Milk for health and fitness

Milk

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Not so long ago when you bought milk , your choice would have probably been full-fat, semi- skimmed or skimmed. But now whole industry has sprung up to offer range of alternative milks — from almond and coconut to hemp and soya. Not only are they catering for the increasing number of people who are lactose-intolerant, but also those that oppose the disturbing treatment of factory-farmed cows or who simply feel that cows milk is not meant for human consumption.

Most alternative milks are now fortified with calcium (which helps build strong bones and teeth, and ensures that blood clots normally) and vitamin D (which is important for encouraging the absorption of calcium from food) so they have many of the benefits of normal milk.

Almond milk is good source of magnesium, which helps to break down food can help with the function of the parathyroid glands, thus helping improve the health of your bones. It’s also loaded with manganese, vitamin E which is an antioxidant that protects the cell membranes and selenium which is good for our immune system and the thyroid gland, while also prevents cell damage and tissue damage. Almond milk is also a good source of unsaturated fat, protein, flavonoids and potassium, and has less sugar than soya.

Made from water and soya beans, soya milk is higher in protein than other dairy-free options – a 250ml glass provides 8g soya protein, a third of the 25g that experts say reduces cholesterol.  It is packed with protein and fibre, includes the presence of cancer-fighting isoflavones, minimal saturated fat and the absence of galactose, which means that it can replace breast milk for galactosaemic children. It’s also safe for the lactose intolerant and anyone with an allergy. The sugar content, particularly in the flavoured versions can be high.

Rice milk is made from water, pressed rice and sunflower oil and contains twice the carbohydrates of dairy  and almost no protein (some products are fortified). It is the most hypoallergenic of all the substitutes and is extremely nutritious and also the least fattening of all the milk alternatives with only one gram of unsaturated fat per cup. The unsaturated fat comes from rice bran oil, which can help lower your blood cholesterol. Niacin and vitamin B6 are also good for this while the high magnesium content helps to control your blood pressure. Iron and copper increases your red blood cell production, giving you better oxygenated blood and more vitality. As rice is highly starchy, so is rice milk, one cup of rice milk contains 33 grams of sugary carbohydrates, three to four times the amount in milk or soya milk which could be a problem if you have diabetes, maybe causing a sudden sugar overload.

Oat milk is made from water, oats and rapeseed oil. A 250ml glass provides 1g beta-glucan soluble fibre – a third of the suggested daily intake that may lower cholesterol levels. Like many plant versions, oat milk is cholesterol and lactose free, and also contains high levels of antioxidant vitamin E. It also contains folic acid, which is essential for most bodily functions and is needed to synthesise and repair DNA, produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anaemia. As it is from a plant source, oat milk is usually tolerated by people with multiple allergies. It is also a good source of phytochemicals which are naturally occurring chemicals in plants that help fight diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke. Oat milk is high in sugar and doesn’t have the calcium and protein content of cow’s milk and since it’s derived from a cereal crop, it’s also no good for people who are allergic to gluten.

Coconut milk is made from water and coconut  (pressed coconut flesh), it is low in protein and quite high in saturated fat, but it’s a type (medium chain triglycerides) that’s good for you. It is a very creamy, dairy-free alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to animal milk.   Also a vegan drink, it is also soya-free, gluten-free, cholesterol-free and nut-free while its fat content is considered to a ‘good fat’, easily metabolised by the body and quickly turned into energy rather than being stored as fat. Coconut milk is also rich in lauric acid, a substance also found in human milk, which researchers have shown have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

Hemp milk is another alternative for anyone with soya and nut allergies, it is also cholesterol and lactose free, low in saturated fats and rich in healthy omega fatty acids. Hemp is also an excellent source of protein and tastes creamier and nuttier than soya milk or rice milk, and also tends to be a bit thicker than other plant-based milks. Like other plant milks it lacks calcium.

Goats milk is another alternative to consider. It is reported to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and apparently the people of Sardinia who drink it regularly, routinely live to be one hundred! It has 15 percent more calcium, and more vitamin A and D, potassium, copper and manganese than cow’s milk. It is also a good source of phosphorous and riboflavin (vitamin B2). Goats are not treated with growth hormones either and they produce less methane than cows but it does have less folic acid and vitamin B12 than cow’s milk though, as well as a little less zinc.

You may decide to stick with your glass of semi-skimmed, but whatever you do there are now plenty of alternatives to give a try.

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