There was the famous goat Amalthea, the nurse of Zeus. There was Homer, who celebrated in the Iliad the restorative properties of goat cheese. And at all times, with the Hebrews and Greeks, at the Renaissance or in the Caribbean in the last century, there were goats to nurse children. This shows the importance of this animal in human history…
Valued for cheese of which they are the origin, goat milk and sheep milk are also known to be possible alternatives in case of allergy to cow’s milk proteins. But these are not their only qualities. Rich in essential fatty acids, in calcium (8% more than in cow’s milk), in potassium, selenium and vitamin A, goat milk contains easily digestible proteins, comparable to breast milk. As for sheep’s milk, it contains more calcium, protein, phosphorus and vitamins A, C, B2 and B6 than cow’s milk.
The benefits of sheep milk
Sheep milk is richer in protein than other milks. In particular, it contains a lot of a-casein. Casein forms micelles loaded with phosphorus and calcium, with physicochemical characteristics similar to those of cow’s milk, but of slightly smaller dimensions.
There is more of phosphorus and calcium in the colloidal phase, than in the soluble phase as compared to cow’s milk. These differences show that these milks have different coagulation characteristics: sheep milk coagulates faster and gives a firmer curd than cow’s milk. This is why it is often used in cheese (like goat milk).
The richness of the serum proteins in sheep milk is especially marked by a high content of immunoglobulins.
The non-protein nitrogen (6% to 8% of total nitrogen) is distributed somewhat differently from that of cow’s milk: more urea and uric acid and less of free amino acids.
Sheep milk: the front minerals
Sheep milk has clearly more calories than cow’s milk. Yet, like goat milk, fatty particles are finer for sheep milk, which facilitates their digestion.
Sheep’s milk also contains more proteins, which play an important role in the construction of body tissues and their development.
The taste of sheep milk is fairly mild, slightly sweet.
The main interest of sheep milk is that it is very rich in minerals. Calcium, Zinc, Vitamin B, Phosphorus … Sheep milk is ideal for people with mineral deficiencies.
It is particularly recommended for the elderly people and for children who follow a special diet. Today, it is especially important to identify your needs and expectations to choose the right milk, and especially to choose the better tolerated milk for your body.
Another advantage of sheep milk
Although the lactose content of sheep milk is similar (or even higher) than that of cow’s milk, sheep’s milk proteins are very different from cow’s milk. In particular, sheep milk does not contain beta-lactoglobulin, one of the most allergenic proteins from cow’s milk. Sheep milk is apparently easier to digest, and leading doctors and pediatricians recommend it for patients with lactose intolerance rather than a type of yoghurt, since it is less harmful than the cow products1.
Moreover, raising dairy sheep is still a craft. However, ewes require much less veterinary treatment (antibiotics or hormones) than cattle.
Another advantage of sheep milk is that it contains three times more linolenic acid (omega 3 precursor) that its cousin cow’s milk and three kinds of lactic acid bacteria (including one that is not present in yoghurt cow milk) of streptococcus, the lactophilus and bulgaricus that develop in particular during fermentation. Rich in protein, sheep milk is also an ally for athletes.
Sheep milk has shown to have a benefit for people who have allergies or intolerances to cow’s milk or goat milk.
Sheep milk can play an important role as a source of energy for the metabolism and will help dissolve blood cholesterol, rather than being a fatty provider to accumulate in the adipose tissue. This ability is due to the high content in short and medium chain fatty mono and poly-unsaturated and essential fatty acids2.
Is sheep milk better for your health?
We do not always think of sheep milk in case of allergy to cow’s milk. Yet sheep’s milk contains up to two times more minerals than cow’s milk, such as calcium, phosphorus, zinc and vitamin B group.
Sheep milk has shown to have a benefit for people who have allergies or intolerances to cow’s or goat’s milk as it appears devoid of beta-lactoglobulin, one of the most allergenic proteins from cow’s milk. In addition, fat particles of sheep milk are finer, therefore more digestible than cow’s milk. It seems an ideal milk for older people or children who follow special diets.
Are goat milk and sheep milk preferable to cow’s milk?
The milk from these animals contain a lot of calcium (sheep milk contains 50% more) as well as nutritional ? factors as compared to cow’s milk. But as the size of these animals is smaller, and there have not been excessive selections as for cows, one can imagine that there are less growth factors in dairy products of goat and sheep than in cows, which is probably a good thing.
On the lactose side, goat milk and sheep milk contain almost as much as cow’s milk, so intolerances are probably similar. Nevertheless, some studies have found that children who cannot tolerate cow’s milk can eat some goat milk without problems. This could be explained by the fact that there is less casein in goat milk and especially little alpha-S1 casein, which is highly allergenic.
So the children that react specifically to that protein in cow’s milk would accommodate goat milk. However, goat milk contains more beta-lactoglobulin than cow’s milk, which is not good news for children allergic to the protein fraction. Recent tests can also distinguish the type of milk protein to which one is allergic.
- Shikha Jaiprakash D, Appu Kuttan KK and Kiran S. Study of human allergic milk whey protein from different mammalian species using computational method. Bioinformation. 2012; 8(21): 1035–1041.
- Xianzi L, Jun L, Liping Z, Wei W and Deming G. MiR-103 Controls Milk Fat Accumulation in Goat (Capra hircus) Mammary Gland during Lactation. PLoS One. 2013; 8(11): e79258.