Once upon a time there was just Milk. It came from a Cow, a Sheep or a Goat most often, and was freshly squeezed and consumed just as it was. The consumption of milk from domesticated animals began during the Neolithic Revolution when Agriculture was being developed. It wasn't until the mid 1800's that milk would begin its journey from being something consumed fresh from your farm to a bottled and packaged product. Since then the industry has evolved and developed into a multi billion dollar industry, and the milk we buy and consume these days barely resembles that which was once consumed.
When we think about how much things have changed since then, it's no wonder there are so many more people reacting to milk these days, unlike how they would have back in those times. Changes with the process of milk has greatly effected it's digestibility, such as pasteurisation and homogenisation of milk before packaging. We no longer commonly get milk from Dairy Cow's, unless you specifically choose to purchase the A2 milk. The living and feeding conditions for Cow's are not what they used to be either. Rather than being free to roam paddocks and feed from fresh grass they are hooked up to their pumps, side by side and given medication such as antibiotics to prevent infections.
So now we jump forward to what milk is today, November 2014. Have you been to your local supermarket lately? There are now 2 massive sections you'll find milk, and one small area for flavoured milk, or as we like to call it, confectionary milk. You'll get fresh, cold milk, or long life milk in tetra packs. You're options for Cow's milk include Full Fat (or 'regular' milk), Low Fat, No Fat, Skim, Lactose Free, A2, Organic, Unpasteurised and Raw Bath Milk. But wait... there's more...
Now you'll find Soy Milk and even Rice Milk in the fresh milk section. Then, if you move onto the Long Life milk, you can add Almond Milk, Macadamia Milk, Hazelnut Milk, Coconut Milk, Oat Milk and even Quinoa Milk to the list. You can get milk made from just about everything these days. So which one is the best?!
Well there will always be a 'flavour of the month', I'd have to say at the moment Coconut Milk is quickly climbing to the top of the list, alongside Almond Milk, most likely due to the recent Paleo Trend. The simple answer to which milk you should choose would have to be that you choose which milk makes you feel the best. If you feel tired, bloated, snotty, crampy, gassy or puffy after consuming it, then try something else until you find something that suit you a bit better.
So we're gonna do our best to break it down for you to hopefully give you a fighting chance on your hunt for a new milk. There are several things to consider including digestibility, fat content, sugar content and allergies. Here are a few of the different types of milks and how they compare.
The A2 protein in the milk is more easily digested, so if you're not lactose intolerant, and you're keen to stick to Cow's milk then give this a go. You may find it a little more easy on the gut. This is not suitable for individuals who are sensitive to Casein or Lactose. Most often A2 milk is full cream milk so it does contain a normal amount of fat.
Skim/Low Fat/No Fat Milk
It's just regular milk with low or no fat. If you are lactose intolerant or sensitive to the casein or other proteins in the milk, you will find you still react. In comparison to regular full cream or full fat milk however, you may find your reaction to be slightly less. This is because low or no fat milk can sometimes be watered down so you tend to get a little less actual milk per glass.
Lactose Free Milk
This milk is just regular old milk with the addition of Lactase Enzyme to break down the Lactose in the milk for you. This is a good option for people who are Lactose Intolerant and lack the ability to produce enough, or any, Lactase Enzyme themselves. This is not suitable for individuals who are sensitive to A1 proteins or Casein.
Soy was one of the first and most popular alternatives to Cow's milk. It is free from all the highly allergic and hard to digest parts of regular Cow's Milk. It is still nice and thick if you are looking for that creamy texture. Soy products have their benefits and downfalls when it comes to hormones and phytoestrogen. That's a debate for another time, but if you are unsure about it then maybe move on and check out some of the other alternatives.
Nut Milk (Almond, Macadamia, Hazelnut etc)
These milk alternatives are usually a lot more easily digested and do not contain any of the Cow's milk proteins or sugars that are quite often very hard for a human gut to digest. You just have to be a little cautious if you have nut allergies. They are quite fine for people with Lactose intolerance as they contain no Dairy products. Nut milks tend to have a bit of fat in them, but because they fats and oils are from the nuts it is good fat so there is no need to feel guilty. There are no phytoestrogens in Nut Milks so they make a good alternative to Soy also.
Grain Milk (Quinoa, Oat etc)
Basically the same as Nut Milk really, maybe a little more carbs and sugars and bit less fat and protein but the digestibility is basically the same. As far as allergies go, it's about the same as Nut Milk but without the nut allergy risk, however, you need to be cautious of Gluten in Oat milk, however Quinoa Milk is Gluten Free.
We finally come to the bottom of the list. Coconut Milk is one of the best, no Cow's milk allergies, no Soy or Phytoestrogens, no Nuts, no Grains, no Gluten. Coconuts naturally contain Coconut oil which is highly beneficial. It's low carb and low sugar too, but doesn't really have much protein. I guess the only downside is the very few people that may be sensitive to Coconuts or just not like the Coconut flavour.
Well there you have it, all your current milk options and their benefits, allergy information, digestibility and comparisons. All that's left to do is try some for yourself and see what works best for you. Good Luck!!!