In their book “Kinderernährung – Expertenwissen für den Alltag” (German only), Swiss nutrition experts Dr George Marx and Andrea Mathis give a comprehensive overview of the wide-ranging and often controversial topic of child nutrition. We translated a selection of their insights and publish their findings on this blog to make them available to a wider audience. Please find the links to further posts of this series at the end of this contribution.
Nearly every one of us grew up with it and was supposed to drink a lot of it in order to grow up as big and strong as possible. For many decades, milk has been considered to be a healthy, natural product and advertised as such not only by the dairy industry. Many nutritional scientists recommend the daily consumption of milk and dairy products. The variety of nutrients found in milk and products made from it is impressive.
Nowadays, milk and dairy products are among the most controversial foods. Consumers, especially parents of young children, are increasingly unsure. Whom should we believe? Is milk good for you or bad for you?
In this article, we answer the most important questions about milk, the consumption of milk and dairy products, as well as milk alternatives.
My children refuse all milk. What should I do?
This is not a problem. Other dairy products, such as yoghurt, cheese and quark, can easily meet the need for calcium. Calcium-enriched alternative drinks, such as almond or oat milk, can also be used.
Does the consumption of milk and dairy products increase mucus formation in the respiratory tract or digestive tract?
The mucus production theory is a myth. Milk, when it mixes with saliva in the mouth, does indeed feel rather similar to the consistency of mucus, however mucus formation is not stimulated by the consumption of milk. There is no scientifically based proof of this.
Does the quality of the milk suffer as a result of being processed? Is UHT milk worse than regularly pasteurized milk?
The UHT process (ultra-high temperature) is very similar to pasteurization and high-temperature pasteurization. However, the milk is preserved at significantly higher temperatures. It is heated for a few seconds to 135 to 150 °C and immediately cooled. Thereafter the milk is germ-free and can be kept for eight to twelve weeks.
The UHT process results in somewhat higher vitamin losses than in the case of pasteurization (see table on losses due to preservation and boiling below). Overall, preservation has only minor effects on the vitamin content of the milk.
|B1, in %
|B6, in %
|B12, in %
|Folic acid, in %
|Vitamin C, in %
|Source: Renner E: Milch und Milchprodukte in der Ernährung des Menschen, ed 4. München, Volkswirtschaftlicher Verlag, 1982.
How much milk should my child drink?
Between 300 and 500 ml per day, depending on age.
Is cow’s milk suitable for children at all?
Yes, cow’s milk is suitable and because of its nutrient composition, it makes an important contribution to a healthy diet.
Is organic milk better?
Organic milk has a better ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acid proportion, which is considered to be health-promoting, is higher because the cows are fed grass and herbs.
Dairy products, like many foods, are also contaminated with hormone and pesticide residues. The risk of this is lower in the case of milk from organic farmers.
By contrast, the calcium, vitamin and trace element content is the same.
Are soy or almond milks a complete substitute for cow’s milk?
No. Soy and almond milks are among what are known as milk alternatives, along with coconut, rice, hemp and oat milks. With regard to vitamins and minerals, none of the natural products listed can compete with a mammal milk. In addition to cow’s milk, these also include other animal milks, such as goat’s and sheep’s milk. The nutrient profile of these mammal milks is unique. Milk contains various vitamins and is rich in protein and minerals. Sugar and other sweeteners are additionally added to some milk alternatives and for this reason, the ingredients list should be examined carefully.
In children who do not tolerate cow’s milk products due to lactose intolerance or an allergy to cow’s milk protein, alternative milks are appropriate if they are enriched with calcium.
Please feel free to download this tasty, healthy and easy-to-prepare recipe which will soon be a favorite of your children!
Please check out the other posts of our series here:
- Why Is Dietary Calcium so Important for Children?
- How Useful Is a Gluten-Free Diet?
- What Are the Effects of Sugar on Health?
- How Important Is Proper Vitamin Intake for My Child?
- Which Sugar Alternatives Are Available?
- What Are the Tasks of the Microbiome?
- How Healthy Is a Vegetarian/Vegan Diet?
- Where and How Can I Cut Down on Sugar in Daily Life?
- How Can I Make My Child’s Diet as Sugar-Free/Low in Sugar as Possible?