Milk has been famous as a storehouse of nutrients since forever. Didn't your mother tell you that the minerals in milk help build strong bones and teeth?
In recent years, milk's status as a healthful beverage has been fortified, as more information about the value of its constituents has become known. That ubiquitous drink contains protein, carbohydrates, vitamins A, D, E, and K, calcium, niacin, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, and sodium, as well as other minerals.
Each of these nutrients makes an important contribution to your health. Consider protein, for example. Proteins are composed of amino acids, which build and maintain body tissues, fight off disease, transport oxygen in the blood, regulate blood sugar, aid in making the hormones that regulate our metabolism, and supply energy.
The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance of protein is your weight in pounds times 0.4 grams of protein. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you require 60 grams of protein a day. A cup of milk contains about 8 grams of protein. By drinking two cups of milk a day. plus daily servings of cereal, bread, dried-bean soup, and rice or another grain dish, you can easily meet your protein requirements.
Although vegetarians are often accused of having protein-deficient diets, the fact is that many nonvegetarians ingest too much protein, causing a detrimental effect on their bodies. Dietician Nancy Clark, author of The Athlete's Kitchen, says, "Americans eat two or three times as much protein as they need." Pat Croce of the Philadelphia Inquirer says, "If more protein is eaten than required by our system's needs, it simply turns into unwanted fat." In addition, excess protein can result in an increased risk of dehydration, heat fatigue, and heat stroke, as well as cause diarrhea, gout, a loss of appetite, and a loss of calcium.
Calcium, also found abundantly in milk, is not something one wants to lose. Calcium is required for the blood to clot and for the heart to function normally. And it protects the teeth by neutralizing the cavity-forming acids in foods.
Also, today's health-conscious woman knows that getting enough calcium throughout her life is important for protecting bone health. Women run a high risk of developing osteoporosis, a bone degeneration disease that afflicts up to 20 million Americans with a weakened skeletal structure (brittle bones) and is a leading cause of death among older women in the United States.
The recommended daily allowance of calcium is 800 milligrams, but in 1986 the average calcium intake among women was only 650 milligrams—78 percent of the recommended amount. Proper milk intake could solve this problem, as one cup of milk contains about 300 milligrams of calcium. And besides curbing osteoporosis, calcium is also thought to lower high blood pressure and, according to some scientists, prevent cancer.
Unfortunately, however, in the United States soft drinks are more popular than milk. In fact, soft drinks are more popular than water. A recent survey showed that over the eight-year period from 1977 to 1985 soft drink consumption increased from 6 to 10 ounces per person per day, and now stands at 401 cans per person per year. Researchers from the dairy industry, in an attempt to counteract this trend and put the fizz back into their sales, are working on a carbonated version of milk that won't leave a mustache on your upper lip or a film on your tongue.
"It's a lot like club soda," says Anthony Lukas, president of Dairy Research, Inc. "It's very refreshing. Normally, milk coats the mouth, and people won't drink it to quench their thirst. But carbonated milk doesn't do that." Lukas claims that his product, which will be available late this year, will have all the nutritional value of milk—at a little higher price.
Even without the fizz, milk is relished by devotees of Lord Krishna both in the morning with breakfast and in the evening just before bed. Srila Prabhupada confirms that "there is a miracle in milk, for it contains all the necessary vitamins to sustain human physiological conditions." But beyond that, he points out, there is also a quality in milk that is yet to be discovered by scientists in their laboratories. Describing milk as "liquid religiosity," Prabhupada writes that it is effective for "maintaining the finer tissues of the brain for understanding higher aims of life." In former ages great saints often subsisted only by drinking the one or two quarts of milk that householders would donate to them each day.
Now, unfortunately, people draw milk from the cow artificially, and when there is no milk the cow is sent to be slaughtered. "These greatly sinful acts," Srila Prabhupada writes, "are responsible for all the troubles in present society. People do not know what they are doing in the name of economic development."
So, milk is important for bodily maintenance and spiritual growth. If we can appreciate milk's benefits, we will also appreciate the cows that deliver milk so generously. We can begin to view cows with affection, rather than as food. Lord Krishna Himself is fond of cows and calves, and as we develop affection for the cow and appreciation for her unique product, we will feel our minds becoming clearer and our hearts softer.