There has been a war of words regarding the pH level of milk. Is milk acidic? Is drinking milk or milk-infused beverages safe for our digestive systems? Today’s post acts as a myth-buster that reveals the truth and answers the unanswered questions related to milk’s acidity.
Being the only animal to drink the milk of another species, humans share an unusual relationship with this white liquid. While other animals leave the habit of drinking milk in infancy once they start grabbing more complex food, humans keep on drinking milk throughout their life.
The increased domestication of cows in both the western and oriental world evidences the milk fascination of humans. This domestication trend emerged around 10,000 years ago just for the sake of being a part of the evolution that makes humans learn how to digest lactose.
As a result of this, around 30% of the global population learned how to produce lactase – the enzyme which we need to digest lactose in adulthood. This is enough to describe the milk favoritism across the globe.
However, the acidity in milk has always been a prime topic of debate. Some say milk is an acidic drink, while others resonate milk with the immortal nectar. Today’s post aims to reveal the truth behind milk’s acidity – check it out and get to know whether milk is really hard for your digestive system because of its acidity.
Understanding the Story of pH
Chemistry describes pH as the measure of hydrogen ion concentration that defines the basicity or acidity of an aqueous solution. The acidic solutions that have higher hydrogen ion concentrations hold lower pH. On the other hand, the basic solutions contain lower hydrogen ion concentrations which increase their pH values.
It’s the pH scale that measures the acidity or basicity of the solution. Typically, the pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. The pH of 0-7 indicates that a solution’s nature is acidic. A pH level of 7 points to the neutralness of a solution, and a pH between 7-14 indicates the basicity of a solution. When pH increases, the basicity increases, and the acidity decreases.
Is Milk Acidic?
The human body continuously works in maintaining an optimal balance through different internal processes. One of the most vital ones among them is maintaining the body’s acidity and basicity which is better known as pH levels.
The digestive enzymes and blood hold a particular pH range, and in case the body functions get disturbed, our body fails to maintain that balance. Besides, dietary errors may also affect the pH levels greatly.
The debate around the acidity of milk derives from this unique game of pH. So, what about the pH level of milk? Well, the pH range of milk stands at 6.4-6.9, which is next to neutral, making milk subtly acidic. The basic contributor to this subtle acidity is milk’s lactic acid content.
A Twist in the Story – Milk can become more Acidic
Typically, fresh milk has the highest pH. However, over time milk can become more acidic. How does it happen? Well, here’s the explanation!
Milk has sugar lactose content, and because of lactobacillus fermentation, this lactose turns into an energy source and gets converted into lactic acid. With time, this bacteria produces more lactic acid, and milk becomes sour in taste. Though pasteurization and refrigeration slow down the process, even highly sterilized milk can get sour when it becomes exposed to air.
The pH Level of Milk Varies Depending on the Species
Typically, all mammals produce little acidic milk. However, the pH level depends significantly on the species. While human milk is nearly neutral, goat or buffalo milk is much more acidic so is cow’s milk. The following table shows the pH level of milk according to the species –
|Human||6.35 – 7.35|
The Affecting Factors pH of Milk
Apart from species, there are a number of factors that affect the acidity level in milk. Let’s delve deeper and check them out!
The Health of the Animal
The health of lactating female animals drastically impacts the pH level in milk. For example, an animal with mastitis may produce less acidic and more alkaline milk.
The lactobacillus growth increases in warmer temperatures which results in a drastic drop in pH. Due to this reason, a longer duration between milking may result in more acidic milk. In the same way, when a packet of milk reaches close to its use-by date, it turns more acidic compared to a fresh packet of milk.
The lactation stage plays a vital role in milk’s acidity. Colostrum – the first produced milk is more acidic in nature. Even in some cases, human colostrum may be more acidic than cow’s milk.
The pH of milk may vary depending on its processing. While evaporated milk is more acidic, regular or skimmed milk has lower pH content. In addition, the method of preservation also influences pH. The pasteurization kills fewer bacteria than ultra-high temperature processing. Due to this reason, pasteurized milk is less acidic.
Raw Milk vs. Pasteurized Milk – The Difference
We have already come across the term pasteurization at least twice in this post; however, for those who are not very clear about the concept of pasteurization, let us clarify this for them. The process of heating milk to a particular temperature and then cooling it to kill the adverse pathogens present in the raw milk is defined as pasteurization.
The main difference between raw milk and pasteurized milk is – raw milk can be obtained from any animal, but it may leave you with serious health issues when you consume it directly. The reason behind this is the presence of dangerous microorganisms and bacteria in it.
On the other hand, pasteurized milk is free from harmful bacteria, and typically it retains most of the nutritional values of milk except for a few enzymes that don’t hold much importance in terms of healthfulness. Additionally, the little vitamin C content of raw milk doesn’t last after pasteurization.
Does Milk Increases Coffee’s Acidity?
Well, the discussion remains incomplete if we don’t talk coffee! Dear coffee lovers, do you always want your beverage to be milky? Go and get your drink! Rest assured, an ounce of milk will not turn your coffee more acidic. Thus, keep on enjoying your milky cups of lattes, mochas, cappuccinos, americanos, or macchiatos unhesitatingly!
We hope that the acidity factor of milk is quite clear to you now! Whether you prefer to drink milk or any milk-based beverages, you don’t need to worry much about milk’s acidity factor as, holistically, milk is a slightly acidic drink that does little to no harm to your digestion systems.