In recent years, there has been a lot of debate over whether milk is good for you or not. Some people say it's a necessary part of a healthy diet, while others say that cow's milk isn't the best option.
Despite this recent spark in conversation and opposing views, milk remains one of the most consumed foods in the world. In fact, many people have grown up drinking it from a young age, and it contains key nutrients that can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Milk can be a great source of calcium and vitamin D, which are both essential for strong bones and teeth. It also provides protein and riboflavin (vitamin B2) for energy. Here are five reasons why milk can be beneficial to your health.
What the Guidelines Say
When deciding what food and beverages should be included in your diet, it’s always helpful to start with the national guidelines.
The NZ Dietary Guidelines recommend two servings of milk or milk-based products (i.e. dairy) each day.
Dietary guidelines are created in consultation with leading nutrition experts, and take into account a variety of factors. Before we even look at the reasons why milk is good for you, just being included in the guidelines is a good indication that dairy products are part of a healthy, balanced diet.
1. Packed with Nutrients
The first reason why milk is good for you is the fact that it is bursting with vital nutrients.
Cow’s milk, as most of us know, is a great source of protein and calcium, but it also contains a huge range of nutrients and vitamins that all play an important role in overall health.
These nutrients include vitamins D and B12, calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium, phosphorus, and selenium.
2. Great for Bone Health
We recently wrote a detailed blog looking at why you need dairy for strong bones, so if you want the full story be sure to check it out.
But if you want just the highlights, here they are:
Studies have shown that people who consume three servings or more per day of dairy products have higher bone mineral density (BMD), which means stronger bones.
One study found that high calcium intake from calcium-enriched foods (such as milk) significantly increased bone mass in prepubescent girls after a double-blind trial for one year.
A second study found similar results, but also found that the increase in dairy products, which provided the boost to calcium, did not have any impact on fat intake or weight gain, meaning the girls in the study improved bone density but didn’t gain excess weight.
In premenopausal women, who were given a modified diet consisting of dairy products, results showed that dairy consumption can help maintain bone density and strength when estrogen levels are depleted. Over 3 years, women involved in the study maintained bone density levels, while the women in the control group saw a decrease in bone density.
A similar study looked at postmenopausal women and found the results to be the same. In this study they used calcium tablets and milk tablets, and found that in both groups there was a cessation in the loss of bone density, while the control group (who were taking a placebo) had a reduction in bone density.
The summary - calcium intake is an important aspect of bone health - both in building density as we grow, and preventing loss as we get older.
3. Milk is a ‘Complete’ Protein
Milk is a great source of protein - one cup contains 8 grams of protein!
Protein is necessary for a range of bodily functions including growth and development, cellular repair and immune system regulation.
Milk is considered a ‘complete’ protein since it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids that your body requires for optimal function.
4. Milk Consumption Can Aid Weight Loss
Interestingly, several studies have linked milk intake with a lower risk of obesity. A review of the literature found that 11 of 16 studies discovered a link between consuming a high fat dairy diet and reduced risk of becoming overweight.
It’s also been shown that whole fat milk is better than low fat or skim milk for weight management.
5. Milk Can Help with a Variety of Health Conditions
This is perhaps the top reason milk is good for you - milk (and milk-based products) consumption can have a positive effect on a range of health conditions.
There has been a long-held view that dairy intake leads to heart problems, since dairy is high in saturated fatty acids. As a result, many nutritional guidelines recommend low-fat or fat-free milk.
However, in 2019 researchers reviewed 17 studies that examined the link between dairy consumption and heart disease and found that there is no actual link between dairy consumption and increased risk of heart problems, regardless of whether you choose low-fat or full fat milk.
In fact, a 2018 study conducted across 21 countries actually found that higher dietary intake of milk and dairy products was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals such as calcium faster than they can be replaced. This can lead to weak, fragile bones that can break easily. Milk is high in calcium, and is one of the best sources of calcium. One cup can provide upto 25% of your daily calcium intake.
Ensuring milk is in your diet can help keep osteoporosis at bay.
According to research by the World Cancer Research Fund, dairy consumption can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer, mainly due to the high calcium content.
Type 2 Diabetes
One study found that decreasing dairy consumption actually increased the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes in people with prediabetes. For everybody else, consuming low-fat dairy is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes.
Time to Increase Your Milk Intake?
For a multitude of reasons, milk and dairy products are great for you and your health. To find a fridge stocking Jersey Girl Organics near you, head over to our interactive map and find a stockist today.