Milk is an affordable, nutrient-dense food. It contains many vital micro-nutrients that are important for growth and development and overall health. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 85% of animal milk available comes from cattle. Buffaloes come in second, providing 11% of the world’s animal milk, followed by goats with 2%, and sheep with 1%. India is the top milk producer, producing 18% of the world’s milk, following by the USA, which produces 12% of the world’s milk. In the last three decades, milk production around the world has only been on the rise. It is used to make cheese, butter, ghee, milk powder, and many other products. There is a reason milk is so popular—it’s affordable, it’s healthy, and it’s versatile. Let’s explore how milk can positively impact our health.
Builds Strong Bones
Calcium is the most abundant and most often replaced mineral in your body. It makes up to 2% of your body weight! As we go about our daily lives, our bodies are continually working to break down and rebuild bones. Calcium is constantly being removed from bones and must be immediately replaced. If it is not, we risk having brittle and weak bones. Milk is one of the best sources of calcium available. One cup provides 29% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium. This is especially important for children who are quickly growing and require a lot of calcium to build strong and healthy bones!
The need for calcium starts long before a baby is born when their teeth are being formed in utero. A baby is born with all their teeth, which shows how important calcium intake is—especially for pregnant women. According to Nutrition Australia, dairy products play an important and unique role in dental health because they prevent tooth decay. These products contain calcium, casein, and phosphorus—an important combination which forms a protective layer over the enamel surface of the tooth. That way, when acid enters the mouth, instead of making a hole in the enamel, it eats away at the protective layer which is constantly being replaced by the minerals in your saliva. The only recommended drinks for children are water and milk—and for a good reason. Sugary drinks wear away at teeth, while dairy protects them and makes them stronger.
Keeps Muscles Strong
Milk is made up of 34% protein—20% of which is whey, and 80% casein. These proteins are very important for rebuilding and repairing muscle. Whey is “fast protein” because it is quickly broken down and absorbed. This means that right after a workout or a muscle injury, it’ll go straight to the source and immediately start rebuilding muscle. Casein is broken down more slowly by the body, so it provides a steady supply of protein throughout the day and while you sleep at night, repairing and rebuilding as needed.
Improves Heart Health
Dairy contains some very important essential nutrients for heart health, including vitamin D, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, protein, and fatty acids. A 2016 study published in The British Journal of Nutrition found that dairy consumption was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and thus a lower risk of stroke. Another study published in The Asian Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2015 found an inverse correlation between dairy consumption and coronary heart disease. Stroke risk and coronary heart disease risk were significantly reduced with the consumption of low-fat milk and cheese.
People who suffer from acid reflux, or heartburn, may already be aware that a glass of milk can significantly reduce or eliminate their discomfort. Heartburn is caused by acid in the esophagus, and drinking milk can reduce the acidity in the body. It also coats the esophagus and stomach lining, protecting it from burning acid.
Drinking milk is a great way to rehydrate after a workout or on a very hot day. It’s also a good way to get babies and toddlers to drink if they need to rehydrate but refuse to drink water. Since dairy contains essential minerals, it also provides electrolytes that need to be replaced after sweating in the sun, or after physical activity.
Helps You Fall Asleep
Milk is usually fortified with vitamin D which supports the production of serotonin—a neurotransmitter responsible for mood balance, digestion, and sleep. A serotonin imbalance can cause depression. In addition, drinking a glass of warm milk before bed can elicit feelings and memories of home, mom, and childhood which can have a calming psychological effect.
Gives You Glowing Skin
There’s a reason Cleopatra bathed in milk. It rehydrates, smooths, and tones the skin all at once. There are many nutrients in it that are important for skin care. That’s why so many body lotions, body washes, and other skin products contain dairy for healthy, young, and glowing skin. Milk or yogurt can be directly applied to dry skin for rehydration—the lactic acid removes dead skin cells, and the nutrients nourish the skin. Drinking milk will also improve complexion, prevent premature aging, wrinkles, and age spots due to its antioxidant content.
Feeling stressed out? A glass of milk might help. Milk is full of many nutrients which can help with stress relief by lowering blood pressure (potassium, calcium, and magnesium) and supporting serotonin production (vitamin D). Potassium also has a calming effect on muscles, so if you experience muscle spasms, this may help you out.
Improves PMS Symptoms
There is evidence to suggest that the nutrients in dairy can support the body’s functions before and during menstruation, relieving PMS symptoms. Calcium supplements can definitely help with PMS, although it is not proven that the amount of calcium present in milk is enough to do the same. Since there is evidence that it can prevent depression because of its vitamin D content, it may balance mood swings related to PMS. Symptoms that milk may alleviate include fatigue, depression, stress, mood swings, and aches and pains.
Milk contains sugar, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins as well as vitamins and minerals. These can provide a quick pick-me-up when you’re feeling foggy. A nice cold glass can wake you up and provide long-lasting energy that you need to get you through the day.
Aids in Weight Loss
Although it may seem counterintuitive due to its fat content, milk can help you lose weight. If you drink a whole glass, you’re less likely to snack later on. Because it contains a mix of carbohydrates and protein, it’ll keep you full for longer. Research shows that those who pair weight training with dairy consumption lose more body fat and gain more muscle than those who don’t. Milk and dairy products are one of the most consumed food groups. The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion food guide pyramid suggests 2-3 servings of milk, yogurt, and cheese daily. So make sure that you and your little ones are getting enough of this nutritious and delicious food!