Recent news is toting the benefits of organic milk versus conventional milk. However, the proposed benefits provided by organic milk are found mainly in whole milk.
So for those of us not consuming whole milk, does it really matter if you are drinking organic or non-organic milk?
That is up to you to decide. Many factors influence the type of milk you purchase and consume: price, shelf life, nutrients, health benefits, how the cows are raised, etc.
The following information can help you make a more educated decision on which milk to choose.
Organic Milk vs. Non-Organic Milk
Organic milk contains a more favorable balance of fatty acids, therefore reducing your chance of developing heart disease. Organic milk contains significantly more omega-3 fatty acids and less omega-6 fatty acids than conventional milk.
The dairy cows used to produce organic milk are required to spend a certain amount of time eating grassy plants that are high in omega-3 fatty acids; they must be out on the pasture for the entire grazing season and have access to the outdoors all year round. The dairy farms have specific requirements for the type of feed, health care and living conditions of the animals, and no chemical contamination.
The dairy cows used to produce non-organic milk are fed mostly corn, which is high in omega-6, and they have little access to grass year round. (Since corn is often a GMO crop, this could be a concern for some parents.)
Organic milk contains more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which increases the body’s metabolic rate, improves immunity to disease and increases muscle growth, and reduces abdominal fat and cholesterol.
Organic milk has a longer shelf-life. A different process is used to preserve organic milk - it is heated to a much higher temperature so that is can stay fresh longer; up to 2 month expiration date.
Organic milk is more expensive.
The safety and purity of the two milks is the same.
There is no difference in taste.
What Are Fatty Acids and Why Are They Important?
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential to good health. Therefore, you need to eat the right kinds of fat and the right amount to obtain these nutrients.
Both types of fatty acids are needed, and one is not better than the other. It is the proper balance of fatty acids that is important. Too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 in the diet can be harmful to your health.
The recommended ratio is 4:1 (omega-6: omega-3), and the current ratio for most Americans is much higher in omega-6s due to the consumption of processed foods -- hence the push toward drinking organic milk.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Sources: Flaxseed oil, fish or fish oil, soybeans, tofu, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, canola oil, soybean oil, olive oil
Benefits: Protection against inflammation, cancer and arthritis; and heart health. Omega 3s help lower triglycerides and increase HDL; act as an anticoagulant to help blood from clotting; and help lower high blood pressure.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Sources: Found in processed food, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, animal fats
Benefits: Prolongs the shelf-life of processed foods; aids cell growth and brain and muscle development; aids nervous system function.
Omega 6 causes pain and inflammation, which is why too much can be harmful
The protein, calcium and vitamin D contents are very similar in regular milk and organic milk, so the main difference lies in the fatty acids and the way in which the milk is produced and processed.
The health benefits are not as substantial if consuming the lower fat or fat free varieties of milk. In nonfat milk, the fatty acids are stripped away.So the next question is which type of milk you should drink: nonfat, 1 percent, 2 percent, or whole? This is a personal choice that is affected by various factors, such as calorie restriction, concerns with cholesterol and fat content, taste preference, etc.
Whether you decide to switch to organic milk or stick with conventional milk, you can improve your health by making food choices that contain healthier fats and consume a more desirable ratio of fatty acids.