Recently I completed a 24-hour nutrition analysis (gotta get in peak shape for exam season), revealing that two cups of Milo made with low-fat milk provided me with most of my protein for that day. My first thought was, how desperate for Milo must I have been to use low-fat milk? And is it common for others to underestimate the nutritional impact of drinks? Both of these questions point to a national failure in respecting this treasured drink. Let’s compare the humble cup of Milo with other wellness drinks.
First, some opinions about Milo – it should be prepared with full-fat milk and contain three heaped tablespoons of the glorious powder. I’ve never read the label. Sugar is unnecessary, and I would rather leave that nutritional Pandora’s Box closed for today.
Second, some less confronting nutritional facts – for almost all readers, one large cup of Milo has 1/3 of the recommended daily intake for protein. It’s a great source of B vitamins, vitamin C, iron and vitamin A. Also, the health star system is completely misleading.
We’re off to a strong start. Things are looking promising for the humble Milo. Compared to a kale smoothie – let’s say one made with almond milk and kiwifruit – some exciting things differences appear. Over three times the RDI of vitamin C is present in the kale smoothie, but about 2/3 of the protein is lost (around 1/10th RDI remaining). All other sources of major vitamins and minerals are less impressive in the kale smoothie. Let’s allow that to sink in for a second. I wasn’t expecting Milo to plough through the playing field this strongly if I’m honest. Milk is a very significant contributor to the protein intake above, and Milo is fortified with the exact same vitamins we look for and measure in any food. So it could be a bit of an unfair battle. Confident and ego inflated, the cup-of-Milo battles on. It’s time to leave fruits and vegetables to the side for a second and pursue an interest in bulking protein.
Even when the humble Milo is pitted against a single scoop serving of Balance 100% Whey Protein Powder, there’s only a couple grams difference in protein! Unfortunately, I can’t see the breakdown of protein types in Milo from the nestle website. But we can bring up the importance of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) found in milk (and whey protein since that’s the soluble protein component of milk). The exact proteins that require interest for gains sake are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are the major BCAAs for rapid muscle synthesis. Whey, the soluble protein part of milk, has a lot of them. Many protein powders will also focus on increasing the content of BCAA, and that is the detail you’ll likely want to pay attention to when picking up the next canister. Creatine, on the other hand, has what can be described as a very low physiological ceiling. The body is constantly balancing the nitrogen/protein molecules swimming around your blood. Creatine is the second closest protein molecule to the door (like it’s about to leave the body), and it can’t be given plus ones or extra invites to the protein party because it will just be the first thing to be kicked out. Similarly, vitamin C is a very unwelcome guest in the body beyond its transient invitation.
It’s unlikely that Milo will ever top the amount of the best protein types in a decent protein powder. Not that this was really ever expected. Although, it should still be surprising that Milo seems to have some healthier metrics than a kale smoothie. The thing that Milo doesn’t have which most smoothies can best (even protein shakes) is their fibre! A Milo may give you sweet, sweet sustenance, but it won’t replace the hunger in your stomach as a smoothie will. Drinks are weird in that their nutritional value is easily underestimated. Some days they could be your primary source of protein! They can provide all sorts of healthy vitamins and minerals throughout the day, although they will leave a wake of hunger that only a thicc smoothly can provide.
One day there may be a shot or goop that can be taken to remove the feeling of hunger. Milo could be an unstoppable tour de force on that nutritional scene. Until that day, there are many dimensions to the dietary picture that must be appreciated before brash changes are made. There are still small changes that could be easily implemented, like a more targeted protein powder, or the introduction of leafy fibre into a smoothie. A small change I will be making is a proud return to the childhood hero – Milo – which can provide me with the protein that a couple averagely cooked meals in-between study can not provide. Ditch the green smoothie and relive the good ol’ days. Today Milo is my hero.