Milk, the Drink of Choice at the Indy 500

Posted: June 18, 2013

Usually the winners of sporting events pop open a champagne bottle and douse themselves with the bubbly to celebrate. The winner of the Indy 500 though celebrates with milk!

While I wonder how that smells after a while, it was great to see Tony Kanaan celebrating a long sought victory this year with a bottle of milk. June, being National Dairy Month, I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at milk, since it is such an all American beverage.

When someone says “have a glass of milk,” we think of cow’s milk; however, people in other parts of the world drink milk from a variety of sources including camels, water buffalo and sheep. While we may think in terms of cow’s milk, technically the term dairy milk is used to refer to milk which comes from animals. Dairy milk is a natural source of many vitamins and minerals and is often fortified with vitamins A and D. More and more we are seeing non-dairy milks, such as soy, rice, coconut or almond on grocery store shelves. These may or may not be equal in nutrition to dairy milk; however, they are an important source of nutrients for people with milk allergies, religious beliefs that do not allow for consumption or lactose intolerance and vegetarians and vegans.

When looking at the nutrients in dairy milk, we all know that it is a good source of calcium and protein. In addition, dairy milk provides phosphorus (major part of bones and teeth), potassium (helps maintain normal blood pressure), vitamin B12 (helps make red blood cells) and riboflavin (produces energy in cells). If you have wondered why milk is packaged in cardboard or opaque containers, it is because riboflavin is easily destroyed by ultraviolet light--opaque containers help to prevent that destruction. Additionally, vitamin D is added as this helps the body better absorb the calcium found in milk. Non-dairy milk, coming from a plant source, will not have the same nutritional profile as dairy milk. When choosing these beverages, be sure to look at the Nutrition Facts panel, especially focusing on calcium, fat and protein content to see how they compare to dairy milk.
Today we have a multitude of options when it comes to choosing the type of milk we drink. Here are some general tips when it comes to selecting between dairy or non-dairy beverages.
•    Compare Nutrition Facts panels and choose the product with the nutrition profile you want based on you and your family’s overall health and needs. Dairy milk ranges from 2% of calories from fat (skim milk, cows) to 54% of calories from fat (whole goat’s), of which 1% to 35% are calories from saturated fat. The percent of calories from fat in non-dairy milks range from 13% (light soy milk) to 97% (coconut milk). Except for coconut milk, only about 3% of these fat calories come from saturated fat.
•    Compare calcium content. Since milk is a major calcium source, be sure that non-dairy milk options have been fortified. Cow’s milk, no matter what the fat content has about 293 mg calcium/cup, goat’s milk 327 mg calcium/cup and non-dairy milk’s between 41 to 301 mg calcium/cup.
•    Compare vitamin D content.  Most dairy and non-dairy beverages are fortified to provide about 25% of the amount needed on a daily basis.
•    Always store milk in the coldest part of the refrigerator; this helps extend the shelf life.
•    Dairy milk can be frozen, but once thawed, the texture may be changed. If used in cooking, this is not a problem, but some people may find it unacceptable as a beverage. Most non-dairy beverage manufactures do not recommend freezing their product because of changes in texture that make it unacceptable when thawed.
•    In baking, dairy milk plays a variety of roles from enhancing crust color, delaying staling, adding softness and creaminess to baked good and other foods. Non-dairy beverages may or may not provide the same qualities in a recipe. In some recipes, non-dairy beverages may curdle faster, and they may change the flavor of the final product.
•    Generally, you may substitute 1:1 or cup for cup of one kind of milk or non-dairy beverage for cow’s milk. Depending on the type of milk you use, you may have to decrease the amount of sugar in the recipe as many of these milks have added sweeteners, add a little heart healthy oil or alter a leavening agent.
One last note, whatever type of milk you drink, it is best when it is ice cold. During the summer, I like to put ice cubes in my milk to make it an extra cold thirst quenching drink. While I don’t suggest pouring milk over your head like the Indy 500 winner, I would encourage you to enjoy a nice cold glass of the milk of your choice!
Source: Mason, D., April 2012, Many Milks, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture.