This article lists five science-backed health benefits of milk so you can decide if it’s the right choice for you.
The nutritional profile of milk is impressive. After all, it’s designed to fully nourish new-born animals. Just one cup (244 grams) of whole cow’s milk contains:
Protein: 8 grams
Fat: 8 grams
Calcium: 28% of the RDA
Vitamin D: 24% of the RDA
Riboflavin (B2): 26% of the RDA
Vitamin B12: 18% of the RDA
Potassium: 10% of the RDA
Phosphorus: 22% of the RDA
Selenium: 13% of the RDA
Milk is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including “nutrients of concern,” which are under-consumed by many populations. It provides potassium, B12, calcium and vitamin D, which are lacking in many diets. Milk is also a good source of vitamin A, magnesium, zinc and thiamine (B1). Additionally, it’s an excellent source of protein and contains hundreds of different fatty acids, including conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3s.
Conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids are linked to many health benefits, including a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease. The nutritional content of milk varies, depending on factors like its fat content and the diet and treatment of the cow it came from. For example, milk from cows that eat mostly grass contains significantly higher amounts of conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. Also, organic and grass-fed cow’s milk contains higher amounts of beneficial antioxidants, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene, which help reduce inflammation and fight oxidative stress.
Summary Milk contains a wide array of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats and antioxidants. Keep in mind that its nutritional content can vary depending on many factors.
2. It's A Good Source of Quality Protein
Milk is a rich source of protein, with just one cup containing 8 grams. Protein is necessary for many vital functions in your body, including growth and development, cellular repair and immune system regulation. Milk is considered a “complete protein,” meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids necessary for your body to function at an optimal level. Drinking milk is associated with a lower risk of age-related muscle loss in several studies. In fact, higher consumption of milk and milk products has been linked to greater whole-body muscle mass and better physical performance in older adults. Milk has also been shown to boost muscle repair in athletes. In fact, several studies have demonstrated that drinking milk after a workout can decrease muscle damage, promote muscle repair, increase strength and even decrease muscle soreness. Plus, it’s a natural alternative to highly processed protein drinks marketed toward post-workout recovery.
Summary Milk is a rich source of quality protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. It may help reduce age-related muscle loss and promote muscle repair after exercise.
Summary Milk contains a variety of nutrients that benefit bone health, such as calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus and magnesium. Studies suggest that consuming milk and dairy products may prevent osteoporosis and reduce the risk of fractures.
4. May Prevent Weight Gain
Several studies have linked milk intake to a lower risk of obesity. Interestingly, this benefit has only been associated with whole milk. A study in 145 three-year-old Latino children found that higher milk-fat consumption was associated with a lower risk of childhood obesity. Another study including over 18,000 middle-aged and elderly women showed that eating more high-fat dairy products was associated with less weight gain and a lower risk of obesity. Milk contains a variety of components that may contribute to weight loss and prevent weight gain. For example, its high-protein content helps you feel full for a longer period of time, which may prevent overeating. Furthermore, the conjugated linoleic acid in milk has been studied for its ability to boost weight loss by promoting fat breakdown and inhibiting fat production. Additionally, many studies have associated diets rich in calcium with a lower risk of obesity. Evidence suggests that people with a higher intake of dietary calcium have a lower risk of being overweight or obese. Studies have shown that high levels of dietary calcium promote fat breakdown and inhibit fat absorption in the body.
Summary Adding milk, especially whole milk, to your diet may prevent weight gain.
5. A Versatile Ingredient
Milk is a nutritious beverage that provides a number of health benefits. Moreover, it’s a versatile ingredient that can be easily added to your diet. If you’re not a fan of milk, there are other dairy products that have similar nutrient profiles. For example, unsweetened yogurt made from milk contains the same amount of protein, calcium and phosphorus. Yogurt is a healthy and versatile alternative to processed dips and toppings.
Summary Milk is a versatile ingredient that can be added to your diet in a number of ways. Try adding it to smoothies, coffee or your morning oatmeal.
Almond milk: Made from almonds, this plant-based alternative is lower in calories and fat than cow’s milk.
Coconut milk: This tropical drink made from coconut flesh and water has a creamy texture and mild flavour.
Cashew milk: Cashews and water combine to make this subtly sweet and rich substitute.
Soy milk: Contains a similar amount of protein as cow’s milk and has a mild flavour.
Hemp milk: This alternative is made from hemp seeds and provides a good amount of high quality, plant-based protein.
Oat milk: This substitute is very mild in flavour with a thicker consistency, making it a great addition to coffee.
Rice milk: A great option for those with sensitivities or allergies, as it’s the least allergenic of all non-dairy milks.
When choosing a non-dairy milk substitute, keep in mind that many of these products contain added ingredients like sweeteners, artificial flavours, preservatives and thickeners. Choosing a product with limited ingredients is a good choice when comparing brands. Read the labels to determine which best suits your needs. If possible, stick to unsweetened varieties to limit the amount of added sugar in your diet.
Summary There are many non-dairy milk alternatives available for those who can’t or choose not to drink milk.
The Bottom Line
Milk is a nutrient-rich beverage that may benefit your health in several ways. It’s packed with important nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins, potassium and vitamin D. Plus, it’s an excellent source of protein. Drinking milk and dairy products may prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures and even help you maintain a healthy weight. Many people are unable to digest milk or choose to avoid it for personal reasons. For those able to tolerate it, consuming high-quality milk and dairy products has been proven to provide a number of health benefits."
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All the best Jan