milk photoIt seems as though the generic image of a balanced breakfast is incomplete without milk, the hallmark of childhood wellness. The white liquid is so pervasive in our culture we seldom take the time to think about it. But even milk is not safe from the probing activities of a growing faction of nutrition conscious Americans, nor has it been safe from the extreme diversification of options in the grocery store. Milk consumption is declining, the number of milk substitutes are increasing, leaving the average American consumer at a loss for answering the essential question: “Got Milk?”

Interpreting the term milk to loosely mean animal milk and similar substitutes, a great deal of variation in nutrition ought to be noted. According to Milk Life, the average 8 ounce glass of animal milk has around 8 times the naturally occurring protein of imitation milks. Additionally, the types of proteins found in plant-based sources are often incomplete. People drink milk alternatives to either avoid allergic reactions (commonly to lactose, a naturally occuring sugar in animal milk) or because it carries the connotation of added health benefits. However, the primary added ingredient to imitation milk products is not necessarily beneficial. All the sugar in a glass of almond milk is added, while all the sugar in a glass of regular white milk is naturally occuring. Milk Life lauds real milk as a “nutrient powerhouse,” favorable to plant-based alternatives.

But even with the modest surge in the number of alternatives to cow milk, consumption of all milk in the American diet has been plummeting in recent years, and wealth and prosperity are to blame. A sharp rise in the number of beverage options has pushed milk from its once prominent place in the American diet. Children and teens, once the largest demographic of milk drinkers, have been the ones to take the greatest advantage of this beverage renaissance. Milk in general is 37% less prominent today than it was in the 70s, with whole milk taking a hit twice that size. The Washington Post attributes this data to a rise in the number of options available on the shelves, seemingly providing consumers with an unprecedented plethora of options. However, increasing choice seems to parallel a declining population health, a trend which milk is quietly watching from the sidelines. As people are drinking a greater variety of beverages, they miss the nutrients that a drink like milk provides in full.

Milk has long been the poster child for healthy children and families. Whole milk was ravaged by the fat-free craze of the late 20th century, and the boom of milk alternatives has only deepened the consumer’s confusion surrounding health benefits and detriments. While it is a nutrient powerhouse, too much of a good thing is almost always detrimental. However, a wariness of the insufficiently nutritional beverages that have replaced milk ought to be adopted when considering alternatives.    



1 Comment
  1. William 2 years ago

    I like the way you gave two different reasons for decline of milks popularity. I did not think about the advent of different drink alternatives as one of the causes of milks decline. I have noticed the general decline of milk drinking, especially in a family that does not drink milk due to the calcium. Overall, great job on the milk education.

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