Milk is much more than lactose
Health is not something complex which comes just from smoothies, diets and superfoods. It is simple mindfulness about the foods and food products which are the integral part of our life.
Let’s keep it simple and think about something which forms an important element of our daily life- MILK (Dugdha). It is derived from the root “duh” which means to be milked or yielded. So in traditional sense, it doesn’t include the vegan milk substitutes like rice milk, oat milk, almond milk, etc.
It holds an important place in everyone’s pantry. But there is so much more to milk than just lactose, fats, dairy, vegan or vegetarian
According to Ayurveda eight kinds of milk are considered digestible for human intake-
Human breast milk, Cow’s milk, Buffalo’s milk, Camel’s milk, Goat’s milk, Sheep’s milk,Horse’s milk and Elephant’s milk
Few of them are so strange even to read about. Most of the above mentioned milks were used in ancient practice for medicinal purposes. Milk is considered to be a very good anupan (carrier drink which helps in better absorption if medicines enhances their effect on the body). E.g.- Turmeric has so many benefits when used as a spice in cooking, but when mixed with milk, it becomes a potent anti-inflammatory, healing, relaxing herb so such so that it has become famous as golden milk. So mixing herbs with milk can be a very effective way to take the herbs of your choice and enjoy their benefits.
The milk of different animals has different properties. It is the cumulative effect of these properties that is seen in people in different age groups, living in different climatic zones in different times of the year, having different body constitutions, different diet patterns and accustomed to different types of food and lifestyle – all these variable factors need to be considered before deciding the type of milk that is best suited for the particular individual.
The best amongst the milk family after human breast milk is Cow’s milk
Milk according to Dosha-
Cow’s milk reduces Vata and Pitta and builds a healthy Kapha.
Properties of Cow’s milk:
Madhura (inherently sweet), Sheetal (cold in potency), Snigdha (mucous enhancing), Mrudu (soft), Bahala (copious), Slakshna (smooth), Picchila (slimy), Guru (difficult to digest), Manda (slow acting), Prasanna (clear)
- Prinana: Provides contentment & nutrition
- Brihana: Provides nourishment to body
- Vrushya: Increases potency
- Balya: Increases strength
- Medya: Develops intelligence
- Jivanaiya: Provides longevity
- Manaskara: Pleases mind
- Shramhara: Alleviates exhaustion
- Trishghna: Alleviates thirst
- Agni vardhak: Improves digestive fire
- Daha nashak: Pacifies burning sensation
With so many benefits it is one of the best wholesome foods.
Milk in today’s world-
I grew up in India, where the milkman delivered freshly milked cow’s milk at our doorstep. My Mother then boiled it (pasteurised it) with the cream naturally separating and rising up. So, low fat, skimmed, full fat milk was all in the same vessel. Mother decided what was best for whom. This is the milk we had in morning before school and at bedtime. Just thinking about it gives me so much relaxation.
Even today, this is how milk is distributed in most parts of India. Such simplicity has so many benefits-
- As the milk is from a single cow there is no mixing of different milks. Such milk is very light and digestible.
- These cows have a large outdoor area to roam in, eats only natural, good-quality food and is well cared for. Usually the cows are milked after the calf has its share. So no voilation of calf rights.
- As the milk is delivered daily, the is no need to store it and refrigerate it for long. Storing and refrigerating milk for longer periods diminishes the qualities of milk and makes it heavier to digest.
- There is no homogenisation of milk which poses so many health risks. Process of homogenisation is not for consumers but for manufacturers to increase its shelf life.
Not all of us can enjoy this previlege of owning cows or fresh milk delivery. In that case it is best to have the closest possible alternative- Try and get pasteurised milk. Rather than stocking up, use it fresh.
More the number of processes (UHT, tetra packing, refrigeration, homogenisation), more the amount of something white, chemical based which looks like milk, which has hardly any benefits and more dangers such as allergies, bloating and indigestion.
Few more things to know-
If the milk is consumed cold and without boiling (pasteurising), it is difficult to digest; if boiled properly, it is easily digestible. Hence warm milk after boiling should be used for intake on regular basis. Milk should not be boiled too much. It should be removed from fire the moment the boiling point is reached. Excessive boiling destroys all nutritious principles and vitamins and renders milk unfit for consumption. It is a perfect food by itself.
Milk can be consumed at any time. But it should not be taken immediately after meals. Being a wholesome food in itself, it gives best results, when it is not combined with other dietary substances. The science behind this is opposite food combinations. The chemical composition and qualities of the food we eat change by the time they reach our stomach and intestines. This is known as after taste(Vipaka) in Ayurveda. The after taste of bananas, most of the fruits and vegetables is sour. The after taste of milk is sweet. Hence when these two foods are combined together, it curdles, does not get digested or absorbed in our body. Thus next time when you decide to eat fruit custard, milk cake, pan cakes, egg + milk just remember this principle.
Milk combines well with oats, rice, dates, almonds, sugar, turmeric, cardamon, saffron, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Milk is also useful in various disorders such as Cold, Breathing problems, Constipation, Anemia, Uterine disorders, seminal disorders, dysuria, oliguria and many others.
People suffering from conditions like fresh fever, weak digestion, problems due to Ama, and certain skin conditions, certain painful conditions of the intestine, increased kapha, cough, loose bowel movements and intestinal worms should avoid milk intake.
Ayurveda does not consider milk products as an extension of milk. Ayurveda ascribes different specific properties to diverse milk products which are different from the properties of milk.