On Nutrition: Milk…what’s in a name?

Happy Monday! The sun is shining in Seattle, and if you haven’t read my On Nutrition column in yesterday’s Seattle Times, “Got milk? Many nutritious choices are dairy-free” then just link on over and check it out.
With so many beverages being called “milk” these days (the most recent one I noticed is quinoa milk), I felt it was a good idea to highlight how these various offerings differ, because to the casual grocery shopper, it might seem like all “milks” offer protein, calcium, or other nutrients that we tend to associate with dairy milk. Not so! Also, non-dairy milks often have additives that you may not have bargained for.
In the end, I’m not advocating for any one type of milk, dairy or non-dairy. As always, I want people to be aware of what they are buying when they shop, and how those foods and beverages contribute to a balanced diet.
I myself use dairy milk (for coffee and oatmeal) and almond or coconut milk (for smoothies). I pay extra for organic dairy milk because:
  • Organically raised dairy cows are not treated with antibiotics, so by extension have better living conditions (the super-cramped conditions faced by conventionally raised cattle contribute to more illness, and thus more antibotic use).
  • Many pesticides concentrate in fat, so cattle that eat feed treated with pesticides may have some of that residue show up in their milk or meat.
  • Recent research suggests that milk from organic cows has a more favorable fatty acid composition.
I don’t buy all organic, all the time, but I do place a priority on opting for organic milk and meat. I am also shopping around for a different almond milk brand, because my usual brand contains carrageenan gum. I’m not freaking out about it or tossing what’s left of my old brand, but I do feel like it’s an additive worth ingesting less of.