You may think of a refreshing drink on a hot day or something you use in baking when you think of milk. You may not know that milk has many health benefits for adults and children to improve overall well-being. From promoting healthy bones to enhancing your immune system, milk is a powerful tool for good health. Keep reading to learn more about the fantastic benefits of milk.
Milk is high in calcium, protein, and vitamin D, making it an excellent source. A glass of milk contains the following essential nutrients: (12)
Whole Milk (1, 3)
- 149 calories
- 7.9 grams of fat
- 7.7 grams of protein
- 12.3 grams of sugars
- 276 milligrams of calcium
- 205 milligrams of phosphorus
- 322 milligrams of potassium
- 3.2 micrograms of vitamin D
Nonfat or Skim Milk (2)
- 83 calories
- 0.2 grams of fat
- 8.2 grams of protein
- 12.4 grams of sugars
- 298 grams of calcium
- 246 milligrams of phosphorus
- 381 milligrams of potassium
- 2.9 micrograms of vitamin D
Both types of milk provide choline, magnesium, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, and other minerals.
Different Types of Milk
Milk comes in animal, and plant-based forms discussed in-depth below.
- Whole milk – This is the most common type of milk. It’s made from whole cow’s milk and has a higher fat content than other types, with 3.5% milkfat.
- Low-fat milk – As the name suggests, milk contains less fat than whole milk, with only 1% milk fat.
- Reduced-fat milk – Reduced-fat milk contains 2% milk fat.
- Skimmed Milk or Fat-Free Milk – Nonfat milk is made from whole milk that has removed the fat. It has a fat content of 0.5% or less.
- Organic Milk – Organic milk comes from cows given organic feed and has access to pasture. They’re also not given hormones or antibiotics.
- A2 Milk – A2 milk is made from cows that produce the A2 protein instead of the A1 protein found in most milk. Some people believe that A2 milk is easier to digest.
- Raw or unpasteurized milk – Raw milk hasn’t been pasteurized or heat-treated to kill bacteria.
- Lactose-Free Milk – Lactose-free milk has removed the lactose or natural sugar. It’s a good option for people who are lactose intolerant.
- Whole Cream Milk – Full cream milk is a type of whole milk that contains 3.5% milkfat.
- Fermented Milk – Fermented milk (11), such as yogurt and kefir, is made by adding bacteria to milk. This fermentation process changes the flavor and texture of the milk.
- Soy milk – Soy milk is made from soybeans and has a similar protein content to cow’s milk. It’s also low in fat and a good source of calcium and Vitamin D.
- Almond milk – Almond milk is made from almonds and water. A good source of vitamin E, almond milk is low in calories and low in fat.
- Coconut milk – Coconut milk is made from the white flesh of coconuts and has a high-fat content. It’s also are good sources of calcium and iron.
- Rice milk – Rice milk is made from rice and water. It’s hypoallergenic and often used as a cow’s milk alternative for people with allergies.
- Oat milk – Oat milk is made from oats and water and is a good source of fiber. It’s also low in calories and fat.
Adding milk to your daily diet (8, 12) may provide several health benefits, including:
May Help Reduce the Risk of Cancer
According to some studies, milk may help protect against cancer, including colorectal, bladder, gastric, breast, and ovarian cancer. The evidence for prostate cancer risk, on the other hand, was inconclusive. (5)
May Lower Blood Pressure and Increase Heart Health
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a higher potassium intake and a lower sodium intake to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (4, 15). According to the AHA, however, saturated fat in full-fat dairy products increases the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease. As a result, people in danger of stroke or heart disease should consume skim or low-fat milk.
May Improve Bone Health
There are 276 milligrams of calcium in a cup of milk (4, 6, 8), about one-third of adults’ recommended daily intake. Calcium (14) helps maintain bone density. Milk also provides vitamin D, both of these minerals are associated with a reduced risk of osteoporosis and maintaining bone mass.
May Improve Brain Health
According to certain studies, older adults who consume more dairy products have greater glutathione levels in the brain. Antioxidant levels were 30% higher among those who consumed three daily servings of milk and milk products than those who had less than half a serving per day.
May Help With Depression
Vitamin D is necessary for serotonin synthesis, a hormone linked to mood, appetite, and sleep. A meta-analysis published in 2019 (16) found that vitamin D supplementation might help people with significant depression cope with their symptoms. However, researchers recommended additional research to confirm these findings.
Promotes Muscle Building and Weight Loss
A source of protein, milk has properties needed for tissue healing and maintenance or gain in lean body mass. A nutritious diet that includes adequate milk protein may aid wound healing or increase muscle mass (17). It may also help people lose weight, but further research is needed to confirm this.
Choose skim or low-fat milk if you’re focused on reducing weight and body fat. If you drink full-fat milk, keep an eye on your total daily calorie intake.
Help Boosts the Immune System
Vitamin D is essential for bone development, growth, and repair. It’s also necessary for calcium absorption and immune function. Vitamin D has been linked to boosting the immune system.
According to the ODS, the optimal daily vitamin D intake for humans is 15 to 20 mcg (18). After age 71, it rises to 20 to 25 mcg per day.
Sun exposure is still the best way to get vitamin D. Since it is only present in trace amounts in foods, some food producers fortify certain products, such as milk items, with vitamin D.
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- FoodData Central (usda.gov) – Whole Milk
- FoodData Central (usda.gov) – Nonfat Milk
- Milk, whole nutrition facts and analysis. (nutritionvalue.org)
- Effects of Dairy Products Consumption on Health: Benefits and Beliefs—A Commentary from the Belgian Bone Club and the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases – PMC (nih.gov)
- Milk and dairy products: good or bad for human health? An assessment of the totality of scientific evidence – PMC (nih.gov)
- Milk | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- Milk: Health benefits, nutrition, and risks (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Dairy: Health food or health risk? – Harvard Health
- Milk kefir: nutritional, microbiological and health benefits | Nutrition Research Reviews | Cambridge Core
- Milk Polar Lipids: Underappreciated Lipids with Emerging Health Benefits – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Milk kefir: nutritional, microbiological and health benefits – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Milk: Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts, and More (webmd.com)
- What Milk Can Do for You (webmd.com)
- Calcium – Health Professional Fact Sheet (nih.gov)
- How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure | American Heart Association
- Efficacy of vitamin D supplementation in major depression: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials – PMC (nih.gov)
- Effect of a High-Protein Diet versus Standard-Protein Diet on Weight Loss and Biomarkers of Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial – PMC (nih.gov)
- Vitamin D – Health Professional Fact Sheet (nih.gov)