People are often surprised to learn that I use whole milk. Quite a few folk who’ve been round at my house recently have noticed this and commented on it, so I thought I’d mention it here and explain why. Reactions seem to take the form of either (or sometimes both) of two questions: 1) “Aren’t you supposed to be healthy?” and/or 2) “Isn’t that full of animal fat?!”. The answers to which are 1) yes and 2) not really.
I’m a big fan of consuming foods in a format as close to their natural state as possible. I like organic produce, not because I’m convinced it’s more nutritious, but because I don’t particularly like the idea of introducing second-hand pesticides, antibiotics etc into my system – and organic fruit and veg just taste better anyway. I can’t afford to have everything organic, but I do always buy organic milk because it’s one of the few foods that’s been proven to be more nutritious when it’s organic – and I eat quite a bit of porridge!
So why the whole milk? To address the ‘healthy’ question first; not only is organic milk more nutritious than non-organic milk, but whole milk is better for you than skimmed or semi-skimmed milk. This is because your body can’t properly absorb the nutrients in the milk without its fat – not only the calcium and protein, but the vitamins in it such as A and D are fat-soluble, therefore your body needs the fat to process and store them. So skimmed milk fortified with vitamins and minerals is pretty much a waste of time – and money! If you can find non-homogenised milk, so much the better, as that’s even more natural.
As for the fatty issue… well yes, of course milk contains animal fat – but it isn’t a high fat food. We’ve been indoctrinated for years into thinking that all animal fat should be avoided like the plague and we should switch to skimmed milk and low-fat dairy products. But in fact whole milk is only around 3.5% fat, which is actually pretty low in the grand scheme of things. A high fat food is classified as something that contains more than 20 grams of fat per 100 grams. So for the sake of the extra nutrients you get from whole milk it’s worth that little extra bit of fat – although obviously I’m not advocating that you drink gallons of the stuff!
Recent research has shown that animal fat isn’t the bad guy it was once made out to be. The real baddies in our diets are now processed fats and refined sugar. So enjoy dairy produce in moderation. I have butter on my Sunday cinnamon and raisin toast too, so there. You might enjoy a small piece of good quality cheese a couple of times a week. Milk is also a great post-exercise recovery drink. If I’ve had a long or hard run I have my super milkshake as soon as I get back; this is 250ml milk, a teaspoon of cocoa and a banana whizzed up in the blender – a fab combination of carbs and proteins to start the recovery process while I’m stretching and having a shower.
So don’t be afraid to enjoy full fat milk without feeling guilty, it’s a great natural source of nutrition.