Foods, such as tea, coffee, and fruits, having high antioxidants provide various health benefits. Milk is an essential part of Indian culture. Most Indian households consider it as an indispensable part of not just the culture but also the daily nutrition needs.
However, many studies have concluded that milk might block the benefits of the antioxidant properties found in these foods. There are studies with contrary results too. In this article, let's dig deeper into whether milk blocks antioxidants found in food and beverages.
Milk in Ayurveda
To get a deep understanding of the matter at hand, we need to understand the precise role that milk plays within Ayurveda.
It promotes Ojas, which is a substance produced by our bodies from a subtle level of complete digestion, and it gives us strength, happiness, and immunity, according to Ayurveda.
According to Ayurvedic principles, for proper digestion of milk, one should always boil it before consumption and avoid drinking cold milk straight out of the refrigerator. The molecular structure of milk changes on heating, making it easier for consumption and digestion as it reduces Kapha.
Milk might have some mucus-causing side effects, but these side effects can be reduced by adding spices like black pepper, cinnamon, or turmeric to the milk while boiling it.
Ayurvedic medicine puts milk and dairy products at a very high pedestal. Milk is a source of proteins and fats and a portion of sweet food (Rasa). The Rasa property of milk gives nutrition to our tissues and cells. Since milk has so many health benefits attached to it, it seems worthy of drinking even if milk blocks antioxidants in several food items.
Ayurveda recommends that people consume organic, whole, and non-homogenized milk since homogenized milk is heavy and hard to digest. Further, it restricts mixing milk with anything sour, salty, or bitter. These tastes are incompatible with milk and can cause harmful toxins to build up in the body. Warm milk is recommended over cold milk and should be consumed at least an hour after having a meal.
Ayurveda considers about eight kinds of milk fit to consume by humans, but it considers cow's milk to be the most important of them since it has many benefits for the human body. Milk from cows is regarded as the best alternative to a mother's milk as it is easy to digest and highly nutritious.
It also contains Vitamin D, which is very important for absorbing calcium in the body, meaning that milk helps in strengthening our bones. Due to this property of milk, women undergoing menopause are recommended to make milk a daily part of their diet. Milk is also very beneficial in strengthening the immune system and the urinary system. Since it is such a power-packed beverage, it raises an even more intriguing question: Can milk block antioxidants found in various food and beverages?
Effects of Milk on Different Ayurvedic Constitution of Our Body
Vata - Heavy, nutritious, and moisturizing food is the best suited for Vata dosha, and milk is the food that suits this description the best. Fermented dairy products are also suitable for people with Vata dosha. These products, however, can be heavy and difficult to digest for those who have a weak digestive system. Therefore, people with Vata dosha should only consume dairy products while they are warm and after they are infused with spices.
Pitta - For people with Pitta dosha, dairy products are very beneficial as milk helps in calming down the digestive fire and reducing acidity. Milk reduces the aggressiveness of Pitta and harmonizes the mind. However, people who have Pitta dosha should be careful about sour dairy products as they can increase acidity and the digestive fire, which can be harmful.
Except for low-fat milk, all other dairy products should be avoided or limited in Kapha dosha. Kapha dosha results in mucus, and drinking dairy at such times can worsen it. Warm dairy products can still be consumed during Kapha dosha.
Now that we've properly understood the role of milk in Ayurveda, we need to discuss antioxidants to properly understand whether milk blocks antioxidants found in various foods and beverages.
What are Antioxidants?
Oxidation is the process by which molecules give up electrons, leading to the production of free radicals. Free radicals carry electrons with them wherever they can. This process can be damaging and harmful to cells. It can be a genuine concern if milk blocks antioxidants from various foods.
Free radicals also contribute to aging and diseases like dementia and complications in diabetes. This process is avoidable by consuming antioxidants, which come in many forms. Many antioxidants are produced naturally by our body, and we take some with what we eat throughout our day. Fruits, tea, and coffee have vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and polyphenols, all antioxidants.
An antioxidant-rich diet is essential in protecting against inflammation caused by free radicals and oxidative stress. It also helps in reducing the risk of health problems that may arise due to oxidation. This is why we need to be informed about whether milk blocks antioxidants from foods rich in them.
Milk and Antioxidants
Many antioxidant foods are paired with dairy very often. Some examples of such foods are tea with milk, coffee with milk/cream, Milk Chocolate, Fruit with cream, oatmeal with milk, and berries with yogurt.
Some early research believes that it is possible that milk blocks antioxidants in some beverages or foods. These studies state that when you add milk to tea, it is possible that milk blocks antioxidants that are present in tea to a certain extent. This happens because the casein in milk proteins binds with antioxidants, reducing their ability to counter harmful free radicals.
A study titled 'The effect of milk alpha-casein on the antioxidant activity of tea polyphenols' found that the antioxidant capacity in tea was reduced by 11-27% on adding milk proteins. However, the same study found that the antioxidant capacity in tea was improved from 6% to 75% when a different measure of milk protein was added to the tea. The results, however, have been very conflicting as some studies also show that milk has no effect or even a positive effect on antioxidants.
The variations in results are probably due to the different types and amounts of milk used, the type of tea used, the way tea was prepared, and the way the test was conducted. Similar results have been found on tests done with coffee, blueberries, and chocolates, even though all these foods have different kinds of antioxidants.
Another study titled, 'The antioxidant capacity of cocoa products: contribution to the Spanish diet' found that milk blocked antioxidant properties in coffee by almost 30% when milk was added to coffee. Another study on 'Plasma antioxidants from chocolate' found that milk blocks antioxidants completely for chocolate.
When experimented on blueberries, a study titled, 'Antioxidant activity of blueberry fruit is impaired by association with milk' found that the absorption of polyphenols was reduced, and antioxidants were blocked when milk was added to blueberries.
Similar results were seen in coffee when mixed with milk. The antioxidant properties had decreased, and the more milk that was being added, the lesser the antioxidant capacity became in the coffee.
Most studies point out that milk blocks the antioxidant properties of some foods and reduces their benefits.
Although most studies have concluded that milk blocks antioxidants or decreases them in certain foods, others have found that the decrease only happens up to a certain extent.
Some studies found that milk decreased the antioxidant properties of foods and drinks by only 30%. It should also be noted that a fall in the antioxidant properties of food items does not mean that the health benefits of the food item have decreased as well.
Should We Continue Using Milk With High Antioxidant Foods?
As mentioned above, even though many studies have found that milk blocks antioxidant benefits, it only does it up to a certain extent. There is no conclusive proof that milk blocks antioxidant capacity in certain foods. Other studies suggest that milk does not block any antioxidants; instead, it increases them.
Furthermore, we have seen that the advantages of milk, especially cow milk and dairy products, outweigh any minor disadvantages that milk could cause by blocking oxidants. Milk is so important in Ayurveda that the Ashtanga Sangraha has a complete section called Ksheer Varga, which describes milk and dairy products.
When it comes to milk and antioxidants, there are not just one but several factors that affect the antioxidant properties and the nutrient content of any food or beverage. Even though the disadvantages will not be serious, consume as many high antioxidant-rich foods and beverages in your day-to-day life as possible to balance out any disadvantages that could be caused by milk.
Authored by: Bhavishya Pahwa
About the Author: Bhavishya Pahwa is a budding writer who has always confided in a pen. He believes that art is a cure-all and that introspection followed by writing can add to the sanity of the world.