Cow’s milk is a daily staple 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 ||Percentage of recommended daily amount (RDA)|
|Vitamin A||112 mcg||12.5%|
|Vitamin B-12||1.10 mcg||18%|
|Protein||7–8 grams (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: 1.9 grams
- cholesterol: 24 milligrams (mg)
Drinking milk hasn’t been linked to weight gain or obesity, and it may help curb appetite. A
Milk may help improve weight and bone density in children, according to a 2016 study. It also reduces the risk of childhood fractures.
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 about
Type 2 diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood sugar levels. Diabetes can increase your risk for:
Milk fat may help raise levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Having healthy HDL cholesterol levels
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
Some foods may worsen eczema, including milk and dairy, according to a
However, a 2018 study found that pregnant and breastfeeding women who added a probiotic to their diet reduced their child’s risk for eczema and other food-related allergic reactions.
Dairy may also be a trigger food for some adults with rosacea. On the other hand, a
Other serious reactions include:
- difficulty breathing
- bloody stool
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.
Excess calcium from milk and other foods may
Cow’s milk has a higher amount of lactose than milk from other animals. A
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 an allergy to soy|
Plant and nut-based milks are 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 carbs; half the fat||No protein; high saturated fats|
|Oat milk||Lower in fat; high fiber||High carbs; low protein|
|Cashew milk||Low calories and fat||Low protein; fewer nutrients|
|Hemp milk||Low calories and carbs; high essential fatty acids||Low protein (though more than other plant-based milks)|
|Rice milk||Low fat||Low protein and nutrients; high carbs|
|Quinoa milk||Low fat, calories, and carbs||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.