Milk as human food is as old as history. Nomadic tribes in ancient civilizations recognized milk as a very important source of food. Domesticated animals as cows and sheep were their sources. For a certain period of ancient time, milk was the treat of royals. But with centuries, milk has been adopted and adapted in various forms. Milk has undergone various transformations as powdered milk, canned milk and milk in cartons.
An essential calcium and nutrients supplier, milk is inevitable and every household globally starts the day with milk. Such is the existence and essential of milk in one’s life. The cheerful packet at our doorstep or stored in the fridge greets us at the rise of dawn and again cuddles us into our bed when we sign off to a goodnight’s sleep, with a glass of a warm milk. While fresh milk or cow’s milk has many manifold benefits of contributing to build healthy bones, teeth, tissue binding and helps to convert food into energy, related dairy products have their profound importance in the market.
In its native form, we associate milk with the cow. Other popular alternatives than the cow have also been camels, goats, sheep, buffaloes, yaks and the reindeers. However, with the advancement of science, technology and modernized dairy plants, today the milk industry has carved a huge market and is a standalone in its importance. Pasteurization, discovered by Louis Pasteur, is one such method followed in dairy industry that helps to kill harmful bacteria present in dairy milk. Availability of milk in the market today is not limited to cow’s milk. We can examine the availability of milk in broad categories as dairy and non-dairy based. Whether to opt for dairy milk or choose the non- dairy milk is up to one’s choice.
Dairy Based Milk
Also referred as Cow milk or dairy milk, this pure and rich milk is available in market places in the following forms:
1. Full Cream Or Whole Milk:
Full Cream milk is milk without any fat removed. It contains 3.5% milk fat.This is highly nutritious and feeding mothers and young children are advised to drink this milk. It is delicious and gives complete nourishment with all nutrients in-tact. For the weight conscious however, the full cream milk is not recommended. Many milk based recipes especially Indian milk sweets are prepared from this milk.
2. Skimmed Milk:
When all the cream is removed from whole milk it is skimmed milk. It contains only 0.1% fat. Skim milk is used largely in almost all household and can be made at home very easily. Hot milk when left to cool down, the cream puffs at the top allowing the milk to settle. The cream is then removed leaving the milk with only 0.1% fat. This type of milk is highly recommended for patients with cholesterol or heart problems. The earliest form of skimmed milk was delivered in one-liter glass bottles with a silver blue checked foil. Today skimmed milk is available in easy to use cartons.
3. Partly Skimmed Milk Or Semi-Skimmed Milk:
Milk from which only some cream is removed. This is the milk used in everyday routine and contributes all essential nutrients. Partly skimmed milk is available in cartons and packets and contains 2.5% fat.
4. Toned Milk:
Popular in India, toned milk is derived from treating buffalo milk. Toned milk is prepared by adding water, skim milk and skimmed milk powder to buffalo milk. Cost of this milk is fairly less and hence is widely available.
5. Lactose Free Milk:
Lactose is the sugar found in milk and is broken into simple sugar. Lactose free milk is easily digestible and is recommended for lactose intolerants. This milk is high in calcium and other nutrients as well. Lactose free milk is also sweet to taste..
Non Dairy Based Milk:
Milk from nuts, seeds, grains and plants are classified here.
Milk from nuts and seeds contain nil fat, cholesterol and lactose. Nut milks too are high nutrient providers and an excellent source of calcium, vitamins, iron and magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and potassium. They are easy to prepare at home and can be sweetened according to one’s needs. However, a word of caution to be exercised- do not substitute non-dairy based milk for infants and nursing mothers in place of dairy milk.
6. Cashew Nut Milk:
Excellent in taste and is creamy and smooth. It is bereft of the nutty chunks which one may feel in the texture of the final milk. Soak cashew nuts for an hour and blend it to a smooth paste. Your cashew nut milk is ready!! You may add dates and honey to this and blend to give the sweetened taste for your taste buds. Unsweetened cashew milk is a must in most of the rice based and curry dishes of India. Cashew milk is low in protein. Take care to use unsalted and raw cashew nuts.
7. Hemp Seeds Milk:
Hemp seeds are rich in omega 3 and omega 6. They aid in building a strong immune system. Hemp seed milk is rich in calcium and contain essential amino acids. They promote heart health, healthy skin and hair. Shell the hemp seeds and blend it. For optimum level of nutrition, drink hemp milk unstrained. If used in a recipe strain the milk and then use it. 
8. Almond Milk:
High in Vitamin E, A and D, this milk is made from almond nuts. It is low in cholesterol and protein. The seeds are soaked and blanched and blended to a fine paste. Being lactose free, many favor the almond milk.
9. Soy Milk:
Soy Milk is derived from the soy plant. Rich in protein, vitamin A, D, B12, and potassium, the soy milk is widely popular in almost all the countries. It is free from cholesterol and recommended for heart health.
10. Rice Milk:
Rice Milk is best made from brown rice. Although rice milk can be made from any kind of rice, brown rice is best preferred for its high nutrition content. Soak one cup of brown rice and then cook the same. Now allow this rice to cool and blend in a blender with 4 cups water and a pinch of salt. Fine blend the mix until it is smooth and creamy. The shelf life of soaked rice milk will be up to 2 days.
11. Coconut Milk:
A naturally sweet milk from the coconut white flakes, the coconut milk is lactose free. It is relished without adding any sweeteners and is found to be rich in vitamin C, B1, iron, calcium and magnesium. The rich creamy delight is used widely in desserts, soups, cooking rice and even when boiling vegetables to add the aroma and flavor. The coconut milk is available in cartons at any retail store and can also be made at home. The white flakes are ground to a fine paste along with the coconut water and blended to a thick fine milk. Choose a coconut that is rich in the white flake and is milky too.