Milk is a staple food in the diet of many countries around the world. It is a rich source of calcium, protein and other vital nutrients. Recently, there has been an ongoing debate about milk. Yes, you read it right. The debate revolves around whether raw or pasteurized milk is the safest and most nutritious option.
Before we delve into the benefits of milk and how to consume it, let’s look at the differences between raw and pasteurized milk.
Difference between raw milk and pasteurized milk
Raw milk comes directly from a cow, buffalo, goat, sheep, camel or any other lactating animal. It is the type of milk that has not gone through any treatment and is “intact”.
Pasteurization is a heat treatment process that involves heating a liquid to a specific temperature for a specified period of time to kill harmful bacteria present in it and extend the shelf life of the product. This process is named after Louis Pasteur, who developed the technique in the 19th century.
Below are the significant differences between raw milk and pasteurized milk:
- The main difference between raw milk and pasteurized milk is that raw milk is, well, raw, while pasteurized milk is treated.
- Raw milk is unprocessed, meaning it has not been pasteurized or homogenized and is in its natural state with all of its inherent enzymes, minerals and vitamins. In simple words, it is not heat treated to kill bacteria and other contaminants.
- On the other hand, pasteurized milk is heated to a specific temperature to destroy harmful bacteria and extend the shelf life of the milk and then cooled. The temperature used to pasteurize milk ranges from 63°C (145°F) to 138-150°C (280-302°F), depending on time.
- Since raw milk is not pretreated, it contains harmful bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. These bacteria can cause serious illness, especially in young children, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems. Its consumption by these vulnerable populations is not recommended due to the risks associated with bacterial contamination.
- While pasteurized milk is considered better because it kills the harmful bacteria present in raw milk and makes it safer to consume.
- The milk available in markets and stores is pasteurized. There are many households, especially in India, where people buy raw milk directly from milkmen. Although raw milk is often boiled before consumption.
Raw or pasteurized milk: which is better?
At the beginning of the article we talked about the current debate between raw milk and pasteurized milk. Many people have the belief that raw milk is the better of the two because it is “intact” and contains all the good bacteria and nutrients. They also say that the heating process used in pasteurizing milk destroys its health benefits.
This is simply not true.
Healthline explains that this is not the case. 100 grams of milk contains about 3.14 g of protein. 80% of this is casein, the globular protein found in milk. When milk is heated to high temperatures during the pasteurization process, it is not affected by casein, as it is thermostable.
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Pasteurization does not destroy the health benefits of milk. It has almost the same nutritional benefits as raw milk; However, it does reduce the risk involved in consuming the latter. Although pasteurization does not affect the nutritional value of milk, it can slightly affect its flavor and texture.
In general, the decision to consume raw or pasteurized milk depends on personal preference and risk tolerance. Some people prefer raw milk for its perceived health benefits, while others opt for pasteurized milk to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. While raw milk enthusiasts argue that it is more nutritious and tastes better, health authorities recommend pasteurized milk as the safest option due to the risk of bacterial contamination in raw milk. It is important to consider the benefits and risks before reaching a conclusion.
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