Milk – The Most Perfect, Natural Food that Nature Can Make. Or, Is It?

BY Lydia Medeiros | March 24, 2014

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The most perfect food! Milk! Is that true? As with most things, perfection is relative and subject to the perception of the beholder.

It is true that milk is an excellent source of nutrients that all people need every day. But, it’s also true that milk fat is saturated fat that Americans should reduce in their daily diet. Also, milk is not only a good food for humans, it is also a good food for bacteria – some good for us, and some that can cause disease if not controlled. If you had to decide whether or not to drink milk, what are the facts you need to know to help you make that decision?

Milk is a great source of the essential nutrients, calcium and Vitamin D. Yogurt and cheese (like Swiss, Romano and Ricotta) are great sources of calcium, and milk is one of the top sources of Vitamin D in the American diet. Even so, people don’t consume enough dairy to meet dietary goals for calcium – only 75% of goals, or for Vitamin D – only 52% of goals. In spite of wide availability in American society, only 52% of the recommended servings of milk and dairy products are consumed each day.

The butter fat in fluid milk contains saturated fat, which has been linked to cardiovascular disease as well as other chronic diseases (reference). In that butterfat, though, there are also very beneficial types of fat, such as conjugated linoleic acid (also called CLA). CLA is thought to affect body composition in mice, and reduced amounts of stored fat meaning that CLA may reduce body weight and help with obesity (reference).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tallies the annual number of foodborne illnesses in the US caused by bacteria (reference); and if known, the foods that were eaten when the person became ill (reference). Dairy foods were identified as the food group associated with 18% of the cases of foodborne illness caused by bacteria. That is second only to bacteria-caused illnesses resulting from eating leafy vegetables. It should be noted that these statistics included both fluid milk and dairy products, and cases caused by consuming either pasteurized or unpasteurized (or raw) milk and dairy products.

That’s why I think milk’s the most perfect, natural food that nature can make. Pasteurized milk consumer, Focus group comment, 2011

Is milk the most perfect, natural food? Maybe if you are talking about nutrition. But perfection also means that safety must be part of that description. How about, “Milk, the Most Perfect, Natural Food – With a Big Dose of Facts” to help you select the type of milk you and your family will consume.

More about Pasteurized and Unpasteurized Milk

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