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Both organic and conventional milk packed with nine nutrients

Posted on Dec 13, 2013 by Maggie LaBarbera

A new study conducted by Washington State University was just released that indicates an increased nutritional benefit from organic milk versus conventional (non-organic) milk.  The study looked at the composition of fatty acids in both types of milk.  The researchers analyzed 384 monthly samples of organic and conventional whole milk from seven regions throughout the United States, over an 18 month period.

Before I discuss the findings, it is important to understand what is omega-3s and omega-6s.  Omega-3 refers to omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 refers to omega-6 fatty acids.  Fatty acids are the building blocks of fats which are necessary for health. Omega-3 is used to regulate blood clotting, build cell membranes and support cell health. It's a heart-healthy kind of fats that help reduce blood triglycerides (fats) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the bad cholesterol.  Omega-6 is needed in smaller amounts than omega-3 and too much of it can increase inflammation of the cell (not good).  American's diet tends to be higher in omega-6 and lower in omega 3 fats.  We need to reverse that ratio for a healthier lifestyle.

Here are the key findings from the study*:
  • whole milk contains about 2% saturated fatty acids, with little difference between organic and conventional milk,
  • there is little difference in the content of monounsaturated fatty acids.
  • large differences in the fatty acid composition of organic and conventional milk were found in another key category of milk fatty acids—those that are polyunsaturated
  • Organic milk was found to have much lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids, and higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids

The study states that the increased in Omega-3s are a result of the diet of cows.  Organic milk comes from cows that eat grass, often you will see the term "grass-fed" cows that graze in  the pasture for their foods.  Non organic milk usually comes from cows that are fed grain, corn silage or other high-energy feedstuffs.

So what does this really all mean to us and how does this affect our meal planning for our family?  

In general, you could say that organic milk has more healthy fat (omega-3s) than conventional milk.  But the reality is that milk has a very small amount of fatty acids overall.  We don't really drink milk for the healthy fats.  We drink milk for the main 9 nutrients that include calcium, vitamin D, potassium and protein.  These key nutrients are found in all milk, regardless if it is organic or not.

The USDA recommends 3 servings a day of milk or dairy products because of the calcium and vitamin D and not because of the small amount of omega 3s found in milk.  So drinking organic or regular milk will give you all these wonderful nutrients that your bones, teeth and body needs.

If we really want to increase the amount of omega-3s that Americans consume then we need to look to foods that are a large contributor of these nutrients.

We need to look at: 

  • fish like salmon
  • oils
  • avocado
  • Edamame
  • wild rice (not to be confused with white or brown rice)
  • flax
  • beans
  • chia seeds
  • walnuts

By changing the oil that you cook to avocado or canola oil with increase the omega-3s in your diet.  Also choosing fish regularly and adding flax, nuts and beans to your diet will also increase the omega-3s in your diet.

If you can afford organic milk, great!  But if you can't, be assured that your family will be getting 9 essential nutrients and you can increase their omega-3 intake by choosing foods that are high in this essential fatty acid. 






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