Catchphrases about milk abound in American popular culture, thanks to advertising, and while many point out that milk is good for you, they're sometimes vague about the facts. Milk is a good source of important nutrients, and as long as you aren't lactose intolerant, drinking it is an easy method for getting adequate amounts of calcium and other nutrients in your diet. Knowing the difference between varieties of milk is also important, particularly when you're monitoring levels of high cholesterol, carbohydrates (carbs), or saturated fat intake.
Most of the calcium in the human body is stored in teeth and bones, but maintaining both isn't the only role calcium plays. It's also important for the function of muscles and nerve transmission, among other things, notes the Office of Dietary Supplements. Dairy milk or some milk alternatives can be a good way to get the calcium you need. Phosphorus, found in milk, works in tandem with calcium to maintain bone health and strong teeth. The vitamin A in milk helps the immune system combat infection and is vital for good vision. The potassium in milk is vital to heart-health, cardiovascular disease prevention, and muscle function.
Fat and Calories
The biggest difference between whole, 2 percent and skim milk is in the fat and calorie content. Milk is classified based on the amount of fat it contains. Whole milk dairy products have all of the original cow’s milk fat, which comes to 3.5 percent by weight, according to the Dairy Council of California. Whole milk contains 146 calories per cup and 7.9 grams of fat. Two percent milk is a reduced-fat product containing 122 calories and 4.8 grams of fat per cup. Skim milk is also known as nonfat milk and provides 86 calories and less than 1 gram of fat in each one cup serving.Additional options for low fat milk is available also with fat contents such as one-percent reduced-fat milk, or plant-based options including almond milk which has between 2 and 4 grams of whole fat per cup. Consider essential nutrients, dietitian recommendations, or concerns such as heart disease or obesity in addition to fat content or fewer calorie counts when choosing type of milk at the grocery store.
Vitamin content of milk varies slightly between brands because some products are fortified with extra vitamins, such as vitamins A and vitamin D. An average 1 cup serving of whole milk provides 5 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A, while 2 percent milk contains 9 percent of your needs and skim milk contains about 10 percent in each serving. Milk in any form is a good source of riboflavin, with each variety containing close to 26 percent of your daily needs. Vitamin B12 is also found in milk, with skim milk coming in the highest at 22 percent of your daily intake and whole milk the lowest at 18 percent.
There isn't much difference between varieties of milk when it comes to mineral content. Whole drinking milk offers 28 percent of your daily calcium needs, while skim milk contains 31 percent. All varieties of milk are a good source of phosphorous, selenium and potassium, and contain measurable amounts of zinc and magnesium. Skim milk contains a quarter of your daily recommended intake of phosphorus, while 2 percent and whole milk come in at 23 percent and 22 percent respectively.
Milk, whether full-fat dairy, raw milk, oat milk, or another variation can offer great health benefits. From being linked to a lower risk of heart disease to aiding in weight loss alongside a healthy diet, milk is a great source of value in the diet,, pay attention to nutrition facts and make informed decisions for maximum benefit.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Calcium and Milk: What's Best for Your Bones and Health?
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool - Milk
- Dairy Council of California: Types of Milk
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin A and Carotenoids
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Calcium
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Phosphorus
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium
Since 1997, Maria Christensen has written about business, history, food, culture and travel for diverse publications. She ran her own business writing employee handbooks and business process manuals for small businesses, authored a guidebook to Seattle, and works as an accountant for a software company. Christensen studied communications at the University of Washington and history at Armstrong Atlantic State University.