Milk is a natural source of mammalian food. Animals, including humans, produce milk to feed their babies until they are ready for solid food. Milk contains valuable nutrients such as calcium and protein, which helps support the body. Western countries most frequently drink cow’s milk. However, consumption of milk is a hotly debated subject because of the lactose intolerance, so you may wonder whether it is safe or harmful. Here are five scientifically supported health benefits of milk.
1. Milk is Nutritious Drink
The Milk nutritional profile is impressive. It can entirely feed newborn animals. One cup (244 grams) of cow’s milk comprise (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 also an excellent protein source, and contains hundreds of various fatty acids, including conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3s (2, 3).
There are many health benefits associated with conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids, including a decreased risk of diabetes and heart disease. The nutritional quality of milk varies, depending on factors such as its fat content and the diet and care of the cow from which they originate it (4, 5, 6).
Milk from cows eating mainly grass, for example, produces substantially higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. 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 (7, 8).
Milk contains a wide variety of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, proteins, healthy fats and antioxidants.
2. Milk is Good For Your Bones
Drinking milk can benefit your bones. 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 percent of 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. Incorporating milk and dairy products into your diet will prevent bone diseases such as osteoporosis. Studies have associated milk with a lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures, especially in older adults (10, 11).
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. Evidence suggests that eating more protein can protect against bone loss, particularly in women who do not have enough calcium in their diets (12, 13).
Milk contains several nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and magnesium, which support bone health. Studies show that the intake of milk and milk products may prevent osteoporosis and reduce the risk of fractures.
3. Milk is a Protein Rich Source
Milk is rich in protein. Therefore, a single cup of milk comprise eight grams of protein. You require protein for many vital functions in your body, including growth, cellular repair, and regulation of the immune system (14).
Milk is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine of the amino acids required for optimal functioning of your body. There are two dominant protein types present in milk such as 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 percent of the total protein content. Whey represents roughly 20 percent of all proteins (15, 16).
Whey protein includes the leucine, isoleucine, and valine branched-chain amino acids, which are all related to health benefits. Branched-chain amino acids can be helpful in muscle building, preventing lean muscle loss and providing power during exercise (17, 18).
Drinking milk can lower risk of age-related muscle loss. In addition, they have correlated a higher intake of milk and milk products with greater muscle mass of the entire body and better physical activity in older adults (19).
Milk can improve athlete muscle repair. However, several studies have shown that after a workout, drinking milk can encourage muscle recovery, increase strength and even minimize muscle soreness (20, 21).
Milk is rich in protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. It can help reduce the age-related muscle loss and encourage muscle repair after an exercise.
4. Decreases Risk of Obesity
Several studies have shown milk consumption with a decreased risk of obesity. Ironically, only whole milk has been correlated with that value. A study in children aged three showed that increased intake of milk-fat was associated with a lower risk of childhood obesity (22).
Another research involving over 18,000 middle-aged and elderly women found that eating more high-fat dairy products was associated with lower weight gain and a lower risk of obesity (23).
Milk includes several components that may lead to weight loss and weight gain prevention. The high-protein content, for example, allows you to feel full for a longer time, which can avoid overeating (24, 25).
In addition, they analyzed the conjugated linoleic acid in milk for its ability to increase weight loss by facilitating fat breakdown and inhibiting the fat storage in the body (26).
In addition, several studies have related calcium-rich diets to a lower risk of obesity. Data shows people with higher dietary calcium intake are at reduced risk of being overweight. Studies have shown that high dietary calcium levels facilitate a breakdown of fat and prevent fat absorption in the body (27, 28).
Adding milk to your diet, especially whole milk, can prevent weight gain.
Milk is Easy to Add to Your Diet
Milk is a nutritious drink which has many health benefits. It’s also a flexible ingredient which you can easily add to your diet. Try to integrate milk to your smoothies, oatmeal, coffee, and soups.
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 is healthy and versatile.
Milk is a flexible ingredient which you can add to your diet in many unique ways. Consider applying it to your morning smoothies, coffee or oatmeal.
Concerns and Precautions
Although some may consider milk a pleasant choice, others may not digest it or prefer not to ingest it. Many people can not drink milk, since they can not digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy and milk products. Ironically, lactose resistance affects around 65 percent of the world’s population (29).
Some 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 nondairy milk, remember many of these products contain added ingredients such as sweeteners, artificial flavors, preservatives and thickeners. By comparing reasons, selecting a product with fewer ingredients is a smart idea. Read the labels and find out which one’s fit your needs best. Stick to unsweetened varieties as far as possible to limit the amount of added sugar in your diet.
For those who can’t or prefer not to drink milk, there are several nondairy milk alternatives available.
The Bottom Line
Milk is rich in vital nutrients such as 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 able to tolerate it.
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