Milk is a soluble mixture of a number of nutrients in varying composition, depending upon the animal from which it is taken. Milk is regarded as the most complete of all foods since it contains complete proteins, some amount of fat, all the vitamins and minerals (meagre amounts of iron and vitamin C). Modern science agrees with the fact that milk contains all the nutrients in a balanced amount that are required by the human body for basal nutrition and metabolism. It predominantly contains sugar, fats, minerals iron and sodium and vitamins A and B.
Fat. Milk contains fat in the form of tiny micellar droplets, most of which are lost upon formation of cream. Hence skimmed or fat free milk can be taken for the protein and micronutrient content without the harmful effects of consuming fat.
Protein. Lactalbumin and caseinogens are the major proteins contained in milk. These two are complete proteins and therefore increase the nutritive value of milk. Besides, it also contains a large number of other proteins of the gamma globulin family.
Minerals. Milk contains an entire range of all the essential minerals, the most important of which are sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium. These minerals are important for enzyme activity, proper nerve conduction, bone and dental health and maintaining electrolyte balance.
Vitamins. Milk contains all the vitamins like vitamin A, B1, B2, B12, C, D, E but it mostly contains vitamin A and D with trace amounts of vitamin C.
Sugar. The sugars contained in milk provide energy for maintaining normal basal metabolism since the carbohydrates are easily digested and absorbed. Milk represents complete nutrition for children, elderly and for the sick.
Milk and Nutrition
Milk strengthens the bones of children since it contains abundant amounts of calcium and phosphorus besides vitamin D, and that too in an easily absorbed form. It helps the children to become taller by helping the development of muscles and long bones. It also strengthens immunity. Milk is good for liver since it contains lactose which prevents the absorption of certain harmful substances by the intestines which could cause liver damage. Some of the proteins contained in milk are not present in any other source of food. It has been seen in a study that refraining some children of milk for 10 days led to an imbalance in the protein pool of blood. Milk is also good for nerves. It has a positive effect on healing stomach and duodenal ulcers and also soothes their pain when consumed cold.
Milk as a Preventive Medicine
A study published in the journal Lancet from the University of California has studied the food consumed by 1,000 men over a period of 20 years. It was found that those who drank 2 cups of milk per day were less likely to develop colon cancer. Another similar study from Japan has concluded that moderate consumption of milk prevents the risk of gastric cancer. It has been known for some time that milk consumption is good for people with gastric or duodenal ulcers. Besides preventing spreading of the ulcer foci, it has been seen that the prostaglandins contained in milk help in healing the ulcers or mouth sores.
Breast Milk is the Best Milk For Infants
Mother’s milk or Breast milk cannot be replaced by any other source of nourishment. It is naturally sweeter than cow’s milk, hence is easily consumed by infants without much effort. Powdered milk or even cow’s milk can never replace mother’s milk. Therefore it is mentioned in Al-Quran
“The mothers shall suckle to their children for two whole years “ (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:233)
Feeding of Breast milk helps in development of suckling power and proper oral development. It also has a calming effect on the mood and behaviour of child in the long run. It has a laxative effect on the intestines of baby which prevents constipation. It also promotes the development of oral, gut and intestinal microflora (good bacteria) which aid in digestion, absorption and also prevents the development of harmful pathogens. Feeding of Breast milk also prevents the incidences of Infant Death Syndrome (IDS) by 73%. It also decreases the chances of developing Type II Diabetes later in life apart from eczema, asthma, childhood leukaemia and childhood obesity. Because of these and many other reasons, the World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends exclusive feeding of Breast milk to a new born for six months, with gradual increments of solid foods thereupon.
Why feed Colostrum to the newborn
The thick yellowish milk of the mother, colostrum, that is secreted immediately after parturition is important for the child for two major reasons:
It provides passive immunity to the newborn which protects him from diseases and infections till the time when his own body develops a fully functional immune system.
It smoothes the gut of the infant which makes the passage of meconium (the first faeces passed by the newborn within a few hours of birth) easy, which can otherwise block the intestines of the baby and lead to various long term rectal and anal complications which might also include surgery.
It is no wonder that because of these two reasons, it is now advertised on a massive public scale by the Government agencies to feed colostrum to newborns.
Composition of Breast milk and Cow milk
|Major Nutrients||Breast Milk||Cow Milk|
|Saturated fat (g)||4.9||4.6|
|Monounsaturated fat (g)||4.1||2.0|
|Polyunsaturated fat (g)||1.2||0.5|
|Vitamin C (mg)||12.3||0|
Milk in Prophetic Medicine
Milk is one of the signs of Allah, the Exalted which is evident from the saying in the glorious Quran “And verily in the cattle, there is a lesson for you. We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies, from between excretions and blood, pure milk; palatable to the drinkers.” (Soorah Al-Nahl, 16:66).
Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah narrated with a hasan isnad from the Beloved Prophet (PBUH) “whoever is given milk to drink, let him say, ‘O Allah bless it for us, and give us more of it,’ for there is nothing that takes the place of both food and drink except milk”. It is also quoted in Al-Tibb An-Nabawi that “The most loved of drinks to the Beloved Prophet (PBUH) was milk”.
Since the early part of the twentienth century, extensive research in the field of nutrition has confirmed that milk is the best and the most complete source of nourishment for humans. It is for this reason that it is the primary source of nutrition for all newborns (man, cattle, sheep, goats) since it is easy to ingest, digest, is easily and readily absorbed into the bloodstream without much waste.
The messenger of Allah (PBUH) has said “Allah does not create any disease but He also created the remedy for it. You should drink cow’s milk, for it eats from all plants”. This makes it certain that cow’s milk is the best form of milk and the best source of nutrition for man.