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5 Health Benefits of Milk

Milk is a natural source of mammalian food. Animals, including humans, produce milk to feed their babies.

It contains valuable nutrients such as calcium and protein.

However, consumption of milk is a hotly debated subject, so you may wonder whether drinking milk provides health benefits.

1. Milk is Nutritious Drink

The milk nutritional profile is impressive. One cup (244 grams) of cow’s milk contains (1):

  • Calories: 146
  • 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.

It provides potassium, B12, calcium, and vitamin D. Milk is also an outstanding source of vitamin A, magnesium, zinc, and thiamine (B1).

It is an excellent protein source and contains hundreds of various fatty acids, including conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3s (2).

There are many health benefits associated with conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids, including a decreased risk of diabetes and heart disease (3, 4, 5).

The nutritional capacity of milk varies depending on factors such as its fat content and the diet and care of the cow from which it is produced (6).

Milk from cows eating mainly grass, for example, produces substantially higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids (7).

Organic and grass-fed cow’s milk often contains higher levels of beneficial antioxidants, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene, which help to minimize inflammation and oxidative stress (8).

2. Milk is Good For Your Bones

Drinking milk can benefit your bones. This is because of its strong nutrient content, including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, protein, and vitamin K2.

These nutrients are important for keeping the bones strong and healthy. However, 99% of the calcium in your body is stored in your teeth and bones (9).

Milk is an excellent source of nutrients that your body can rely on to absorb calcium properly, including vitamin D, vitamin K, phosphorus, and magnesium.

By adding milk and dairy products to your diet, you can reduce the risk of bone diseases such as osteoporosis. Studies have associated milk with a lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures, especially in older adults (10, 11, 12).

Also, milk is a substantial source of protein, a crucial nutrient for bone health. Protein accounts for about 50% of bone thickness and about one-third of bone mass (13).

Eating more protein can protect against bone loss, particularly in women who do not have enough calcium in their diets (14).

3. Milk is a Protein Rich Source

Milk is rich in protein. A single cup of milk contains eight grams of protein. Your body needs protein for many vital functions, including growth, cell repair, and regulation of the immune system (15).

Milk is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine of the amino acids required for proper body functioning (16).

There are two dominant protein types present in milk: casein and whey protein. They are top-quality proteins.

Casein forms the bulk of the protein found in cow’s milk, accounting for 70–80% of the total protein content. Whey represents roughly 20% of all proteins (17).

Whey protein contains branched-chained amino acids such as leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Branched-chain amino acids can be helpful in muscle growth, preventing lean muscle loss, and providing energy during exercise (18, 19).

Drinking milk can also lower the risk of age-related muscle loss (20).

However, several studies have shown that after a workout, drinking milk can encourage muscle recovery, increase strength, and even minimize muscle soreness (21, 22, 23).

4. Decreases Risk of Obesity

Several studies have shown that milk consumption may decrease the risk of obesity. Ironically, only whole milk has been correlated with that value.

A study in children aged three showed that an increased intake of milk was associated with a lower risk of childhood obesity (24).

Another study in middle-aged and older women found that eating more high-fat dairy products was associated with lower weight gain and a lower risk of obesity (25).

Milk contains several elements that may prevent weight gain. High-protein foods, for example, allow you to feel full for a longer time, which can prevent overeating (26).

In addition, the conjugated linoleic acid in milk can facilitate fat breakdown while inhibiting fat storage in the body (27).

Studies have shown that high dietary calcium levels promote the breakdown of fat and prevent fat absorption in the body (28, 29).

5. Milk is Easy to Add to Your Diet

Milk is a nutritious drink with a wide range of health benefits. It’s a flexible ingredient that you can easily add to your diet.

Try to integrate milk into your smoothies, oatmeal, and coffee. There are other dairy foods that have similar nutrient profiles if you’re not a fan of milk.

Unsweetened yogurt made from milk, for example, contains the same amount of protein, calcium, and phosphorus.

Yogurt is an alternative to processed dips and toppings, which are very healthy.

Concerns and Precautions

Many people cannot drink milk since they cannot digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy and milk products.

Ironically, lactose intolerance affects around 65% of the world’s population (30, 31).

Some people prefer not to drink milk or dairy products because of dietary restrictions, environmental issues, or ethical reasons.

This has contributed to a wide range of alternatives to nondairy milk, such as almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, soy milk, hemp milk, oat milk, and rice milk.

When choosing a substitute for milk, many products contain added ingredients such as sweeteners, artificial flavors, preservatives, and thickeners.

For contrasting reasons, selecting a product with fewer ingredients is a smart idea.

Read the labels and find out which one fits your needs best.

Stick to unsweetened varieties as much as possible to limit the amount of added sugar in your diet.

Conclusion

Milk is rich in calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins, potassium, and vitamin D.

It’s also an excellent protein source.

Therefore, drinking milk and dairy products can prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures and may even help you keep your weight healthy.

However, many people cannot digest lactose or want to avoid milk.

Consuming high-quality milk and dairy products can offer several health benefits for those who can tolerate them.

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