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Valerie Pampuch: Milk can be part of a healthy diet

There seems to be an ongoing debate whether humans should be drinking milk. I get it. It doesn’t quite make sense because that milk was intended for infant offspring.

Milk contains a small amount of a naturally occurring sugar, lactose. Babies are born with lactase, the stomach enzyme needed to break apart and digest lactose. When we age, the amount of stomach lactase can decline, and this makes sense because as we age we no longer need the breast milk of our mothers.

However, many years ago, our ancestors drank the milk of other mammals to survive, and lucky for us, evolution has made it possible for many of us to “stomach” milk.

So, should you be drinking it now that you’re able to read this article and clearly no longer a baby?

Beyond the health benefits milk provides our bones and teeth, it has been shown to have a positive affect on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease due to its heart healthy amount of calcium, magnesium and potassium. Vitamin B12 is required to maintain healthy nerves, red blood cells and energy productions, and for normal cell division.

Vitamin B12 can be difficult to find in the diet if you do not eat meat and is often low in older populations; luckily milk has a healthy amount of vitamin B12, just another reason to drink a glass.

Milk also can be a better choice for replenishing electrolytes after exercise because it contains potassium and sodium, the primary electrolytes lost in sweat.

If you’re lactose intolerant, you don’t have to miss out on the benefits of drinking milk. Most grocery stores sell lactose-free milk that already has the lactose broken down into its easy-to-digest sugars glucose and galactose. It’s just as nutritious as regular milk. Another option is using an over-the-counter lactase enzyme that comes in a pill form.

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