Posts Tagged ‘Milk’

cowsYou may have noticed lately there is more “chatter” about the benefit of eating meat and/or dairy products from cows that graze on grass rather than grain products.  That’s because more and more people are looking at grass feeding as an important component of an animal’s food composition.  The quality of any food you eat depends on where and how it was grown—and that pertains to plant foods as well as animal foods. If you care about where your food comes from, shouldn’t you also care about where your “food’s” food comes from?

So what is a cow’s natural diet?  When our parents and grandparents were growing up, they ate beef from animals that primarily “grazed” or “browsed” in a pasture.  Grazing means eating pasture grasses such as bluegrass, ryegrass, Bermuda grass, fescue, and so forth.  Browsing is what a cow eats when it nibbles on leaves, twigs, and bark. Both of those food sources are compatible to ruminant animals.  Ruminant animals we eat include cattle, goats, sheep, deer, buffalo, and elk.  Their four-part stomachs allow them to slowly digest grasses, leaves, and bark. Basically they chew, swallow, partially digest the food in their first stomach, regurgitate it back into their mouth, and then chew again.

The majority of beef we eat today comes from cows fed a grain-based diet.  Their food sources consist of TMR’s (total mixed rations) and “concentrates.”  TMR’s may contain corn, silage, hay, soymeal, and other fillers. Concentrates include cereal grains, the by-products of milling or processing those grains, and the by-products of distiller grains. Today’s cows eat an amalgamation of many feeds mixed in the correct proportions to give the animal what it needs for its stage of growth or production.

usdaWhat’s the difference between grass-fed and pasture-raised?

Grass-fed –Animal is grass fed with little-to-no grain.

Pasture-raised – Animal is free range and eats primarily grass but may also may have been supplemented with grains in the winter when the pasture was snow covered.

How does grass-fed beef differ from grain-fed beef?

Saturated, poly-, and mono-unsaturated fat content in grass-fed beef tends to be a little less or about the same as grain-fed beef. Omega 3 fatty acids are higher in grass-fed beef, as well as CLA’s (conjugated linoleic acid). CLA is a type of fat that confers health benefits such as better blood sugar regulation, immune system support, heart health, and aids in weight loss.

Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences, after a thorough review of current research, found little evidence that grass-fed beef has any advantage for safety, human health, or impact on the environment over grain-fed beef. Both types of beef deliver the important factors of nutrition in the human diet of protein, iron, and zinc in equal proportions.

Cost and Convenience

Grass-fed beef, milk, and yogurt are more expensive than grain-fed beef, milk and yogurt. They are also a little harder to find.  Most franchise grocery stores carry both options, but smaller, independent grocers will probably defer to grain-fed. Some farm markets may specialize in grass-fed vendors, or, depending on where you live, you may be able to buy direct from the farm.  You’ll probably have to buy in bulk to decrease the price, and then will need a freezer to store the surplus.


I once worked with a woman who insisted she could tell what kind of grass a cow grazed on when she drank milk. She must have had a very refined palate, because all milk tastes the same to me.  But I was a kid who liked school cafeteria and hospital food, so what do I know? Both grain-fed and grass-fed food products can be really good or really bad, depending on your taste buds. Try out a grass-fed product for yourself (when you can get a good buy) and see how it tastes and if it is worth the extra expense to you.

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu





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There are some specific nutrients we are looking to gain when consuming dairy and not all milk is created equal. So let’s crack the shell on nut milk and see how some popular milk alternatives stack up to cow’s milk when it comes to the nutrition facts label.

picture of milk

Cow’s milk

Nutrition Facts: Non-fat Skim Milk 83 Calories, 0g Fat, 8g Protein, 12g Carbohydrate, 30% DV Calcium 

Cow’s milk is a nutritional powerhouse. It is one of the most nutritionally dense beverages we can consume; containing a unique package of nutrients. At just 83 calories per cup, non-fat skim milk provides nine essential nutrients (1). Milk is also a great source of complete protein, which is found in animal products. Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids (the ones that our bodies do not make). In terms of protein quality and content per serving, you can’t beat cow’s milk. Animal products such as cow’s milk also contain cholesterol, which should be limited to less than 300 mg per day (2). One 8 ounce glass of skim milk contributes less than 5mg of cholesterol, making it part of a heart healthy diet. Three servings per day of dairy is associated with better weight management, bone health and reduced risk of certain chronic diseases (1).

Cow’s milk provides a wide variety of benefits but dietary restrictions including allergies, intolerances and vegan lifestyles create the need for milk alternatives.

*FYI- The nine essential nutrients found in cow’s milk are also found in milk alternatives. However, calcium, and some other nutrients must be fortified to be equivalent to cow’s milk. Soy, Coconut and Almond Milks do not naturally contain much calcium at all.  Most are fortified but not all brands are.  It is important to read labels and understand that the calcium in fortified milks is not as readily absorbed as the calcium in cow’s milk.

Soy Milk

Nutrition Facts Soy Milk 100 Calories, 4g Fat, 7g Protein, 8g Carbohydrate, 30% DV Calcium

This beverage can be a great alternative if you are in need of a substitute for cow’s milk. Soy milk is considered a good source of calcium and other nutrients at 100 calories per glass (3). This milk also contains 7 grams of complete protein per cup. Soy is one of the few non-animal sources of complete protein. Research also shows that consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day, along with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease (3). Since soy milk is a plant based product it is cholesterol free and also low in saturated fat.

Coconut Milk

Nutrition Facts: Coconut Milk 80 Calories, 5g Fat, 1g Protein, 7g Carbohydrate, 10% DV Calcium

At 80 calories per 8 ounce glass, coconut milk is similar to cow’s milk when it comes to calorie content and contains no cholesterol. However, this beverage isn’t a great source of protein at only one gram per cup. Unlike most plant products, coconut milk contains a significant amount of saturated fat.

Saturated fat intake should be limited to less than 7 percent of total daily calories or about 16 grams of saturated fats per day based on a 2,000 calorie diet (4). Three glasses of coconut milk would add 15 grams of saturated fat to your daily intake. Using small amounts of coconut milk in cooking to add a tropical flavor may be more appropriate than swapping it out for the three recommended servings of low fat dairy per day.

Almond Milk

 Nutrition Facts: Non-fat Skim Milk 60 Calories, 2.5g Fat, 1g Protein, 8g Carbohydrate, 45% DV Calcium

Almond milk is low in calories at only 60 per cup. This milk provides zero grams of cholesterol and zero grams of saturated fat. Almonds are rich in many nutrients; however almond milk provides far less protein than cow’s milk. One 8 ounce glass provides only 1 gram of protein. This milk is a good source of vitamins and minerals, but doesn’t stack up to cow’s milk in the protein department.

Conclusion: Some milk alternatives can provide a good source of nutrition for those avoiding cow’s milk. Just keep in mind that label reading is key when choosing an appropriate substitute to meet your needs.






Written by: Molly Kayser, BGSU Graduate Student intern with Wood County Extension.

Reviewers: Susan Zies, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Wood County.

Cheryl Barber Spires R.D., L.D. ,Program Specialist, SNAP- Ed, Ohio State University Extension, West Region

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picture of milkOsteoporosis, which is a condition of brittle bones, affects 44 million Americans. It is estimated that over 50% of the women over 50 and 25% of the men over 50 years of age will break a bone because of osteoporosis. There are some factors that lead to osteoporosis that cannot be prevented such as a decrease of bone density with age and heredity, but other risk factors can be minimized with some attention to lifestyle and habits. Some of those habits are quitting smoking, controlling alcohol and taking steps to make the bones health as strong as possible.
Starting off the tips to stronger bones is choosing low-fat dairy. Using 1% or skim milk, lower fat cheeses and low fat yogurt you get excellent sources of calcium. By using these low fat versions the same amount of calcium and minerals are provided but less fat and calories are taken in. Dark green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals and sardines are other sources of calcium.
Vitamin D is needed for your body to absorb calcium. You do get Vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun. At some latitudes, people that are house bound or those that use sunscreen are going to have more trouble getting the needed Vitamin D. Vitamin D is found in some food like fatty fish, so asking your health care professional about supplements may be necessary.
A recent study shows that prunes may be helpful for slowing bone loss. Starting with two or three prunes each day and gradually increasing this to six or more per day may be beneficial.
Finally walking and lifting weights are both ways to strengthen the bones. Walking helps strengthen the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine. Weight lifting focuses more on building muscle and bones in your arms and upper spine. Work towards at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.
Keeping your bones strong is important in the aging process. Work on incorporating these habits into your day!

Source: Keep your Bones Strong, Health Smart, Jan. 2012.
Author: Liz Smith, FCS Educator, Ohio State University Extension

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For most of us dairy is an important source of calcium, protein, potassium and (depending on the dairy food) Vitamin D. However, some people have problems with eating diary and then we hear of other concerns.  So are dairy foods healthy or not?

Bones – Milk critics have believed that eating animal protein, including dairy protein, causes our bodies to leach calcium from our bones.  However, several studies have shown that people who eat more animal protein have higher bone mineral density than those eating the least protein.  Studies by the USDA and the University of Connecticut found that eating diary foods does not make women lose calcium more.

Neutral – Dairy foods do not appear to harm bones.

Colon Cancer – The World Cancer Research Fund and the American institute for Cancer Research concluded recently that “Milk probably protects against colorectal cancer.”  (This finding was not applied to yogurt or cheese.)  They have concluded that those who drink at least one cup of milk a day have a lower risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer than those who rarely drink milk.

Plus – Milk seems to protect against colon cancer.

Prostate Cancer – According to the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research milk and dairy products show limited evidence as a cause of prostate cancer.  The evidence is inconsistent which makes it difficult to make recommendations to men.

Maybe Minus – Evidence is inconsistent.  There have been too few studies to make firm conclusions.

Blood Pressure – Research has shown that dairy products have a modest effect on lowering blood pressure.  This modest effect may help prevent some people from progressing to full-blown hypertension from pre-hypertension.  In the Women’s Health Study those who averaged at least two servings of low-fat dairy foods a day had about 10% lower risk of developing high blood pressure over those who averaged two or less servings a week.  Calcium supplements had no effect on lowering the risk.

Plus – Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy and low in saturated fat lowers blood pressure in people with pre-hypertension or hypertension.

Weight Loss – Although you may have heard many commercials about how diary helps you lose pounds a new study concluded that including dairy in a weight-loss diet does not help you lose more pounds or fat than just cutting calories.  The study did find that the group that consumed the least dairy saw a loss of bone mineral in the hip as well as markers of bone loss.  The group who eat a high-dairy diet didn’t have the bone loss.

Neutral – Dairy does not help you lose more weight or fat while you cut calories.

Conclusions – Dairy foods help lower blood pressure, seems to protect against colon cancer and don’t harm our bones (may help our bones as in study under weight loss).  Dairy does not help with weight loss and the jury is still out on prostate cancer. For most of us dairy foods are an important source of calcium, protein, potassium, and Vitamin D.  (Reference:  Schardt, D. [2011].  Dairy- Hero or Villain? Nutrition Action Healthletter, 38 (6), pp.9-11)

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