The benefits of goats milk

Many people are turning to goats’ milk products as a ‘healthier’ alternative to dairy products — indeed the UK market is now worth £50?million a year.

At around £1.40 per litre (compared with 52p for cows’ milk), goats’ milk is clearly not cheap — but is it worth the outlay?

First, let’s look at the nutrition.

‘Both cows’ and goats’ milk contain similar levels of calcium and most other vitamins and minerals,’ says Jennifer Lowe of the British Dietetic Association.

But when it comes to vitamin B12 — which is important for the formation of healthy red blood cells — cows’ milk wins hands down.

‘Half a tumbler of cows’ milk contains nearly two thirds of the recommended daily intake — you’d have to drink nine times that amount of goats’ milk to get the same levels,’ says Lowe.

Some children given goats’ milk have been found to have B12 deficiency (symptoms include fatigue and weakness).

However, goats’ milk may boost iron absorption more effectively than cows’, according to a study last year from the University of Granada in Spain.

The study also found goats’ milk contained higher levels of zinc and selenium, which help the immune system.

Furthermore, many fans of the milk claim that those with an allergy to cows’ milk can happily pour goats’ milk on their cereal.

But this may not be the case.

If you have an allergy to cows’ milk — around five per cent of the UK population is thought to be affected — you’re likely to have a similar response to goats’ milk, and sheep’s milk, too.

‘The protein that causes an allergy is very similar in all these types of milk,’ says Lowe.

People who claim to be intolerant to lactose, the natural carbohydrate in milk, often swap cows’ for goats’ milk.

But Lowe points out that, ‘the two actually contain similar levels of lactose — 4.1 per cent in goats’ compared with 4.7 per cent in cows’ — so switching to goats’ milk won’t make any difference to your symptoms.’

Goats milk
Goats milk

Instead those people with a lactose intolerance should opt for a dairy-free alternative such as soya milk. But could goats’ milk help you shed the pounds?

When it comes to calories and saturated fat, there’s little difference between cows’ and goats’ milk.

A 100ml serving (about half a tumbler) of whole fat cows’ milk provides 67 calories and 3.9 grams of fat, while goats’ contains 60 calories and 3.5 grams of fat.

The semi-skimmed versions of both contain around 45 calories and 1.7 grams fat.

However, although it may not be a great help to slimmers, some claim that goats’ milk helps to minimise abdominal bloating.

It’s true that its fat globules are generally smaller than those in cows’ milk so the body’s digestive enzymes can break it down more rapidly — however, there’s no confirmed link with reduced abdominal bloating.

Other more tried and tested methods of reducing bloating include avoiding foods such as onions and cauliflower, which are known to be a cause of the problem.

Experts also recommend trying to avoid ‘gulping’ too much air when drinking and eating.

They advise chewing with your mouth closed, not talking and eating at the same time, and sitting down when you eat.

Drinking lots of fluids is also important, and some experts believe that consuming foods and drinks with probiotic ‘friendly’ bacteria may also help.

And last year’s study at the University of Granada found goats’ milk contained a significant amount of oligosaccharides, compounds that reach the large intestine undigested and act like prebiotics, enhancing the growth of healthy ‘probiotic’ gut flora that wards off infections.

There’s been a 40 per cent rise in demand for goats’ milk for children in recent years, the result of an increase in the numbers said to be either allergic to dairy or unable to digest it.

But goats’ milk is not for babies and young infants — the proteins are too concentrated for young children to digest and some sources of it are unpasteurised, raising the risk of bacterial infection, diarrhoea and sickness.

According to the Department of Health: ‘Infant formulas and follow-on formulas based on goats’ milk protein have not been approved for use in Europe’.

So when you’re considering whether to switch to goat, it seems that sticking with old-fashioned cow may be better for your health — as well as your wallet.

Drink your milk

NOT so long ago Britain’s milk arrived on the doorstep each morning in two varieties: regular silver top and extra-creamy gold top. More health-conscious families might opt for semi-skimmed or even skimmed but that was about as interesting as it got.

These days a growing awareness of the risks of eating too much fat has seen gold-top sales shrink to less than one per cent of the £2billion-a-year milk market, while there is an explosion in the choice of healthier dairy products.

Now consumers can choose milk which can help stave off a heart attack, milk containing fish-oil derivatives or varieties that have never been anywhere near a cow.

Goats’ milk

A recent study claims a regular glass of goats’ milk can fight illnesses from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to anaemia, heart disease and osteoporosis.

A team from Granada University in Spain concluded compounds in goats’ milk can kill bacteria and that it is easier to digest than cows’ milk because it contains far less lactose (milk sugar). The study does warn goats’ milk is not suitable for children under 12 months while NHS advice is that infant formulas based on goats’ milk are unlikely to help youngsters with cows’ milk allergies.

Sheep milk

Sheep milk is said to have a high-protein, calcium and zinc content and is easily digested. The British Sheep Dairying Association says it’s an ideal substitute for light cream in recipes and is delicious on cornflakes or in coffee. The association warns against boiling as this turns the milk into an “egg custard” and recommends heating it carefully in a microwave.


Sheep milk is richer in vitamins A, B and E than cows’ milk and is a useful source of essential elements such as potassium and magnesium, believed to help maintain strong bones and control blood pressure.

Omega 3 milk

The first omega 3 milks, St Ivel Advance and Marks & Spencer’s own-label Super Whole Milk, hit the UK market in 2005.

With long-chain omega 3 fatty acids derived from fish oil, they rode a wave of interest in research showing the importance of this nutrient for brain development.

Omega 3 is also credited with reducing the risk of heart disease, helping to ensure healthy nails, hair and skin, and reducing stiffness in the joints of arthritis sufferers. One 250ml glass of this type of milk can contain as much as 10 times the level of omega 3 as in standard whole milk.

Cholesterol-busting milk

Brands such as Flora pro.activ contain plant sterols and stanols which reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol that contributes to coronary heart disease.

They work by reducing cholesterol absorption from the gut. According to the British Dietetic Association, 2-3g a day is the amount needed to have an effect on people with a raised cholesterol level.

The positive effects only last as long as you keep taking the substance and consuming a larger amount will not increase the effect.

One per cent fat milk

Before 2008, EU regulations divided milk into three categories according to fat content. These were whole milk (minimum 3.5 per cent fat), semi-skimmed (average 1.7 per cent) and skimmed (0.05 to 0.1 per cent).

Anything other than this had to be labelled as “milk drink”. Since that date, milk can have any fat content so long as it is clearly marked. One per cent milk suits those who want a lower fat content. According to the Dairy Council, this type of milk has slightly lower levels of vitamins A and E than semi-skimmed but a higher calcium content.

Filtered milk

Brands such as Cravendale are passed through extra-fine filters before pasteurisation to remove more bacteria.

This can extend the shelf life by up to 45 days at temperatures up to 7C and has no effect on nutritional content.

Rice milk

Normally made from brown rice and unsweetened, rice milk contains more carbohydrate than cows’ milk but less calcium, protein and fat. It has no lactose or cholesterol and is often fortified with calcium and vitamins.

Soya milk

Often used by vegetarians and those with an allergy to the lactose in cows’ milk, soya milk is said to have cholesterol-lowering properties and to be rich in antioxidants which prevent cell damage. Some studies have also identified a phytochemical in soya milk that can help prevent development of cancers.