Discover the amazing health benefits of goats' milk products and what sets them apart from cows milk.
More of us are becoming increasingly aware that cows’ milk may not suit us and have started to seek an alternative that is better suited to the needs of our body. Goats' milk is nutritionally closest to cows' milk than other alternatives and yet it has certain physical properties that set it apart, which may impact on digestibility and health1. Many people who perceive they have issues with cows' milk can drink goats' milk without any problems, and even say that their symptoms (such as eczema; asthma; bloatedness; constipation; digestive discomfort and catarrh) are reduced or go away altogether. More comprehensive scientific research is needed to confirm these anecdotal benefits, but there are a number of studies that have focused on the differences between the two milks.1,2,3,4,5
Whilst the fat content of goats' milk is similar to cows' milk (3.5% for whole, 1.6% for semi-skimmed and just 0.1% for skimmed), the fat globules are naturally much smaller in size2. The protein composition of goats' milk also allows it to form a softer curd during digestion, which may assist with your digestive health and comfort.
Protein is essential for the growth, development and repair of the body. However, research indicates that peoples' intolerance of cows' milk is often due to the proteins6; in particular Alpha-S1-casein.7 Although goats' milk is a source of high-quality protein providing nearly 6g per 200ml serving, goats' milk has significantly lower levels of alpha-S1-casein than most cows' milk,1 which is one of the reasons some people may better tolerate it.
Some goats' milk proteins are sufficiently similar to those found in cows' milk and may cause cross-reactivity. Importantly, goats' milk is not recommended for anyone who has been diagnosed with a cows' milk allergy. Take advice from an allergy consultant or allergy specialist dietitian.
Goats' milk typically contains slightly less lactose (the natural sugar found in milk and other dairy foods) than cows' milk,8 and the amount of lactose people can tolerate varies.9,10 This may help to explain why some people who experience sensitivity to lactose can enjoy goats' milk without any repercussions. Goats' milk is not recommended for anyone who has been diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Consult your GP or a health professional before making any changes to your diet.
Three (200ml) servings of goats' milk products can provide more than 100% of an adult's daily needs of calcium,11 and the calcium in milk and dairy products is more easily absorbed and used by the body, than calcium in most other foods. Calcium is essential for the development and maintenance of bones and teeth, helps support normal muscle function and normal blood clotting, and helps the body to produce energy. 12
Goats' milk is naturally slightly lower in dietary cholesterol than whole cows' milk8, and the skimmed and semi-skimmed options make good alternatives for people who are watching their fat and saturated fat intake, and cholesterol levels.
Dairy products like goats' milk and yogurt are a source of calcium and potassium, providing 30% and 17%, respectively of the Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) (the new term for Recommended Daily Allowance) per 200ml serving 13 - two minerals indicated in the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet14 as being important in lowering blood pressure.
Choose the low-fat options if you're concerned about your blood pressure and your overall heart health.
One 200ml serving of goats' milk delivers over one quarter (180mg)8 of the NRV for phosphorus (which helps to build and maintain strong bones and teeth, and to release energy from food), helps meet your daily iodine needs 15 (which is needed to produce thyroid hormones - such as thyroxine, and for keeping your metabolism healthy) and provides 17% of the NRV (340mg) for potassium 8 (vital for your nerves and muscles to function normally, and as well as helping to keep your blood pressure under control). What's more, goats' milk is a source of chloride, providing 38% of the NRV per 200ml serving, and important for healthy digestion. 8,13
Goats' milk has more oligosaccharides (non-digestible carbohydrates) than cows' milk, with a similar amount and structure to those found in human milk. 16 These may act as prebiotics in the gut and could help to maintain the health of the digestive tract and gut microbiome, by encouraging the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
1. Tomotake H et al (2006). Comparison between Holstein cows’ milk and Japanese-Saanen goat milk in fatty acid composition, lipid digestibility and protein profile. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 70: 2771-2774
2. Attaie R and Richter RL (2000). Size distribution of fat globules in goat milk. J Dairy Sci 83: 940-944
3. Alférez MJ et al (2001). Digestive utilisation of goat and cow milk fat in malabsorption syndrome. J Dairy Res 68: 451-61
4. Almaas H et al (2006). In vitro digestion of bovine and caprine milk by human gastric and duodenal enzymes. Int Dairy J 16: 961-968
5. Tripaldi C et al (1998). Content of taurine and other free amino acids in milk of goats bred in Italy. Small Rumin Res 30: 127-36
6. El-Agamy El (2007). The challenge of cow's milk protein allergy. Small Rum Res: 6864-72
7. Restani P et al (1999). Cross-reactivity between milk proteins from different animal species. Clin Exp Allergy, 29: 997-1004
8 McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods. Seventh Edition. Royal Society of Chemistry. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
9. McBean LD, Miller GD. (1998) Allaying fears and fallacies about lactose intolerance. J Am Diet Assoc; Vol 98: Issue 6, P671-76
10 Pribila BA et al (2000). Improved lactose digestion and intolerance among African – American adolescent girls fed a dairy-rich diet. J Am Diet Assoc 100:524-28
11. Department of Health (1991) Report on health and social subjects 41. Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom. Report of the Panel on Dietary Reference Values of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy. The Stationery Office: London
12. EFSA. Commission Regulation (EU) No 432/2012 of 16 May 2012 establishing a list of permitted health claims made on foods, other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children’s development and health;L 136:1-40.
13. EFSA. EU Register on nutrition and health claims. European Commission Food. November 20, 2016. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/labelling_nutrition/claims/register/public/?event=search. Accessed February, 2018
14. DASH Eating Plan. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan Accessed February, 2018
15. Retail survey of iodine in UK produced dairy foods. Monday 16 June 2008. Food Survey Information Sheet 02/08. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20120206100416/http:/food.gov.uk/science/surveillance/fsisbranch2008/fsis0208
16. Kiskini A and Difilippo E (2013). Oligosaccharides in goat milk: structure, health effects and isolation. Cell Mol Biol 59: 25-30