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The Surprising Benefits of Milk

05/05/2016 01:33 ● Published by Family Features

(Family Features) Ninety-six percent of Americans have milk in their refrigerators, and for good reason – it’s one of the most naturally nutrient-rich beverages available. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three daily servings of lowfat or fat free milk or milk products as part of a balanced diet. They also focus on the variety of ways to follow a healthy eating plan to help you enjoy the foods you love while still getting nutrients you need.

The good news for whole milk fans is that it has the same nine essential nutrients as lowfat and fat free milk, and a growing body of research suggests there may be benefits to drinking whole milk too. So whether you prefer whole, lowfat or fat free milk, all milk can fit into a nutritious and balanced diet.

Here are six things about milk that may surprise you:

  1. Whole milk has less fat than you may think. Whole milk is actually 3.25 percent milkfat by weight. Each 8-ounce glass of whole milk contains 150 calories and eight grams of fat (12 percent of the recommended daily value).
  2. Research suggests dairy fat is unique. A growing body of evidence suggests that not all saturated fats are the same and the health effects of saturated fat may vary depending on the food you get it from. While more research is needed on the potential benefits of dairy fats, many experts agree on milk’s important role in a healthy diet – in the overall context of the total diet, nutrients and calories.
  3. Milk has a place in a heart-healthy diet. Studies show consuming milk and milk products – regardless of fat content – can be part of a heart-healthy diet, and in some cases may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Additionally, a recent study found the DASH diet, which is linked to lowering blood pressure and typically rich in fruit, vegetables and lowfat dairy, was as effective at lowering blood pressure when both full fat milk and milk products were included.
  4. Milk and a healthy weight. Drinking more reduced-fat milk – and getting more milk protein, in particular – is linked to lower body fat and a healthy weight, according to recent research. And while it’s important to pay attention to overall calorie intake, all milk, including whole milk, can fit into a healthy diet. In fact, one study of more than 18,000 healthy weight women, found those who ate more full fat dairy (1.3 servings daily) were less likely to become overweight or obese over about a decade compared to women who didn’t consume any full fat dairy products.
  5. Skim milk packs the same nutrient-rich punch as all milk. There is a misperception that fat free (or skim) milk contains water or has been “skimmed” of nutrients to reduce the fat content – but that is not the case. The nine essential nutrients, including 8 grams of high-quality protein, remain intact.
  6. White milk has no added sugar. The fact is regular white milk has no added sugar. The sugar in milk comes from naturally occurring lactose. Skim or fat free milk has less calories and fat than higher fat options, but all white milk has the same amount of naturally occurring sugars, with no sugar added.

So, no matter which type of dairy milk you choose, from whole to lowfat, know that you are selecting a safe, wholesome and naturally nutrient-rich food. With nine essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, milk is actually the top food source for three out of the four nutrients most Americans fall short on – calcium, potassium and vitamin D. Learn more at milklife.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


Dalmeijer G, Struijk E, van der Schouw Y, et al. Dairy intake and coronary heart disease or stroke – A population-based cohort study. Int J Card. 2013;167:925-929.

de Oliveira Otto M, Nettleton J, Lemaitre R, et al. Biomarkers or dairy fatty acids and risk of cardiovascular disease in the Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. J Am Heart Assoc. 2013;2:e000092.

Chiu S, Bergeron N, Williams P, Bray G, Sutherland B, Krauss R. Comparison of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and a higher-fat DASH diet on blood pressure and lipids and lipoproteins: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;103:341-347.

Murphy K, Crichton G, Dyer K, et al. Dairy Foods and Dairy Protein Consumption Is Inversely Related to Markers of Adiposity in Obese Men and Women. Nutrients. 2013;5:4665-4684.

Rautiainen S, Wang L, Lee I, Manson J, Buring J, Sesso H. Dairy consumption in association with weight change and risk of becoming overweight or obese in middle-aged and older women: a prospective cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016. [epub ahead of print].

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