Delicious with a slightly sweet and sometimes salty undertone, goat's milk is the milk of choice in most of the world. Although not popular in the United States, it can be found in markets and health foods stores throughout the year.
Unlike cow's milk there is no need to homogenize goat's milk. While the fat globules in cow's milk tend to separate to the surface, the globules in goat's milk are much smaller and will remain suspended in solution. When individuals have sensitivity to cow's milk, goat's milk can sometimes be used as an alternative
Goat's milk is a very good source of calcium and the amino acid tryptophan. It is also a good source of protein, phosphorus, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and potassium. Perhaps the greatest benefit of goat's milk, however, is that some people who cannot tolerate cow's milk are able to drink goat's milk without any problems. It is not clear from scientific research studies exactly why some people can better tolerate goat's milk. Some initial studies suggested that specific proteins known to cause allergic reactions may have been present in cow's milk in significant quantities yet largely absent in goat's milk. The alpha-casein proteins, including alpha s1-casein, and the beta-casein proteins were both considered in this regard. However, more recent studies suggest that the genetic wiring for these casein proteins is highly variable in both cows and goats and that more study is needed to determine the exact role these proteins might play in the tolerability of goat's milk versus cow's milk. Other research has found some anti-inflammatory compounds (short-chain sugar molecules called oligosaccharides) to be present in goat's milk. These oligosaccharides may make goat's milk easier to digest, especially in the case of compromised intestinal function. In animal studies, goat's milk has also been shown to enhance the metabolism of both iron and copper, especially when there are problems with absorption of minerals in the digestive tract. These factors and others are likely to play an important role in the tolerability of goat's milk versus cow's milk. Allergy to cow's milk has been found in many people with conditions such as recurrent ear infections, asthma, eczema, and even rheumatoid arthritis. Replacing cow's milk with goat's milk may help to reduce some of the symptoms of these conditions.
Goat's milk can sometimes even be used as a replacement for cow's milk-based infant formulas for infants who have difficulties with dairy products. Unfortunately, goat's milk is lacking in several nutrients that are necessary for growing infants, so parents interested in trying goat's milk instead of cow's milk-based formula for their infants should ask their pediatricians or other qualified healthcare practitioners for recipes and ways to add these important and vital nutrients. For older children and adults, however, goat's milk can be an excellent calcium-rich alternative to cow's milk as, in addition to calcium, it contains many of the same nutrients found in cow's milk.
Calcium-A Mineral for A Lot More than Strong Bones
Goat's milk is a very good source of calcium. Calcium is widely recognized for its role in maintaining the strength and density of bones. In a process known as bone mineralization, calcium and phosphorus join to form calcium phosphate. Calcium phosphate is a major component of the mineral complex (called hydroxyapatite) that gives structure and strength to bones. A cup of goat's milk supplies 32.6% of the daily value for calcium along with 27.0% of the DV for phosphorus. In comparison, a cup of cow's milk provides 29.7% of the DV for calcium and 23.2% of the DV for phosphorus.
Building bone is, however, far from all that calcium does for us. In recent studies, this important mineral has been shown to:
Help protect colon cells from cancer-causing chemicals
Help prevent the bone loss that can occur as a result of menopause or certain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
Help prevent migraine headaches in those who suffer from them
Reduce PMS symptoms during the luteal phase (the second half) of the menstrual cycle
Calcium also plays a role in many other vital physiological activities, including blood clotting, nerve conduction, muscle contraction, regulation of enzyme activity, cell membrane function and blood pressure regulation. Because these activities are essential to life, the body utilizes complex regulatory systems to tightly control the amount of calcium in the blood, so that sufficient calcium is always available. As a result, when dietary intake of calcium is too low to maintain adequate blood levels of calcium, calcium stores are drawn out of the bones to maintain normal blood concentrations.
Dairy Foods Better than Calcium Supplements for Growing Girls' Bones
For young girls going through the rapid growth spurts of puberty, getting calcium from dairy products, such as goat's milk, may be better for building bone than taking a calcium supplement, suggests a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Finnish researchers enrolled 195 healthy girls aged 10-12 years and divided them into 4 groups. One group was given supplemental calcium (1000 mg) + vitamin D3 (200 IU) each day. The second group received only supplemental calcium (1000 mg/day). The third group ate cheese supplying 1,000 mg of calcium each day, and the fourth group was given a placebo supplement.
At the beginning and end of the study, DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scans were run to check bone indexes of the hip, spine, and whole body, and the radius and tibia were checked by peripheral quantitative computed tomography.
At the conclusion of the study, girls getting their calcium from cheese had higher whole-body bone mineral density and cortical thickness of the tibia than girls given supplemental calcium + vitamin D, supplemental calcium alone, or placebo. While the researchers noted that differences in the rate at which different children naturally grow might account for some of the differences seen in bone mineral density, they concluded: "Increasing calcium intake by consuming cheese appears to be more beneficial for cortical bone mass accrual than the consumption of tablets containing a similar amount of calcium."
Calcium-rich Dairy Foods Boost the Body's Burning of Fat After a Meal
Those ads linking a daily cup of yogurt to a slimmer silhouette may have a real basis in scientific fact. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition not only shows a calcium-rich diet is associated with fat loss but may help explain why.
Normal-weight women ranging in age from 18-30 years were randomly assigned to a low (less than 800 mg per day) or high (1000-1400 mg per day) calcium diet for 1 year, and the rate at which their bodies burned fat after a meal was assessed at the beginning and end of the study.
After 1 year, fat oxidation (burning) was 20 times higher in women eating the high calcium diet compared to those in the low-calcium control group (0.10 vs. 0.06 gram per minute).
The women's blood levels of parathyroid hormone were also checked and were found to correlate with their rate of fat oxidation. (The primary function of parathyroid hormone is to maintain normal levels of calcium in the body. When calcium levels drop too low, parathyroid hormone is secreted to instruct bone cells to release calcium into the bloodstream.)
Higher blood levels of parathyroid hormone were associated with a lower rate of fat oxidation and lower dietary calcium intake, while lower blood levels of parathyroid hormone levels were seen in the women consuming a diet high in calcium, who were burning fat more rapidly after a meal. So, it appears that a high-calcium diet increases fat oxidation, at least in part, by lessening the need for parathyroid hormone secretion, thus keeping blood levels of the hormone low.
Dairy Foods Protective against Metabolic Syndrome
Including goat's milk and other dairy products in your healthy way of eating may reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome by up to 62%, shows the 20-year Caerphilly prospective study involving 2,375 Welsh men ranging in age from 45-59. Researchers have proposed that conjugated linolenic acid (a healthy fat found in greatest amounts in dairy foods from grass fed cows and goats) may improve insulin action and reduce blood glucose levels. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2007 Aug;61(8):695-8.
Practical Tip: Enjoy a pint of milk and/or a serving of yogurt, cottage cheese or cheese daily. Men who drank a daily pint of milk in the Caerphilly study reduced their risk of metabolic syndrome by 62%. Regular consumption of other dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese, reduced metabolic syndrome risk by 56%.
Dairy Foods' Calcium Protective against Breast Cancer
When French researchers analyzed the dietary intakes of 3,627 women using five 24-hour records completed over the course of 18 months, those with the highest average dairy intake had a 45% lower risk of developing breast cancer than women with the lowest average intake. When only pre-menopausal women were considered, benefits were even greater; those with the highest average dairy intake had a 65% reduction in breast cancer risk.
Analysis indicates the calcium provided by dairy foods is the reason why. Increasing calcium intake was associated with a 50% reduction in breast cancer risk for the whole population, and a 74% reduction for pre-menopausal women. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(2):139-45. Epub 2007 May 29.
Practical Tip: In addition to foods made from goat's or sheep's milk, you can also increase your calcium intake by making sesame seeds; spinach; blackstrap molasses; and collard, turnip or mustard greens, regular additions to your healthy way of eating.
Energy Producing Riboflavin
Goat's milk is a very good source of riboflavin, a B vitamin important for energy production. Riboflavin (vitamin B2) plays at least two important roles in the body's energy production. When active in energy production pathways, riboflavin takes the form of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) or flavin mononucleotide (FMN). In these forms, riboflavin attaches to protein enzymes called flavoproteins that allow oxygen-based energy production to occur. Flavoproteins are found throughout the body, particularly in locations where oxygen-based energy production is constantly needed, such as the heart and other muscles.
Riboflavin's other role in energy production is protective. The oxygen-containing molecules the body uses to produce energy can be highly reactive and can inadvertently cause damage to the mitochondria (the energy production factories in every cell) and even the cells themselves. In the mitochondria, such damage is largely prevented by a small, protein-like molecule called glutathione. Like many "antioxidant" molecules, glutathione must be constantly recycled, and it is vitamin B2 that allows this recycling to take place. (Technically, vitamin B2 is a cofactor for the enzyme glutathione reductase that reduces the oxidized form of glutathione back to its reduced version.) Riboflavin been shown to be able to reduce the frequency of migraine headaches in people who suffer from them.
One cup of goat's milk supplies 20.0% of the daily value for riboflavin, comparable to the 23.5% of the DV for riboflavin provided in a cup of cow's milk.
A Good Source of Protein
Goat's milk is a good source of low-cost high-quality protein, providing 8.7 grams of protein (17.4% of the daily value for protein) in one cup versus cow's milk, which provides 8.1 grams or 16.3% of the DV for protein. The structure of humans and animals is built on protein. We rely on animal and vegetable protein for our supply of amino acids, and then our bodies rearrange the nitrogen to create the pattern of amino acids we require.
Cardiovascular Protection from Potassium
Goat's milk is a good source of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. Since a cup of goat's milk contains 498.7 mg of potassium and only 121.5 mg of sodium, goat's milk may help to prevent high blood pressure and protect against atherosclerosis.
The effectiveness of potassium-rich foods in lowering blood pressure has been demonstrated by a number of studies. For example, researchers tracked over 40,000 American male health professionals over four years to determine the effects of diet on blood pressure. Men who ate diets higher in potassium-rich foods had a substantially reduced risk of stroke. A cup of goat's milk provides 14.2% of the daily value for potassium.
While in the United States, we may think of goat's milk as a beverage alternative to cow's milk, in most areas of the world, the opposite is true. Worldwide, more people drink goat's milk than cow's milk.
Most people assume goat's milk will have the same strong musky taste for which goat cheese is famous. Yet, in fact, good quality goat's milk has a delicious slightly sweet, and sometimes also slightly salty, taste.
The scientific name for goat is Capra hircus.
Goats have played a role in food culture since time immemorial with ancient cave paintings showing the hunting of goats. They are also one of the oldest domesticated animals since the herding of goats is thought to have evolved about 10,000 years ago in the mountains of Iran.
Goat milk and the cheese made from it were revered in ancient Egypt with some pharaohs supposedly having these foods placed among the other treasures in their burial chambers. Goat milk was also widely consumed by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Goat milk has remained popular throughout history and still is consumed on a more extensive basis worldwide than cow's milk.
How to Select and Store
When purchasing goat's milk, always use the "sell-by" date as a guide to the shelf life of the goat's milk. Smell the top of the container to make sure that the milk does not smell of spoilage, which could have been caused by being stored for a period of time outside of the refrigerator. Select goat's milk from the coldest part of the refrigerator case, which is usually the lower section.
Goat's milk should always be refrigerated since higher temperatures can cause it to turn sour rather quickly. Always seal or close the milk container when storing it to prevent it from absorbing the aromas of other foods in the refrigerator. Avoid storing goat's milk in the refrigerator door since this exposes it to too much heat each time the refrigerator is opened and closed.
How to Enjoy
For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Next time you want a glass of milk, try goat's milk instead.
Goat's milk yogurt makes a wonderful base for savory dips. Simply mix in your favorite herbs and spices and serve with crudité.
Crumble some goat's cheese on a salad of romaine lettuce, pears and pumpkin seeds.
Crumbled goat cheese is a wonderful rich topping for split pea soup.
Add extra taste and protein to a vegetable sandwich by including some goat's cheese.
Soft, spreadable goat cheese is an exceptional accompaniment to crusty whole grain bread or crackers and fruit.
Top sliced tomatoes with crumpled goat cheese and fresh basil. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
Goat's milk, like cow's milk, contains the milk sugar, lactose, and may produce adverse reactions in lactose-intolerant individuals. (Goat's milk is only slightly lower in lactose than cow's milk, with 4.1% milk solids as lactose versus 4.7% in cow's milk.)
Introduction to Food Rating System Chart
The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. Read detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System.
Goat's milk1.00 cup244.00 grams167.90 calories
NutrientAmountDV(%)NutrientDensityWorld's HealthiestFoods Rating
tryptophan 0.11 g 34.4 3.7 very good
calcium 325.74 mg 32.6 3.5 very good
phosphorus 270.11 mg 27.0 2.9 good
vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 0.34 mg 20.0 2.1 good
protein 8.69 g 17.4 1.9 good
potassium 498.74 mg 14.2 1.5 good
World's HealthiestFoods RatingRule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%
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