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Milk is considered as an extremely integral part of the daily diet. It has been an age-old custom to include regular intake of milk on an everyday basis, because of the high levels of calcium in it for healthy bones and stronger teeth.
Milk also offers benefits related to muscle growth, strengthening and repair of muscle tissues and so on. As a custom in India, raw milk has been consumed for generations, owing to its various health-related advantages.
Raw milk, being raw, is termed high on nutrition, however, it contains certain harmful bacteria as well, that are most likely to cause serious diseases. Therefore, it has always been a general practice to boil the raw milk.
In the current times, the common source of milk is the packaged or pasteurized milk. Pasteurization of raw milk leads to an extension in its shelf-life. It involves taking the milk through an ultra-heat treatment (UHT), or High Temperature Short Time (HTST); above 135 degree Celsius for a couple of seconds, or more than 71 degree Celsius for 20-30 seconds, respectively.
Both these heat treatments help kill the bad bacteria in the milk, before it is stored in sterile containers or packages for selling/consumption by the end user.
Now, the question arises whether, like its raw version, the packaged or pasteurized milk needs to be boiled, or can be consumed without boiling it.
The answer is - Yes, it needs to be. Reason? Because even after the pasteurization, there is a possibility that some of the pathogens or spores might have survived. This is because depending upon the level of the heat-treatment, the pasteurization may definitely reduce the bad bacteria, however, might not kill all. Therefore, to avoid any health-related issues, it becomes inevitable to reheat/boil the milk for reducing the growth of the viable bacteria.
At this point, another valid question arises, i.e., would reheating or boiling the milk kill its nutrients and therefore defeat the purpose of having it in the first place?
Well, it may or may not, depending upon the way it is boiled. Since milk is a rich source of minerals such as calcium and vitamins A, D, B1, B2, B12 and K, and it also includes protein, it is essential to make sure that these nutrients do not get affected. To ensure that, it is important to follow certain practices while boiling the packaged milk:
1. Avoid boiling or heating the milk frequently, since it will affect the nutrient richness.
2. While the milk is being boiled, it is a good idea to keep stirring it occasionally.
3. Boil or heat the milk on a low temperature to start with, since high temperature might adversely affect it.
4. Once the milk is boiled and cooled, avoid keeping it out for long, and refrigerate it, till it may be used again. It will stay for a much longer time.
5. Boil the milk on flame, instead of a microwave oven.
These are some of the major ways through which the nutrient-quality of the packaged milk may be maintained even after boiling. This would bring about a balance of well-being and nourishment to the consumer, as well as enhance the taste after being heated.
Who would not like the hot and steaming effect of milk after all?!! Furthermore, it would also increase the shelf-life of milk for a much longer period, as compared to when it is refrigerated without boiling.
Therefore, it is most preferred to boil the milk (raw or packaged), to avoid any unforeseen health concerns that may be caused by any kind of bad pathogens in the milk.