Milk is the first food that you are introduced to after birth and continues to be the baby’s sole source of nutrition for many months post-delivery. However, this singular dependence on milk as a vital source of nourishment tends to dissipate as the baby grows older and becomes capable of processing solid foods.
Milk tends to gradually lose its charm as we mature into adulthood, and we lose out on the wide array of health benefits that this wonder tonic has to offer. It is important to bear in mind that the growth-promoting advantages of milk are not exclusive to infants alone but continue to hold for people of all ages.
It is this rich and diverse nutritional composition that makes milk a great value addition to your diet. In fact, it would suffice to say that a wholesome and well-balanced diet is incomplete without a generous supply of dairy goodness
Milk Nutrition Facts
According to the USDA, one 8-ounce serving (1 cup) of reduced fat (2%) milk provides:
- Calories: 122
- Protein: 8 g
- Total fat: 5 g
- Saturated fat: 3 g
- Carbohydrates: 12 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Sugar: 12 g (naturally occurring)
Additionally, this serving size of milk boasts 50% of your daily needs of vitamin B12, 25% of your daily calcium needs, and 15% of your daily needs of potassium and vitamin D, all in just 122 calories. Not to mention, it’s way more affordable than many non-dairy milk alternatives, like almond or oat milk. But what exactly happens to your body when you drink milk every day? We dug into the research to share just that.
(Note: For our purposes, a serving of milk is 8 ounces. In other words, this is the size of a small glass, not a large 16-ounce pint glass.)
5 Ways That Drinking Milk Can Improve Your Health are:
Your Bone Health Might Improve
Not only is milk a great vegetarian protein source but it’s also packed with calcium and vitamin D—two nutrients that are vital for bone health.
Calcium is a mineral needed to build and maintain strong bones, and vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium from the foods we eat. Since milk is a great source of both of these nutrients, it’s one of the best things to keep in your diet for bone health throughout life.
You Might Reach Your Weight Loss Goals
There are lots of misconceptions about how drinking milk can affect weight, but research shows regular consumption probably won’t hurt your cause if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. This is largely due to the satisfying combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat found in milk.
Protein and fat can help make milk super filling, which can help with weight loss. Carbs give you energy and help your body function at its best. When you’re more satisfied with the foods you eat, it’s easier to honor your hunger and fullness levels and stick to a healthy, balanced eating pattern.
A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of research) published in the journal Nutrients found that including dairy in a calorie-restricted diet resulted in greater weight loss and fat loss while reducing the loss of lean muscle. This doesn’t mean milk is a miracle weight-loss food, though.
Another review of studies found that consuming milk or other dairy products didn’t result in significant weight loss, but didn’t lead to weight gain either. If your goal is to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, drinking a glass of milk each day might help, if it’s a food you enjoy.
You Might Lower Your Diabetes Risk
Being a milk drinker could help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One analysis of 22 studies (involving almost 600,000 people) found that total dairy consumption was inversely related to diabetes risk. This means that the more regularly people consumed dairy, the less likely they were to develop the disease. Other studies have found that replacing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption with milk helped lower type 2 diabetes risk as well.
You Might Help Your Heart Health
There is a lot of conflicting evidence when it comes to how milk influences heart health. Remember the days when low-fat diets were all the rage and skim milk was the only milk people were drinking? That could be partially responsible for the confusion. Luckily, now we know that fat is an important component of a healthy diet. However, milk’s relationship to heart health is a bit more complicated.
Some studies find that dairy products lower the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension, which could be due to their potassium content, while other studies find that they’re associated with a higher risk of stroke, largely due to the saturated fat content. And numerous studies find that milk consumption and heart disease are not related at all. So what does it all mean? Overall, most of the recent research finds that milk has either a slightly beneficial or a neutral effect on heart health. As with any other food, if you like it, enjoy it in moderation.
You Might Lower Your Risk of Cognitive Decline
The impressive nutrition profile of milk could be a reason why it can help you stay more mentally sharp as you age. A 2021 review of studies published in Nutrition & Metabolism found that milk intake was connected with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Another study published in 2020 in the journal Nutrients found that skimmed dairy, fermented dairy, and buttermilk were associated with better executive functioning. So adding some milk to your morning oats or as a side to a snack may help boost your brain health.
Researchers hypothesize that one reason milk might support healthy aging is the nutrition that it provides. Milk is a good source of calcium, protein, and vitamin B12, all of which are critical nutrients for older adults.
You Might Increase Your Risk of Certain Types of Cancer
When it comes to how milk consumption affects cancer risk, the answer is complicated. Research has found that it might reduce the risk of certain cancers while increasing the risk for others.
One review in Nutrition & Metabolism found that high milk intake was consistently associated with a lower risk of colon and rectal cancers. While the researchers state that the mechanisms for this reduced risk of cancer are unclear, they hypothesize that the calcium in dairy products could have chemopreventive properties.
But another study included in the review found high milk intake was associated with higher prostate cancer risk compared to lower milk consumption, due to its high calcium content (though these results were not seen for calcium supplements or nondairy sources of calcium). There was insufficient evidence to draw conclusions about breast cancer, bladder cancer, ovarian cancer, and other types of cancers.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that your daily glass of milk is going to give you cancer. However, it does show that more research is needed to clarify the relationship between milk and certain types of cancers.
- Is milk suitable for lactose-intolerant individuals?
- While traditional cow’s milk contains lactose, there are lactose-free and plant-based milk alternatives available. Individuals with lactose intolerance can explore these options, such as almond milk or lactose-free cow’s milk, to enjoy the benefits without digestive discomfort.
- How does milk contribute to weight loss?
- Milk aids in weight loss through various mechanisms. The protein content promotes a feeling of fullness, reducing overall calorie intake. Additionally, calcium and vitamin D in milk support metabolic processes, potentially enhancing weight management efforts when part of a balanced diet.
- Are plant-based milk alternatives as beneficial as dairy milk?
- Plant-based alternatives like almond, soy, or oat milk offer unique nutritional profiles. While they may not provide the same nutrients as dairy milk, they can still be nutrient-rich and suitable for those with lactose intolerance or dietary preferences. It’s essential to choose fortified options to match the nutritional content of dairy milk.
- Can excessive milk consumption lead to health issues?
- While milk offers numerous benefits, excessive consumption may lead to issues such as excess calorie intake or potential sensitivity. Moderation is key. It’s crucial to consider individual dietary needs, and if in doubt, consulting with a healthcare professional or nutritionist is advisable.
- What role does milk play in supporting bone density?
- Milk is a renowned source of calcium, vital for bone health. Adequate calcium intake, along with other nutrients in milk like vitamin D and phosphorus, supports bone density and helps prevent conditions like osteoporosis. Including milk as part of a balanced diet contributes to overall skeletal well-being.