Milk is one of the most important foods in the world. Mother’s milk is the first food we consume, and we continue with milk that comes from cows, buffalo, sheep and goats. Certain regions may also use milk of camel, donkey or yaks, as per availability. Whatever the source, there is no denying that milk and milk products are an integral part of our daily diet. Milk is a versatile, nutrient-rich fluid with several health benefits. Products like yogurt, cheese, paneer, khoya etc. made from milk are also used extensively in our food preparations. Nutritionally, milk is considered an essential food for babies and growing children. For adults, it is the best source of bioavailable calcium in addition to quality proteins.
The debate that cow’s milk is better than buffalo milk, or vice-versa, has been around for some time.
1. Nutritional Value
2. Traditional Thinking
5. Versatility of Use
NIN Indian Food Composition Tables 2017
Nutritionally, both forms of milk stand in a similar position. But, carbs are almost twice the amount in Buffalo milk and the total fat content is higher in buffalo milk.
Cow’s milk is lighter and can be stated to be less fattening. Because of its lesser fat and carb content, it is more easily digested, making it a good choice for infants and aged people.
Buffalo milk on the other hand will make better paneer, desserts and ghee. It is also a better choice for body builders and those lucky people who need to put on weight.
Ayurveda believes that both sources of milk are nutritious and choices should be made on the basis of personal health goals. Both milks act as natural aphrodisiacs; both provide strength and both calm Pitta dosh while helping in relieving burning sensation. However, ghee from buffalo milk may increase Kappha dosh, but that from cow’s milk calms Pitta dosh while improving digestion. Both are cooling.
Based on the above evidence, I would recommend that choose according to your health goals. Cow’s milk seems better for children, aged and people with impaired digestion.
Unless you are getting the animal milked in front of you, most milk delivered at home would be mixed milk. There are some farms that are reliable as the source of milk; even the commercial dairies like Mother dairy and Amul pack cow milk separately.
My take: Choose your source of milk after due diligence if you are particular about the source.
It all comes down to personal taste and choice. Both kinds of milk are sweet on the tongue, buffalo milk being a little creamier.
My Take: Personal taste should make you choose, although, both are equally good in taste.
Evidence: Buffalo milk makes better paneer, khoya and desserts. Cow’s milk is lighter so will give a more watery taste to the dishes. Here, I personally think that Buffalo milk is better.
- Nutritionally, milk is a great source of proteins. Milk contains 82% casein and 18% whey proteins. Whey proteins are associated with protection against some cancers. Studies have proven that whey proteins enhance immune responses and have also shown anti-microbial activity. Some studies have also hinted at anti-viral activity of whey proteins.
- It supports bone and heart health, both of which need adequate daily intake of calcium.
- Milk is a good source of potassium, which helps the blood vessels dilate and reduce blood pressure.
- Fermented milk products like yogurt and cheese are known to be beneficial for gut health and the immune system. Probiotics and immune system are closely related. Yogurt is one of the best probiotics and is easily available.
- The calcium and vitamin D in milk may protect against cancer.
- Fortified milk is a good source of Vitamin D, which in turn helps in the production of the happy hormone Serotonin, aiding in mental health.
- Tryptophan present in milk helps with better sleep. Milk at bedtime is known to help sleep better and has been traditionally used across the world.
Milk is good for every age. As adults, we need low fat or skimmed milk, two glasses a day are more than adequate to meet our nutritional needs. Adding adequate milk in your daily diet is a necessary option. You get health benefits and if the quality and quantity is right, you can’t go wrong.
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.