Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.
Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.
Here are the 7 healthiest milk and milk alternative options to add to your diet.
1. Hemp Milk
Hemp milk is made from ground, soaked hemp seeds, which do not contain the psychoactive component of the Cannabis sativa plant.
The seeds are high in protein and healthy omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fats. Thus, hemp milk contains a slighter high amount of these nutrients than other plant milks.
An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of hemp milk provides the following:
- Calories: 60
- Protein: 3 grams
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Phosphorus: 25% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Calcium: 20% of the DV
- Magnesium: 15% of the DV
- Iron: 10% of the DV
Hemp milk is virtually carb-free, but some brands add sweeteners, which increase the carb content. Make sure to check the ingredient label and buy hemp — and any other plant milk — without added sugar.
Sugar may be listed on the ingredient label as brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, or cane sugar.
SUMMARY: Hemp milk is made from the seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant. While the beverage doesn't have any psychoactive effects, it provides more healthy fats and protein than other plant milks.
2. Oat Milk
Though drinking milk made by soaking whole oats doesn't offer quite the same health benefits as eating a bowl of whole grain oats, it is very nutritious.
Oat milk is naturally sweet from the oats and high in carbs. It's unusual in that it contains some soluble fiber, which makes oat milk a bit creamier.
Soluble fiber absorbs water and turns into a gel during digestion, which helps slow digestion and keeps you full for longer. It can also help stabilize your blood sugar levels.
What's more, the soluble fiber in oat milk may reduce your cholesterol levels. A 5-week study in 52 men showed that drinking oat milk lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, compared with a control beverage.
Although nutritional values can vary by brand and depending on how or whether the milk is fortified, an 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of Oatly oat milk provides the following:
- Calories: 120
- Protein: 3 grams
- Carbs: 16 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Vitamin B12: 50% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 46% of the DV
- Calcium: 27% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 22% of the DV
- Vitamin D: 18% of the DV
- Vitamin A: 18% of the DV
SUMMARY: Oat milk is higher in carbs than most other plant milks, and it also boasts extra fiber. Much of the fiber in oats is soluble fiber, which offers several health benefits, such as reducing your cholesterol levels and keeping you full for longer.
3. Almond Milk
Almond milk is made by soaking almonds in water and then blending and straining away the solids.
It's a tasty nondairy milk alternative for people who either can't tolerate or choose not to drink dairy milk, but it's not safe if you have a tree nut allergy.
Unsweetened almond milk is low in calories and much lower in carbs than cow's milk, making it a good choice if you follow a lower carb diet.
However, note that many brands contain added sugar. Always check the ingredient label and avoid those that are sweetened.
Although almond milk is a naturally good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, it's low in protein and many other nutrients. Many brands are fortified with calcium and vitamins A and D, but the amounts can vary by brand.
On average, an 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of unsweetened almond milk provides the following:
- Calories: 41
- Protein: 1 gram
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Vitamin E: 50% of the DV
Many brands contain additives like carrageenan to thicken and prevent separation.
There is some debate about whether carrageenan promotes intestinal inflammation and damage. Still, most of the research on carrageenan and gut health has been conducted in animals and labs.
SUMMARY: Almond milk is a good nondairy milk alternative, but nutritionally, it's quite different from cow's milk. If you're after its lower carb content, make sure you choose an unsweetened brand.
4. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is squeezed from the white flesh of a coconut. It has a pleasant flavor, and it's a good nondairy milk alternative that's safe if you have a tree nut allergy.
Most coconut milk packaged in cartons is blended with water to give it a consistency similar to that of cow's milk. It has even less protein than almond milk, but many brands are fortified with certain nutrients.
On the other hand, canned coconut milk is usually intended for culinary purposes. It tends to be higher in fat, is unfortified, and has a much more distinctive coconut flavor.
An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of an unsweetened coconut milk beverage provides the following:
- Calories: 46
- Protein: none
- Carbs: 1 gram
- Fat: 4 grams
Coconut milk is a bit higher in fat than other plant milks, but the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconuts is linked to some heart health benefits, such as higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Some brands are also fortified with nutrients like vitamins B12, D, and A, as well as some minerals. The type and amount of nutrients added can vary among brands, so be sure to compare the labels.
SUMMARY: Coconut milk has a light, tropical flavor and is a safe dairy-free milk alternative for those who have a tree nut allergy. Because coconuts are a source of healthy MCTs, drinking coconut milk might boost your HDL (good) cholesterol.
5. Cow's Milk
Cow's milk is the most commonly consumed dairy milk and a good source of high-quality protein.
It's naturally rich in calcium, B vitamins, and many minerals. It's also often fortified with vitamins A and D, making it a very nutritious food for both children and adults.
An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of whole milk provides the following:
- Calories: 149
- Protein: 8 grams
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fat: 8 grams
- Vitamin D: 24% of the DV
- Calcium: 28% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 26% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 22% of the DV
- Vitamin B12: 18% of the DV
- Selenium: 13% of the DV
- Potassium: 10% of the DV
Nevertheless, the protein in cow's milk is a common allergen. Most children outgrow it, but some people have a lifelong allergy and need to avoid this beverage and foods containing it.
In addition, an estimated 65% of the population has some degree of difficulty digesting lactose, a type of sugar in cow's milk.
SUMMARY: Regular cow's milk is an excellent source of nutrition, but due to lactose intolerance or milk protein allergy, many people have difficulty digesting it or must avoid it altogether.
6. A2 Milk
Approximately 80% of the protein in cow's milk comes from casein. Most dairy cows in the U.S. produce milk that has two main types of casein — A1 beta-casein and A2 beta-casein.
When A1 beta-casein is digested, a peptide called beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM-7) is produced. It's linked to digestive symptoms similar to those of lactose intolerance in some people, including gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
Certain dairy cows produce milk that contains only A2 beta-casein, which doesn't form the BCM-7 peptide. The a2 Milk Company markets A2 milk as an easier-to-digest option.
A small study in 45 people with self-reported lactose intolerance found that A2 milk was easier to digest and caused less digestive discomfort, compared with regular cow's milk.
Aside from casein, A2 milk is comparable to regular cow's milk. While it's not a good choice if you are allergic to milk protein or lactose intolerant, it might be worth a try if you experience mild digestive problems after drinking regular cow's milk.
SUMMARY: A2 milk contains only A2 beta-casein, and some people find it easier to digest than cow's milk. However, it's not a good choice if you've been diagnosed with a milk protein allergy or lactose intolerance.
7. Soy Milk
Nutritionally, soy milk comes closest to cow's milk. This is partly because soybeans are an excellent source of complete protein, as well as because it's fortified so that its nutritional profile closely resembles that of milk.
Soy is a great option if you avoid dairy but want a milk beverage that's higher in protein.
An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of unsweetened soy milk provides the following:
- Calories: 105
- Protein: 6 grams
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fat: 4 grams
- Vitamin B12: 34% of the DV
- Calcium: 30% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 26% of the DV
- Vitamin D: 26% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 10% of the DV
Soy has been the subject of controversy, as most soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified to resist the herbicide glyphosate.
However, regularly consuming soy foods is linked to health benefits, including improved cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Furthermore, despite claims that soy may increase breast cancer risk because it mimics estrogen in the body, scientific studies suggest that it may reduce this risk.
Some brands produce organic soy milk, which is made from non-genetically modified organism (non-GMO) soybeans and free from conventional pesticides and herbicides.
SUMMARY: If you want a nondairy milk alternative that's higher in protein and nutritionally closer to cow's milk, consider soy milk. Drinking soy milk may also help reduce your cholesterol, blood pressure, and breast cancer risk.
The Bottom Line
All milk and milk alternative options offer various health advantages, such as reducing your cholesterol, boosting your antioxidant intake, or keeping you safe from an allergy or intolerance.
A good strategy may be to mix up the types of milk you drink. That way, you get the best of each of them, especially if you drink them alongside a healthy, whole foods diet.
Remember to check the labels for ingredients like added sugar or unwanted additives and avoid those with undesirable add-ins.
With the exception of soy milk, plant milk is quite a bit lower in protein and other nutrients than cow's milk. While that's not a significant concern for adults and older children, you should consult your pediatrician to check whether plant milk is appropriate for young children.
Reposted with permission from Healthline.
- Dairy Is Bad for Humans and the Planet: So Why Are Public Schools ... ›
- Hemp Milk: Nutrition, Benefits and How to Make It - EcoWatch ›
By Dan Nosowitz
There has been much concern in recent years about the encroachment of factory farms onto organic territory; with the premium prices organic foods can bring, many larger farms have engaged in a race to the bottom of quality, trying to just barely squeak above the organic regulations to grab that label without adhering to the spirit of the law.
All of the producers on the scorecard are certified USDA organic, and Cornucopia isn't necessarily saying that any of these farms are breaking the rules of the organic seal. Instead, they're rewarding the companies that go above and beyond the organic rules, which many have argued are far too lax. (Some farmers have gone so far as to create an entirely new, alternative label, so disgusted are they with the shape of organic regulation today.)
The Cornucopia scorecard rewards operations that feed cows more grass than grain, those that provide larger amounts of pasture per animal, whether the farm is owned by the farmer, whether the farm only produces organic milk (rather than a mix of organic and conventional), whether the farm was certified by a tougher agency, and operations that only milk cows once per day, among other factors. (You can out the full criteria at the bottom of this report.)
Smaller farms tend to fare better than large ones; Aurora and Horizon, two of the largest organic dairy producers in the country, both scored a big fat 0, meaning they do the bare minimum to get certified and don't go beyond the letter of the law at all. But plenty of larger farms are rated highly, including Maple Hill Creamery, Stonyfield Farms and Organic Valley, all of which distribute nationwide.
Organic is not all equal; certainly, the regulations for organic are tougher than for conventional, but sometimes you might be presented with multiple organic options. Why not choose the option that really tries to do the right thing?
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Dairy Is Bad for Humans and the Planet: So Why Are Public Schools Required to Offer Milk With Every Meal?
By Susan Levin
When students returned to Los Angeles public schools this fall, for the first time in five years, chocolate milk was back on the menu.
No one would argue that a carton of chocolate milk—full of cholesterol, saturated fat and more sugar than two Krispy Kreme doughnuts combined—is healthy. So why has it made its way back onto the lunch line, and what can you do about it?
School board members argued that without the sugary chocolate and strawberry flavors enticing them, students were "at risk" of drinking less milk. By returning chocolate milk to the menu, LAUSD calculated that milk consumption could increase by 4,332 gallons a week.
That's a big win for the dairy industry—and a big loss for students.
Pushing milk, flavored or not, on children is wrong. Milk and other dairy products are the No. 1 source of artery-clogging saturated fat in the American diet, contributing to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. Studies have also linked dairy products to an increased risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancers.
Some might assume that milk's calcium content is essential for children to grow strong bones. Not according to the science. A 2012 study published by the American Medical Association showed that children who consume the largest quantities of dairy products have at least as many bones break as those who consume less milk. Among the most active girls, those who consumed more dairy and calcium actually experienced more stress fractures compared with those who consumed less. Similarly, another study found that the more milk teenagers consumed, the more bone fractures they later experienced as adults.
Calcium is important, but it's readily available in more healthful foods like green leafy vegetables, beans and whole grains.
Are you still consuming dairy? https://t.co/4X0JnBASGW @EcoWatch— Mark Hyman, M.D. (@Mark Hyman, M.D.)1501784666.0
Dairy also devastates the environment. In drought-ravaged California, we should support students who choose to ditch the dairy. Producing just a single gallon of milk requires 880 gallons of water. That's nearly 55 gallons per cup. On top of that, animal agriculture is a leading cause of climate change, emitting more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined.
Industrial dairy cows suffer a life filled with illness, with one out of every 10 cows in a herd prematurely dying every year. Given natural conditions like healthy food and outdoor exercise, cows have an average lifespan of 20 years. But shot full of antibiotics and hormones to overproduce milk, and committed to a life of 24-hour confinement, they are spent before they reach the age of six, killed and processed for their meat.
So if it's not healthy for us, the animals or the environment, why does the government continue to require that public schools offer milk with every meal, even when student demand is down? Follow the milk money.
Schools account for about seven to eight percent of all milk sales. Knowing it's a must-win market, the dairy industry uses its money and lobbying power to convince us that milk is an essential part of children's diets. And it works. During the 2013-2014 school year, the USDA spent more than $20 million taxpayer dollars on dairy product subsidies that went into school lunches and other child nutrition programs.
It's not the first time the government has propped up the milk industry at the expense of Americans' health. Take MyPlate, the USDA's plate-shaped guide to healthy eating, consists of vegetables, fruits, protein, and grains accompanied by a smaller circle representing dairy.
When the plate was first introduced in 2011, the National Milk Producers Federation CEO celebrated it as a win for Big Dairy, saying: "USDA's new MyPlate, the simple visual metaphor of a serving of dairy products alongside a plate, says it's vital to consume three servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods every day."
The National Institutes of Health estimates that 30 to 50 million American adults are lactose intolerant, including 95 percent of Asian Americans and 60 to 80 percent of African Americans. In spite of that, the government actively subsidizes milk production, keeping prices low so that Americans will continue to consume it. Between 1995 and 2009, the dairy industry received nearly $5 billion in government subsidies. The government also protects dairy producers from natural price declines when demand is down by purchasing surplus milk and cheese. Just last year, with dairy industry sales sagging and billions of pounds of unwanted cheese piling up, the USDA stepped in and purchased 11 million pounds of the excess cheese at a cost of $20 million.
The USDA also manages a dairy "checkoff" program, which collects funds from milk producers and then funnels them into campaigns to promote dairy products—like the ubiquitous "Got Milk?" ads from the 1990s. And though the federal government urges Americans to limit their fast-food consumption, dairy checkoffs work with these same fast-food restaurants to develop new products that maximize the milk. The checkoff program helped develop and promote products like Wendy's Cheddar-Lover's Bacon Cheeseburger, Taco Bell's Cantina Double Steak Quesadillas and Pizza Hut's Ultimate Cheese Pizza.
Dairy checkoff funds are also used for nutrition education. That mostly means targeting elementary and middle school in an effort to turn them into customers for life. In fact, a checkoff-funded program called "Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk" initially used its half-million to a million dollar budget to raise alarm about children drinking less milk to convince schools to keep chocolate milk on the menu.
It's time to stop lining the pockets of the dairy industry at the expense of our children's health. For all the government's work to ensure that children are drinking more milk, where is the focus on ensuring that they eat enough fruits and vegetables—which actually do have protective effects against heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions? Most American children get only about a serving of vegetables and a serving of fruit per day, which are squeezed into their lunches by counting pizza and French fries as vegetables.
With demand for dairy down by about 40 percent since 1970, the government should stop supporting a dying industry that's making Americans sick. Until that changes, part of the solution lies with us and the choices we make with our own money. Fortunately, more and more consumers are demanding healthful, non-dairy options, with soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, and even pea milk starting to crowd out dairy milk on grocery store shelves. The non-dairy milk market is booming, with sales expected to grow by 16.6 percent—or $35 billion—by 2024. And half of Americans now report that they regularly opt for non-dairy milk.
After 92 years in business, one of New York City's oldest dairies welcomed the trend. With profits falling, Elmhurst Dairy closed its doors. But it soon reopened, selling only dairy-free plant milks. According to CEO Henry Schwartz, "After 92 years in business, it was time to embrace a new model and look toward the future."
Join us in urging the U.S. government to improve Americans' health by signing this petition asking USDA to remove the dairy group from MyPlate.
Susan Levin is a registered dietitian and director of nutrition education for the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
Why are so many people convinced that dairy is the best source of calcium? A strategic marketing campaign from the dairy industry would have us believe that by drinking milk, we will be protected from bone crippling osteoporosis, but the opposite may be true.
Starting them young: the dairy industry supplies school curriculum that teaches children about the “nutrition” in cow’s milk. Also, most western doctors carry the “3 glasses of a milk a day for strong bones” message to their patients. So how has the dairy industry been so successful in spreading this misinformation campaign?
It might have something to do with the fact that over $8 million was spent in lobbying efforts in 2013 alone. Additionally, dairy program subsidies in the U.S. totaled $5.3 billion from 1995-2012, including $171,578,059 in “milk marketing fees.” That’s right, we’re paying to be misled, and the hidden cost may be our impaired health.
So what is the misinformation in these campaigns? While dairy products from cows’ milk does contain calcium, we don’t absorb all of it. In order to absorb calcium, the body needs comparable amounts of another mineral element, magnesium. Milk and dairy products contain only small amounts of magnesium. Without the presence of magnesium, the body absorbs only 25 percent of the available dairy calcium content. Without magnesium, this excess calcium is utilized by the body in injurious ways.
Additionally, consumption of high protein dairy products like milk creates an acidic environment in the body, which triggers a release of calcium from the bones to bring the blood PH back into balance, and can cause a 50 percent loss of calcium in the urine. In other words, drinking milk leaches calcium from our bones and thereby creates a deficiency in calcium, the exact opposite of the the claims of the dairy industry.
This may explain why, as found in The China Study, the countries that are known to consume the highest levels of dairy also tend to have the highest incidence of osteoporosis.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell, the world’s leading epidemiological researcher in the field of diet and health, who happened to be raised on a dairy farm, says, “The dairy folks, ever since the 1920s, have been enormously successful in cultivating an environment within virtually all segments of our society–from research and education to public relations and politics–to have us believing that cow’s milk and its products are manna from heaven … Make no mistake about it; the dairy industry has been virtually in total control of any and all public health information that ever rises to the level of public scrutiny.”
“The association between the intake of animal protein and fracture rates appears to be as strong as the association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer,” he added.
Contrary to the dairy industry’s clever marketing, there are some other reasons why dairy may not be the healthiest source of calcium. High saturated fat content of many dairy products is a risk factor for heart disease. According to Harvard, milk may also lead to an increased risk of ovarian cancer in women and a probable increased risk in prostate cancer in men.
As stated on their website, “Clearly, although more research is needed, we cannot be confident that high milk or calcium intake is safe.” Another issue with milk for a lot of people, particularly those of non-Northern European descent, is lactose intolerance. For them, eating or drinking dairy products causes problems like cramping, bloating, gas and diarrhea.
Cows’ milk is intended for baby cows, not humans. We are the only species that habitually drinks milk from other species, and into adulthood, no less. Dairy cows are kept continually pregnant, and their calves are separated from them upon birth, so the milk intended for them can be sold to us.
In the ’40s, the average dairy cow produced less than 5,000 pounds of milk in its lifetime. Now, the average cow produces over 21,000 pounds of milk. That’s with an increase of 15 percent in just the last 10 years. Cows are often genetically manipulated, artificially inseminated and drugged in order to force them to produce about four and a half times as much milk as they naturally would to feed their calves.
Factory farming has proven to be very profitable for the dairy industry, while harming air, land and water and causing needless suffering to millions of animals. Cows can live up to 25 years, but in the dairy industry cows are typically slaughtered for low-grade beef around their fifth birthday. Most male calves are slaughtered for veal, while most female calves are doomed to the same fate as their mothers.
Adequate, lifelong dietary calcium intake is necessary to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Consuming adequate calcium and vitamin D and performing regular, weight-bearing exercise are also important to build maximum bone density and strength. With all the delicious substitutes for dairy products these days, one can easily omit dairy from their diet. According to the recommended guidelines for calcium, children ages 4 to 8 need 1000 mg; ages 9 to 13 need 1,300 mg; and adults, including lactating mothers, need 1,000 mg.
There is a long list of plant foods that supply plenty of calcium that is easily absorbed by the body: legumes, green leafy vegetables like kale, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, parsley, broccoli, cabbage, oats, beans, sesame seeds, almonds, asparagus, as well as fortified plant milks, fortified juices and firm tofu made with calcium-sulfate.
So when you next hear a dairy advertisement tell you that you need calcium for healthy bones, think about what they aren’t telling you. There are alternatives that may not only be healthier for you, but also kinder to cows, calves and the environment.
Organic milk contains significantly higher concentrations of heart-healthy fatty acids compared to milk from cows on conventionally managed dairy farms, a study led by a Washington State University (WSU) researcher has found.
While all types of milk fat can help improve an individual’s fatty acid profile, the team concludes that organic whole milk does so even better.
The study is the first large-scale, U.S.-wide comparison of organic and conventional milk, testing nearly 400 samples of organic and conventional milk over an 18-month period.
Conventional milk had an average omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of 5.8, more than twice that of organic milk’s ratio of 2.3. The researchers say the far healthier ratio of fatty acids in organic milk is brought about by a greater reliance on pasture and forage-based feeds on organic dairy farms.
A large body of research has shown that grass and legume forages promote cow health and improve the fatty acid profile in organic dairy products. Still, said WSU researcher Dr. Charles Benbrook, the study’s lead author, “We were surprised by the magnitude of the nutritional quality differences we documented in this study.”
After fruits and vegetables, dairy products are the largest category of the growing, $29 billion organic food sector, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2013 Organic Industry Survey.
Organic milk and cream sales were worth $2.622 billion, the survey found. Overall, organic milk accounted for 4 percent of fluid milk sales last year, according to the Milk Processor Education Program.
The consumption of more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids is a well-known risk factor for a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, excessive inflammation and autoimmune diseases. The higher the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, the greater the associated health risk.
Western diets typically have a ratio of about 10-to-1 to 15-to-1, while a ratio of 2.3-to-1 is thought to maximize heart health. The team modeled a hypothetical diet for adult women with a baseline omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 11.3 and looked at how far three interventions could go in reducing the ratio to 2.3.
They found that almost 40 percent of the needed nine-point drop could be achieved by switching from three daily servings of conventional dairy products to 4.5 daily servings of mostly full-fat organic dairy products. Women who also avoid a few foods each day that are high in omega-6 fatty acids can lower their fatty acid ratio to around 4, 80 percent of the way to the 2.3.
“Surprisingly simple food choices can lead to much better levels of the healthier fats we see in organic milk,” Benbrook said.
The team also compared the fatty acids in dairy products to those in fish.
“We were surprised to find that recommended intakes of full-fat milk products supply far more of the major omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, than recommended servings of fish,” said co-author and WSU research associate Donald R. Davis.
Conventional milk had about nine times more ALA than fish while organic milk had 14 times more, he said. Organic milk also is a significant source of two other omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DPA, but not DHA.
The study was published Monday in the online journal PLOS ONE. It analyzed organic milk from cows managed by farmer-owners of the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools, or CROPP, which markets through the Organic Valley brand. The two organizations helped fund the study but had no role in its design or analysis, which was funded by the Measure to Manage program in the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University.
Check out this video that features an interview with Dr. Charles Benbrook, the study’s lead author.
Visit EcoWatch’s FOOD page for more related news on this topic.
Continuing a long tradition of public participation in setting organic standards, more than 1,000 people submitted comments leading up to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in Savannah, Ga. between Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. To view a webcast of the 4-day meeting, click here. The comments were in response to specific agenda items which the NOSB was convening to consider, including many important materials review decisions. At the meeting, NOSB members frequently cited both individual comments and the collective weight of public opinion as decisive factors in determining how they voted. Beyond Pesticides thanks everyone who used our Keeping Organic Strong webpage as a resource for developing their comments and encourages the public to continue making your voices heard in the development of organic standards.
The NOSB was established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) which authorizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to operate an organic certification program. Appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, the 15-member NOSB is responsible for making recommendations on whether a substance should be allowed or prohibited in organic production or handling, assisting in the development of standards for substances used in organic production, and advising the secretary on other aspects of implementing OFPA. No substance can be added to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances that governs material use on certified production and handling operations without a supportive recommendation from the NOSB. Beyond Pesticides Executive Director Jay Feldman received a five-year appointment to the NOSB beginning January 2010 as an environmentalist—one of seven constituencies represented on the board.
Here is a brief summary of some of the NOSB’s major votes on Crop and Handling materials taken in Savannah:
This material was petitioned for use in exploding underground devises used to kill burrowing pests, including ground squirrels. The Crops Committee voted against this allowance in advance of the meeting and the full board affirmed that decision in Savannah. Those opposed to the petition stated that there is a full range of alternative materials to odorized propane and that methods already allowed in organic systems that can effectively control rodents, including habitat modification, traps, introduction of predators (such as dogs), rodenticide baits and many others, without the adverse impacts on biodiversity and with greater efficacy. These alternatives, in a more effective and less costly manner, achieve with management what propane would achieve with off-farm synthetic inputs.
Under existing organic standards, sulfur dioxide can only be added to wine labeled ‘made with organic grapes,’ provided that the total concentration of sulfite does not exceed 100 parts per million (ppm). Only wines to which no sulfites, which function as a preservative, have been added can be labeled ‘organic’ and display the USDA organic seal. Arguing that this restriction holds back growth in the marketplace for organically produced wines, a number of wineries petitioned with a request that the annotation be amended to allow sulfur dioxide use and resultant concentrations of sulfites not exceeding 100 ppm in wines labeled as ‘organic’ and displaying the USDA organic seal.Those opposing the petition commented that the addition of sulfites to wine has not been proven to be essential and argued against adding sulfites, which are a recognized allergen, to ‘organic’ wine. The NOSB rejected the petition, thereby retaining the distinction between wines that are ‘organic’ and 'made with organic grapes.’
In advance of the Savannah meeting, the Crop Committee recommended placing additional protections on the use of copper sulfate in rice production. The committee cited concerns that routine application rates of this material results in residual copper levels that threaten aquatic organisms including amphibians both in the rice fields and downstream after the irrigation water is released. When the committee proposed a preference for a well-established cultural practice—drill seeding of rice—in lieu of chronic dependence of synthetic copper sulfate, some rice producers questioned the practicality of such a solution. In the final vote in Savannah, copper sulfate in organic rice production was retained on the national list without the preference for drill seeding when conditions allowed.
This material was petitioned for use in spray applications to control weeds prior to planting food crops, at the base of grape vines and fruit trees and on the soil surface between crop rows or at the edges of plastic film mulch. Citing concerns about compatibility with organic practices and toxicity to aquatic invertebrates and the availability of several alternatives that do not require using a synthetic substance, the Crops Committee had rejected this petition and the NOSB concurred with that position.
The Handling Committee had proposed a recommendation to bring the use of chlorine in handling into compliance with the existing guidance policy established by the National Organic Program. This guidance will permit use of chlorine up to maximum labeled rates for sanitation of equipment and labeled uses in direct contact with products like fruits or vegetables, as long as there is a potable water rinse with no higher than drinking water levels after use. Additionally, it restricts chlorine in water used as an ingredient must to the level permitted in drinking water. Beyond Pesticides argued that this recommendation did not adequately address the significant human health and environmental risks known to result from chlorine’s manufacture and release into the environment. Furthermore, adoption of this recommendation means that there will be no differentiation between the allowance for chlorine use in organic and nonorganic products. Despite Jay Feldman’s dissenting vote, the NOSB approved the Handling Committee’s recommendation.
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