Cow’s milk is a daily staple food for many people — and has been for millennia. While it’s still a popular food, recent studies suggest milk may have harmful effects on the body. Other research, however, points out the health benefits of dairy.
So, what’s the truth? Read on to learn about the pros and cons of milk, as well as some alternatives you may want to consider if you can’t tolerate milk or choose not to drink it.
Milk is considered a whole food. It provides
|Nutrient||Amount per 244 g||Percentage of Recommended Daily Amount (RDA)|
|Vitamin A||112 mcg||15%|
|Vitamin B-12||1.10 mcg||18%|
|Protein||6 to 7 g (casein and whey)||14%|
Milk also provides:
- vitamin B-6
- vitamin E
- vitamin K
Fat content varies. Whole milk contains more fat than other types:
Drinking milk hasn’t been linked to weight gain or obesity. While dairy is also not associated with weight loss, it may help curb appetite. A small
Milk helps improve weight and bone density in children, according to a 2016 study. It also reduces the risk of childhood fractures. Research shows that pregnant women who ate plenty of dairy- and calcium-rich foods had babies with better bone growth and mass.
Additionally, adding more dairy to the diet of preteen girls was found to be better for bone health than giving them calcium supplements.
Milk also provides proteins that are necessary to build and maintain healthy bones, teeth, and muscle. A cup of milk provides around 6 to 7 grams of casein and whey proteins.
Bone and dental health
A glass of milk contains almost 30 percent of the daily requirement of calcium for adults. Milk also contains potassium and magnesium. These minerals are important for healthy bones and teeth.
Dairy provides almost
Milk may also help prevent cavities. Research showed that getting more dairy, calcium, and vitamin D helped reduce dental plaque in older adults.
Several studies have found that whey protein in milk may help prevent type 2 diabetes in adults. This may be because milk proteins improve your blood sugar balance.
Milk fat may help raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol. It helps prevent heart disease and stroke.
Additionally, milk is a good source of potassium. This mineral helps balance blood pressure.
Pastured or grass-fed cows make milk with more omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid. These fats help protect heart and blood vessel health.
A 2016 study found that teenagers with acne drank higher amounts of low-fat or skim milk. Adult acne may also be triggered by dairy.
Other skin conditions
Dairy may also be a trigger food for some adults with rosacea.
About 5 percent of children have a milk allergy, estimate some experts. It can cause skin reactions, such as eczema, and gut symptoms like colic, constipation, and diarrhea. Other serious reactions include:
Children may grow out of a milk allergy. Adults can also develop a milk allergy. Antibiotics given to dairy cows may also be linked to milk allergies.
Drinking three or more glasses of milk a day may increase the risk of bone fractures in women.
Milk from cows given growth hormones contains higher levels of a chemical that may increase the risk of some cancers. More studies are needed on the long-term effects of these hormones and on antibiotics given to dairy cows.
Cow’s milk has a higher amount of lactose than milk from other animals. Up to
Cow’s milk alternatives for infants and toddlers with milk protein allergies include:
|Breastfeeding||Best source of nutrition||Typically only available for first 4 to 6 months of life; Not all women can breastfeed|
|Hypoallergenic formulas||Produced with enzymes to break down milk proteins||Processing may damage other nutrients|
|Amino acid formulas||Least likely to cause an allergic reaction||Processing may damage other nutrients|
|Soy-based formulas||Fortified to be nutritionally complete||Children may also develop allergy to soy|
Plant- and nut-based milks suitable for individuals who are lactose intolerant or vegan include:
|Soy milk||Contains similar amount of proteins; Half the carbs and fats||Contains plant estrogens and hormones|
|Almond milk||Low fat; High calcium; High vitamin E||Low protein; Contains phytic acid (hinders mineral absorption)|
|Coconut milk||Low calories; Low carbohydrates; Half the fat||No protein; High saturated fats|
|Oat milk||Lower in fat; High fiber||High carbohydrates; Low protein|
|Cashew milk||Low calories and fat||Low protein; Fewer nutrients|
|Hemp milk||Low calories; Low carbohydrates; High essential fatty acids||Low protein|
|Rice milk||Low fat||Low protein; High carbohydrates; Low nutrients|
|Quinoa milk||Low fat; Low calories; Low carbohydrates||Low protein|
Milk is naturally packed with essential nutrients in a convenient and accessible form. Drinking milk is particularly important for children and may help you and your child maintain good health.
Milk nutrition varies. Milk from grass-fed or pastured cows provides more beneficial fats and higher amounts of some vitamins.
More research is needed on the amount of milk that’s most beneficial and the effects of antibiotics and artificial hormones given to dairy cows.
It’s best to choose organic milk from cows that are free of growth hormones. Milk alternatives can also be part of a healthy, balanced diet.