While perusing through social media the other day, I came across a post about a new “milk beverage” that is promoting less sugar, fewer calories and more calcium than “regular” milk, so I thought I would do a little research.
First stop, the nutrition label of low-fat milk and the label of the milk beverage. The milk beverage has only 20 fewer calories than low-fat milk and has 8 grams of sugar, which is 4 grams less that its low-fat milk counterpart. The beverage also claims to have 45 percent of the drinker’s daily calcium needs, based on a 2,000-calorie diet, while milk has 30 percent. The “milk beverage” appears to be a “healthy alternative” to low-fat milk, but looks can be deceiving.
Looking further at the label, the “milk beverage” has 4 percent of the daily intake of total fat (including 8 percent saturated fat) and 10 mg, or 4 percent, of the daily allowance of cholesterol, based on that 2,000-calorie diet. Low-fat milk contains zero percent total fat and less that 5 mg of cholesterol, or less than 2 percent of the daily allowance. The milk substitute also has more sodium, as well as less protein and less vitamins A and C.
So, is the “milk beverage” any healthier? Doesn’t appear so, but – in the words of some of the best TV pitchmen in infomercial history – Wait, there’s more!
For me the real truth comes in the ingredient list.
The first ingredient in the milk beverage is water, followed by low-fat milk, sugar, calcium carbonate, salt, gellan gum, “natural flavors” and vitamin D3. The ingredient list on low-fat milk is milk, vitamin A palmitate and vitamin D.
Now, let’s break some of the more complicated ingredients in both down; first, calcium carbonate.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, calcium carbonate is found in nature as calcite and aragonite, and in plant ashes, bones and shells, and is used especially in making lime and Portland cement, and as a gastric antacid and a calcium supplement. Gellan gum, according to foodadditives.org, is a water-soluble anionic polysaccharide produced by the bacterium Sphingomonas elodea (formerly Pseudomonas elodea). It is primarily used as a gelling or thickening agent. It can be used in fortified beverages to suspend protein, minerals, vitamins, fiber and pulp, and suspends milk solids in diluted milk drinks.
In low-fat milk, vitamin A palmitate is the form of vitamin A found naturally in animal sources and also produced synthetically, according to the website livewell.com, and is used to fortify foods such as dairy products that have lost vitamin A palmitate in processing. Vitamin A palmitate supplements in liquid, powder and pill form are used to treat vitamin A deficiency.
In my non-expert opinion, for a product that is being marketed as a healthier choice for milk drinkers, the milk beverage doesn’t sound too yummy or healthy.
Something else I find troubling with this product is that the makers are trying to market the concoction as an alternative to milk, but it is milk, just a little watered down with salt, sugar and some other stuff.
It’s kind of disheartening that a company is trying to alter one of the most natural and healthy products available today and call it better than the original.
This isn’t the first time that a “new” product has made its to way grocers’ shelves, and it won’t be the last. There’s almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, rice milk and even hemp milk available to consumers and now the “milk beverage.” Funny how they all want to replace milk, but they keep the word “milk” out there for everyone to see. These products are also very low in or have no protein. Protein is needed for building muscles and repairing them. Studies also show that a person’s body can’t burn or use fat properly without protein, so for those who are concerned about their weight, skipping the milk might not be such a great idea.
There are benefits to the other forms of milk, such as allowing those who may have dairy allergies to enjoy a milk-like drink, and those producers who raise almonds, soybeans, rice and hemp have additional buyers for their products, but I will stick with the real stuff.
After all, there are dairy farm families across the Ozarks who are depending on me each time I go to the store.