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||12.5%|
|Vitamin B-12||1.10 mcg||18%|
|Protein||7 to 8 g (casein and whey)||16%|
Milk also provides:
- vitamin B-6
- vitamin E
- vitamin K
Fat content varies. Whole milk contains
- saturated fats: 4.5 grams
- unsaturated fats: 2.5 grams
- cholesterol: 24 milligrams
Drinking milk hasn’t been linked to weight gain or obesity, and it may help curb appetite. A small
Milk may help 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 a healthy diet that included plenty of dairy- and calcium-rich foods had children with better bone growth and mass compared to women who followed less healthy diets.
Milk also provides proteins that are necessary to build and maintain healthy bones, teeth, and muscle. A cup of milk provides around
Bone and dental health
A cup 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
Most milk has added vitamin D. A cup of fortified milk contains almost
Type 2 diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood sugar levels. Diabetes can increase your risk for:
Several studies have found that drinking milk may help prevent type 2 diabetes in adults. This may be because milk proteins improve your blood sugar balance.
Additionally, milk is a good source of potassium. This mineral helps regulate blood pressure.
A 2016 study found that teenagers with acne drank higher amounts of low fat or skim milk. Dairy may also trigger adult acne.
More research is needed to explore the diet-acne connection.
Other skin conditions
Other serious reactions include:
Children may grow out of a milk allergy. Adults can also develop a milk allergy.
Drinking three or more glasses of milk a day may increase the risk of bone fractures in women.
Cow’s milk has a higher amount of lactose than milk from other animals. A 2015 review estimates
Cow’s milk alternatives for infants and toddlers with milk protein allergies include:
|Breastfeeding||Best source of nutrition||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||Some may 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 of whole milk||Contains plant estrogens and hormones|
|Almond milk||Low fat; high calcium (if enriched); high vitamin E||Low protein; contains phytic acid (hinders mineral absorption)|
|Coconut milk||Low calories and 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 and carbohydrates; high essential fatty acids||Low protein (though more than other plant based milks)|
|Rice milk||Low fat||Low protein and nutrients; high carbohydrates|
|Quinoa milk||Low fat, calories, and carbohydrates||Low protein|
Milk is naturally packed with essential nutrients in a convenient and accessible form. Drinking milk is particularly important for children. It 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.