There is no conflict in the mind of an Indian regarding the relationship between milk and vegetarianism. However, in several other countries, the debate continues about whether milk can be classified as vegetarian. It is, after all, an animal product. At least the vegans, a very large section of the vegetarians, have their strong reservations about milk. They do’ not eat animal products, believing that these are harmful to health. But in India, milk has been traditionally given cultural and religious importance. The cow is looked upon as a mother and a child that cannot be breast-fed is given cow’s milk since it is regarded as the “next best” to the mother’s milk. At the time of a special Puja of any god, the deity is bathed in milk or panchammt (a mixture of milk, curds, ghee, honey and sugar) and the puja culminates with milk offering to the god (Naiuedya).
We celebrate happy occasions by distributing
pedhas (sweetmeats made of milk). Grandmothers traditionally show their deep affection for their grandchildren by making khir (a sweet dish made either of semolina or rice with an addition of milk and sugar) for them. Shrikhand, basundi and barji are some of the sweets we consume on festival days. They are all milk products. Even a person on fast can drink milk. These day to day practices indicate that milk is an integral part of our culture.
Mammals breast-feed their young ones. Man too belongs to this species. But many animals find themselves burdened with surplus milk even after feeding their young ones liberally. It is this surplus milk of a goat, or a cow or a buffalo that is used by human beings as part of their diet. Sometimes, however, it is found that the object of breeding these animals is to get more milk. In such cases, the calves are weaned early and brought up on other feed. But such practices are totally free from pain or cruelty to the animals concerned. On the other hand, the excess milk causes much discomfort to the cows and the buffaloes if they are not milked in time. Milk is, therefore, a nutrient that is made naturally available and should be accepted as a part of a vegetarian diet.
Human advancement in the field of science is, indeed, highly spectacular. The wonders of the past have become the solid facts of today. Even cloning is no longer a fantasy. And yet, mother’s milk and human blood cannot be prepared synthetically in the laboratories. Though the ingredients of milk are . known and are identified, they cannot be turned into milk even when chemically blended. Milk is composed of some hundred ingredients that are mixed and dissolved in water. Obviously, most of these ingredients are soluble in water and others keep floating. Hence, it is easy to digest.
The main components of milk are proteins, fats, carbohydrates i.e. lactose, minerals and water. The fat content in human milk is very low. ’ It keeps rising step by step in the milk of a goat, a cow and a buffalo. The fatty acids in the milk, which evaporate due to heat, determine and change the smell of milk. Milk is “spoilt” when the fatty acids undergo a
change due to the bacteria in the milk. It is a change for the worse and, as a result, such milk has a strong, foul smell. The milk sugar is called lactose. Milk contains plenty of phosphorous and calcium (100 grams of cow’s milk gives the consumer 120mg of calcium) and vitamin B 12 as well. A vegetarian has to depend on milk and sprouted grains to make up for the deficiency of vitamin B 12 in the rest of his diet.
Milk is the main diet for a child for the first six months and may be continued for six months more. It cannot, however, be a complete food for a growing child. Excessive intake of milk leads to a loss of appetite1 in general, causing malnutrition owing to deficiencies of other food ingredients like vitamin C, iron and proteins, Normally, no child requires more than five hundred millilitres a day, after the age of one. The limit may occasionally be crossed but drinking a litre or two of milk a day is certainly an exception.
Milk is of vital importance to a vegetarian. He has at his disposal several varieties of milk products. Besides, he can avail himself of foodstuff prepared with milk. Fresh milk of a cow has an incomparable taste. But boiled milk is always healthier. As a favourite food item, milk is consumed warm, chilled or frozen as ice cream. It is turned into curds, buttermilk, paneer, cheese or basundi As we know, cheese is popular all over the world.
The following products also are made of milk – petka, barphi, khir, banana pulp salad, milk shakes, chocolate, shrikhand, etc. A patient is given the whey strained from paneer as it is wholesome. Milk can be preserved in powder form for onths and can be turned into milk when required. Cheese is made by boiling milk on a low fire. The milk is then coagulated. You can have two hundred grams of cheese from a litre of milk. One fifty grams of paneer can be extracted from a litre of milk first by reducing the water content of milk and then separating proteins from it by adding some lemon juice to it. The facts and figures mentioned here should make it clear that it is not good for health to eat more than fifty grams of milk products at a time.
Some people are allergic to milk and may .suffer from diarrhoea on drinking it. They can be cured by being given small quantities of milk at greater frequencies – ie a small quantity repeated at intervals. Such persons may, however, make use of soya milk as a substitute. Soya milk is prepared from proteins and fats culled from soya beans. The milk shakes or curds made from soya milk have nearly the same taste as of the cow / buffalo milk products. Soya milk is especially used as a drink, for a child that is allergic to milk.
Research on how to prepare durable milk products is being carried out all over the world. During the last fifty years milk production has gone up considerably. As milk is perishable, several methods have been practised to preserve it in the form of milk powder, butter, cheese, yoghurt, chocolates, ice creams etc. Recently, a new technique has been developed to preserve pure, fresh pasteurized milk inirjtetrapacks at ordinary temperature. These milk pacjcs are available in some Indian cities too. They can be stored safely on an ordinary cupboard shelf for a period of about three months. If you want a drink of fresh milk, simply rip the pack open and there it is. It is as simple as that.
Milk provides the best of proteins that are easy to digest and require no processing of any kind. It also supplies fats that are completely dissolved (i.e. are in a liquid form) and have the finest taste. Milk contains lactose that tastes sweet and is easily digested. The calories from milk help restore lost physical energy speedily. There is a quick recovery1 of the body from the wear and tear. That is why a vegetarian does not have to take recourse to any animal foodstuff except milk. Milk is a supplement to the food of a person who wants to sustain himself only on the vegetarian diet because he is inspired by the motto “Live and let live”. Now we have an answer to the question, why vegetarianism?