. For instance, one can use evaporated skimmed milk for whipping to prepare a heavy, but fatless topping that possesses just around 10 per cent of the calories present in whipped rich cream.

Dried out milk powder
If you wish to prepare fat-free dry milk at home with whole milk, evaporate the water content in the product to some extent from the liquid milk. Subsequently, the milk is sprayed in a drying compartment to dry it out more. Next, you reclaim the powdered milk produced through the process by adding water. Generally the proportion should be one cup of water for every three tablespoonfuls of the powdered milk. Instantaneous fat-free dry milk that comprises large particles resembling flakes liquefies rapidly and easily in water. In fact, it is also possible to use fat-free dry milk recipe or alternately blended with liquid milk with a view to add protein and calcium with nominal calories and no fat at all. It may be mentioned here that a tablespoon of fat-free dehydrated milk encloses 94 mg of calcium, 27 calories and absolutely no fat. In addition, it contains additional vitamin A and vitamin D.
Evaporated milk
Evaporated milk, which is kept in the kitchen shelf for emergency use when you may run out of your supply for fresh milk, is prepared by getting rid of over 40 per cent of the water content in the milk and subsequently canning and disinfecting it by applying heat. As the cans containing evaporated milk can be stored at room temperature they can be kept at a handy place for use whenever necessary. Evaporated milk is usually strengthened with vitamin D and may occasionally also contain additional vitamin A. If you wish to use evaporated milk instead of fresh milk, reclaim the product by adding an equal amount of cold water. Alternately, you may also use it with no added water while cooking different dishes as per the specifications.
The evaporated variety of milk is available both in whole milk as well as skimmed milk forms. From the nourishment point of view, it is always better to used evaporated milk available in skimmed form, as it contains even less than one gram of fat in each cup compared to 18 grams of fat when it is used in the whole milk form. In addition, evaporated milk in skimmed form is also a very resourceful ingredient for cooking dishes having low fat content. When used in the undiluted form, evaporated milk is almost as substantial as any heavy cream and may also be used as a substitute for cream while preparing sauces and soups. Moreover, when undiluted evaporated milk is properly cooled, it can also be whipped!
Sugared condensed milk
Believe it or not, sweetened condensed milk is considered to be among the first canned foods available in the market. Sweetened condensed milk was developed in 1856 was served as an indispensable food for the soldiers during the Civil War. Similar to evaporated milk, sugared condensed milk is prepared by getting rid of nearly 50 per cent of the liquid whole milk's water content. Subsequently, a great quantity of sugar is added to the semi-dehydrated product to prepare sweetened condensed milk and, hence, it is widely used in ice cream, candies and puddings. When sweetened condensed milk is not watered down, the product encloses 982 calories in each cup.
Ultra-high temperature (UHT) or especially-pasteurized milk
As the name suggests, this dairy item is treated at extremely high temperatures, often much higher compared to what is used during the normal pasteurization process. Hence, this also augments the shelf life of this dairy product. Ultra-high temperature milk is usually packed in cartons that resemble juice boxes which are sterilized from before and sealed hygienically. These dairy products can be preserved for as long as six months even at room temperature. However, when the cartons are opened the product needs to be used at once or may be preserved in a refrigerator for quite some time.
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