Got milk? Make sure it's a healthy version
Just last week we had an interesting conversation in our office about skim milk. Names such as 'white water' and 'skimp milk' were mentioned. For people who grew up drinking whole milk, the idea of changing to skim milk, also known as fat-free milk, is unpleasant.
However, because of the fat content in whole milk, it is a good idea for adults to convert to the lower fat milk and dairy choices. A good way to do this is to gradually change from whole milk to 2 percent milk and then to 1 percent milk and finally to skim milk.
Most of us do not get enough calcium in our daily diets, and drinking 1 percent or fat free milk is a great way to increase our calcium intake. Beside calcium, milk is one of the best sources of phosphorus, riboflavin, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and muscle-building protein. The good news is that 2 percent, 1 percent and skim milk all contain these important nutrients.
The nutrients in milk play a vital role in the maintenance of strong bones and teeth, body tissue growth, protection of vision and skin, maintenance of normal blood pressure, and the production of energy in the body's cells.
If some of your family members are babies or children between the ages of 1 and 2 years, it is important to follow the milk consumption guidelines outlined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These guidelines state that babies younger than 1 should drink breast milk or iron-fortified formula, and cow's milk is not appropriate for babies before their first birthday.
The guidelines also state that whole milk is best for children between the ages of 1 and 2 years. At this age, the extra fat is necessary for growth and proper brain and nervous system development. After 2 years of age, 1 percent or fat-free milk is best. The extra fat in whole milk is not needed after 2 years of age. As mentioned earlier, the best choice for adults is 1 percent or fat-free milk.
Milk should be kept very cold, at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less. This will prevent growth conditions for dangerous bacteria and will help make the lower-fat milks taste better.
During our office conversation about skim milk, several people mentioned that since they have changed to skim milk, whole milk seems too thick and heavy and they now prefer the skim milk to whole or 2 percent milk.
Making changes is never easy, but getting used to drinking lower fat or skim milk is something we can do. This change will reduce you and your family's risk of heart disease and stroke.
Victoria Steinfelt is a Family & Consumer Sciences agent and may be reached at the Yuma County Cooperative Extension, 726-3904