Goat popularly known as poor man's cow, is one of the main contributors of dairy and meat products for rural people, more than any other mammalian farm animal, particularly in developing country. Presently, India possesses 135.17 million goats which contribute 14.5% of the world (19th Livestock Census, GOI). The use of goat milk as an excellent food source is undeniable which is consumed in many parts of the world. It is delicious as well as extremely nutritious. The Journal of American Medicine states, "Goat's milk is the most complete food known." Goat's milk has vitamins, minerals, trace elements, electrolytes, enzymes, proteins, and fatty acids that are easily assimilated by the body. It has beneficial effects for health maintenance, physiological functions, in the nutrition of children and elderly people. It is interesting to know that goat's milk is digested in 20 minutes; whereas, it can take up to 24 hours to digest cow's milk!!!
Cow milk and goat milk differ greatly in their nutritional composition. It has better digestibility, alkalinity, buffering capacity and certain therapeutic values in medicine and human nutrition.Goat milk does not contain the complex protein that stimulates allergic reactions, making it less allergic. It also helps to boost the immune system. Goat milk alkalizes the digestive system and also helps to increase the pH level in the blood stream (Roy and Vadodaria, 2006).
Nutritional Features of Goat Milk
The Journal of American Medical Association reported, “The goat is the healthiest domestic animal known. Goat milk is superior in every respect to cow milk and is better suited for human consumption than cow milk for many reasons-
Goat milk simulates human milk: Goat milk has an alkaline reaction the same as human milk.
Goat milk protein: Goat milk protein is one of the greatest protein supplements. The casein in goat milk is completely different from the allergy-causing casein in cow milk. The protein content is far easier to digest and absorb, as the molecules are roughly the same size as those of human milk.
Goat milk minerals and vitamins: The mineral content of goat milk is quite high. It has more potassium, selenium, calcium, and magnesium than cow milk. It also contains more chloride, fluoride and silicon than any other domestic livestock. Chlorides and fluorides are natural germicides and fluorine assists in preventing diabetes.Goat milk contains pre-formed Vitamin A in the milk fat that can be readily available for use by the body.
Fatty acid composition in goat milk fat: Goat milk is higher in essential fatty acids than cow milk, mainly caproic, caprylic, capric and lauricacid; the former three have actually been named after goats (Capra hircus), due to their predominance in the milk. It has a greater chain of medium and short chain saturated fatty acids making it easier to digest than cow milk.
Goat milk colostrums: One of the most interesting substances that come from goat milk is the highly seasonal colostrums. It is extremely high in naturally occurring immune boosters like immunoglobulins, cytokines, lactoferrin, growth factors (IGF-I, IGF-II, EGF)and others.
Growth hormone free milk: Whereas most cow milk is pumped full of bovine growth hormones as well as a substance known as bovine somatotropin, goat dairies never rely on growth hormones to achieve top milk production.
Prebiotic: Goats milk has more oligosaccharides, with an amount similar to human milk. These act as prebiotics in the gut and help to maintain the health of the digestive tract by encouraging the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and preventing the growth of harmful bacteria
Goat milk vs Cow milk
Table 1. Nutritional Comparison
Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2010
1. Goat milk is less allergenic.
The most common food allergy for children under three years is due to cow milk consumption. This allergic reaction is mainly due to a protein allergen known as Alpha s1 Casein which causes symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and skin rashes and can have even severe effects including anaphylactic shock. Goat milk contains more beta caseins than cow milk, the level of Alpha s1 Casein in goat milk is about 89% less than cow milk providing a far less allergenic food.
2. Goat milk is naturally homogenized.
Goat’s milk has smaller fat globules and does not contain agglutinin which allows it to stay naturally homogenized. The homogenization method works by forcing the fluid milk through a tiny hole under tremendous pressure which destroys the fat globule cell wall and allows the milk and cream to stay homogeneous or suspended and well mixed. But the problem with this kind of homogenization is that once the cell wall of the fat globule is broken, it releases a superoxide, known as Xanthine Oxidase (free radical). These free radicals are responsible for damage to healthy cells and DNA mutations which may lead to cancer and degenerative disorders. Thus goat milk can eliminate the dangers associated with homogenization and the benefit of natural homogenization comes into clear view.
3. Goat milk is easier to digest.
Since goat milk has smaller fat globules as well as higher levels of medium chain fatty acids. This means that during digestion, each fat globule and individual fatty acid will have a larger surface-to-volume ratio resulting in a quicker and easier digestion process. Also, when the proteins found in milk denature (clump up) in the stomach, they form a much softer bolus (curd) than cow’s milk. This allows the body to digest the protein more smoothly and completely than when digesting cow’s milk.
4. Goat milk rarely causes lactose intolerance.
A relatively large portion of the population suffers from deficiency of an enzyme known as lactase which is used to digest lactose. This deficiency results in a condition known as lactose intolerance which is a fairly common ailment. Since, all milk contains certain levels of lactose which is also known as ‘milk sugar.’ Goat’s milk contains less lactose than cow’s milk and therefore is easier to digest for those suffering from lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance and cow’s milk allergy (CMA) are two distinct conditions. CMA is due to a protein allergen, while lactose intolerance is due to carbohydrate sensitivity.
5. Goat milk matches up to the human body better than cow milk.
Thermodynamically speaking, goat milk is better for human consumption. Because goat milk and human milk are both designed and created for transforming a 7-9 pound baby/kid into an average adult/goat of somewhere between 100-200 pounds. However, cow milk is designed to transform a 100 pound calf into a 1200 pound cow.
Health benefits of goat milk
Goat milk offers a wide variety of health benefits. The capric, caprylic acids and medium chain triglycerides(MCT) have become established medical treatments for an array of clinical disorders, such asmalabsorption syndromes, steatorrhea, hyperlipoproteinemia, intestinal resection, premature infant feeding, infant malnutrition, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, coronary by-pass, and gallstones, because oftheir unique metabolic ability to provide direct energy, their actions of lowering serum cholesterol (Getaneh et al. 2016).
1. Allergies and gastro-intestinal disorders
The predominance of smaller fat globules in goat milk, makes it easier to digest than cow milk and this may be attributed to faster lipase activity so it is recommended for infants, old, and convalescent people.The raw goat milk soothes the digestive tract. It does not form mucous (phlegm) and is therefore better tolerated by asthmatics and those with allergies.Cow milk is high in fat, which may increase mucous build-up. Hence goat milk has anti-mucosal property as well.
2. Lactose intolerance
Goat's milk contains less lactose than cow's milk and passes through the digestive system more rapidly. Most lactose intolerant people have no difficulty tolerating goat milk
In Naturopathic medicine, goats are referred to as bioorganic sodium animals, associated with vigour, flexibility and vitality whereas cows are calcium animals known for stability and heaviness. Bioorganic sodium is an important element in keeping joints mobile and limber. Goat milk has traditionally been used in medicinal cultures to nourish and regenerate an over-taxed nervous system.
4. Prevent anemias and demineralization
Goat milk could help prevent diseases such as anemia and bone demineralization. Goat milk was found to help with the digestive and metabolic utilization of minerals such as iron, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. It contains 13% more calcium, 25% more vitamin B6 and 134% more potassium than regular cow milk.
5. Helpful in preventing ulcers
Because of its effective acid buffering capacity, goat milk has been used to treat conditions such as ulcers.The extensive amount of potassium causes goat milk to react in an alkaline way within the body whereas cow milk is lacking in potassium and ends up reacting in an acidic way.
6. Cardiovascular health and liver health
Goat milk exceeds cow milk in monounsaturated (MUFA), polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), and medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which all are beneficial for cardiovascular conditions.It is well tolerated by a compromised or damaged liver because of the smaller fat molecules and it’s naturally homogenized nature.
7. Boost up Immune System
Goat milk has the trace mineral, selenium, a key essential mineral in keeping the immune system strong and functioning normally. Raw goat milk fights microbes, primarily due to the healthy medium-chained fatty acids it contains, such as capric and caprylic acids. Also goats are naturally immune to diseases, such as tuberculosis, and are used to cure tuberculosis because its milk contains many natural antibodies that increase the body's immunity of their inherent antibodies. Thus drinking goat milk regularly helps fight a few diseases, such as tuberculosis and HIV.
Goat milk is thus the purest, most healthful, and complete food known. It has several health beneficial attributes such as less allergenic, naturally homogenized, easier to digest, lactose intolerant friendly, which makes it biochemically superior to cow milk. It is also devoid of any growth hormones or antibiotics that massive cow dairies have come to rely upon to turn a profit.
Veterinary Medical Officer, Department of Animal Husbandry, Government of Uttar Pradesh.
1. 19thLivestock Census, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare, GoI
2.Goat-milk-nutrition-fact-sheet. 2015. http://www.ontariogoat.ca/wp-content/uploads
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4. Haenlein G.F.W. 2002. Composition of goat milk and factors affecting it. Small Rumi Res 51: 155-63.
5. Roy S.K, Vadodaria V.P .2006. Goat Milk and Its Importance. Indian Dairyman 58: 65-9.