Health Benefits of Whole Milk

Health Benefits of Whole Milk
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Milk Nutrition

Some people do not agree with cow’s milk and opt for dairy alternatives. For those who can enjoy a glass of milk, this creamy beverage is a great source of nutrition. Well-known as a source of calcium and vitamin D, two important nutrients for bone health, milk is also a great source of vitamin B2, which is needed for immune health and growth, vitamin B12, which helps to regulate homocysteine levels and iodine, which is an important mineral for proper thyroid function. Milk also contains tryptophan, an amino acid that is used to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin. It contains a small amount of vitamin K, which is also important for bone health, vitamin A, for eye, immune and bone health and potassium, which has a number of functions in the body, including balancing with sodium levels. Milk is also an excellent source of protein.

Especially for those in need of nutrition, such as growing children and teenagers, a glass of milk or milk products such as yogurt and cottage cheese provide a variety of essential vitamins and minerals in each serving. A lifetime of consuming dairy products reduces the risk of low bone mass later in life, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

While low-fat, or 2 percent milk is considered to be a healthy beverage, is it beneficial to drink whole milk, or 3.5 percent milk? Are there benefits of whole milk?

Choosing Whole Milk

Whole milk contains more fat then low-fat milk, eight grams per one cup serving versus five grams. Most of the fat content in milk is saturated fat, something that is not good in excess in our diet, especially for those who are trying to lose weight. For those who are not on a special diet and who are at a healthy weight, drinking whole milk is not necessarily that bad. First, a glass of whole milk is going to make you feel much fuller then a glass of low-fat or skim milk. While this may seem like a small thing, feeling satisfied after you consume a meal may help you lose weight as you are less likely to go for a second cookie or snack later on. Second, whole milk is less processed; less processed means less nutritional value is removed. Third, you need fat to properly absorb some of the nutrients found in milk — vitamins A, D and K are all fat-soluble. Whole milk also tastes great, which may be appealing to young children who greatly benefit from the nutrition found in milk.

According to a Swedish study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which looked at dairy consumption of almost 20,000 Swedish women between the ages of 40 and 55, regular consumption of whole milk and whole milk dairy products corresponded to not gaining weight. Women who did not regularly consume whole milk products actually were the ones to gain weight. Another Swedish study, looking at 230 families, found that eating a low-fat diet tends to lead to consuming more sugar and having a higher body mass index. While these studies do not necessarily mean people should go overboard with high-fat foods, it is worth considering that there may actually be more benefits of whole milk then one would assume.

Balance

Drinking whole milk can be beneficial for people who are not at risk for obesity or who are not on a special diet. Milk fat is natural and a much better source of fat then many processed foods that are available. If choosing whole milk, simply be aware that you are getting a little more fat and saturated fat per serving, which means avoid high-fat junk foods and watch your consumption of meat. You may find yourself enjoying the milk more and eating less of other treats. Regardless of what kind of milk you drink, make sure your dairy consumption is part of a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and seafood.

References

World’s Healthiest Foods. Milk, 2%, cow’s. https://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=130

USDA. Food Groups. https://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/milk_why.html

The Healthy Skeptic. Whole fat milk: benefits for moms and kids. https://thehealthyskeptic.org/whole-fat-milk-benefits-for-moms-kids

photo by Dove Harrington/flickr