Nutrition

The truth behind 9 common milk myths

©iStockphoto.com/Lise Gagne Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©iStockphoto.com/Lise Gagne

Nutrition

The truth behind 9 common milk myths

1. Not drinking milk will help you lose weight
Truth: "Quite the opposite," says Sandra Bourdeau, a registered dietitian with the Dairy Farmers of Canada. "Studies suggest that milk products may help prevent weight gain or help with weight loss when part of a low-calorie diet."

Protein in milk curbs your hunger, and not feeling hungry makes it easier to eat less. For weight control, use skim or one per cent milk instead of two per cent or whole, says Patricia Chuey, a Vancouver-based registered dietitian and the chair of the board 
of directors of Dietitians of Canada.

2. Pasteurization destroys the vitamins and minerals in milk
Truth: Pasteurization destroys bacteria so milk is safe to drink, but it does not decrease milk's nutritional value, says Bourdeau. "There's a minimal loss of B vitamins, but milk contains so much of them that it remains a reliable source." And pasteurization has no impact on calcium content, she says.

3. Adding cream to your morning coffee counts as two to three servings of milk
Truth: That's untrue. According to Canada's Food Guide, one serving from the milk and alternatives group is 1 cup (250 mL) of milk, 3/4 cup (175 g) of yogurt or 1.5 oz (50 g) of cheese. We don't use enough cream to count as a full serving, which is probably a good thing, since cream is high in calories and fat. If you want what's in your morning mug to count as a serving of milk and alternatives, try a milk-based latte or cafe au lait instead.

4. Low-fat milk doesn't affect blood pressure
Truth: Studies show that people who follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet significantly reduce their blood pressure levels. DASH includes two to three servings of fat-free or low-fat milk products, eight to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit, and no more than 2,300 mg sodium per day. Milk products are key to the diet since they contain important blood pressure-lowering ingredients: Magnesium, calcium, vitamin D and potassium.

5. A cup of milk with dinner provides all your daily dairy needs
Truth: At best you're only halfway there. Adults need two to three daily servings of milk and alternatives. Kids ages two to eight need two servings, while youth ages nine to 18 need three to four servings. Adding milk to your cereal, drinking a latte and enjoying a yogurt during the day will have you covered, says Chuey. You can also try milk in smoothies and use it instead of water when preparing oatmeal or soups.

Page 1 of 2 -- Discover the truth behind five more milk myths on page 2

6. Drinking chocolate milk is as bad as drinking soda
Truth: No, you are better off choosing the milk. Sure, chocolate milk does have as much sugar per cup as soda (about half of which is found naturally), but it also has 16 essential nutrients that are not found in pop. Studies show that children who drink chocolate milk have healthier diets overall, and consume more milk and less pop than kids who don't drink chocolate milk.

The other factor to consider is portion size, says Carla D'Andreamatteo, a registered dietitian in Winnipeg. There are usually eight teaspoons of sugar in a 355 mL can of soda versus five teaspoons in a 250 mL carton of chocolate milk.

7. Having a milk allergy is the same as being lactose intolerant
Truth: No. "An allergy is an immune response to a protein, which elicits a mild to severe systemic reaction, from a skin rash to anaphylaxis," explains Sharla Stoffman, a Calgary-based registered dietitian. "Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest lactose, a natural sugar found in milk."

Some symptoms may overlap, so work with your doctor or a registered dietitian for a proper diagnosis. It's important to know the difference, since people with milk allergies need to avoid all dairy products (as well as food with dairy ingredients), while those with lactose intolerance can still enjoy some dairy by drinking lactose-free milk or taking digestive drops.

8. Organic milk is healthier than regular milk
Truth: This one is also false. Both organic and regular milk contain the same amounts of key nutrients, such as protein, calcium and vitamin D, and in Canada neither one contains hormones. The main difference lies in the farming practices: Organic dairy cows are fed crops grown without pesticides. But this doesn't mean that nonorganic dairy farmers don't use good-quality feed. Field crops generally contain minimal pesticide residues. "If you have access to and can afford organic milk, yes, it's a good choice," says Chuey. "If not, do not fear regular milk."

9. Milk is loaded with hormones and antibiotics
Truth: No. "In Canada, the use of hormones to increase a cow's milk production is not allowed," says Bourdeau. Cows requiring antibiotics are identified and milked separately. On an organic farm, if a cow requires antibiotics, its milk will never end up in your grocery store. On conventional farms, the milk from the treated cow is discarded until tests reveal it's free of antibiotic residues.

This story was originally titled "The Truth About Milk" in the May 2012 issue.

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Nutrition

The truth behind 9 common milk myths

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