Milk is nutritious by nature. It is much more than calcium alone. Fresh milk delivers a set of essential nutrients, such as proteins, vitamins and minerals and therefore it has a significant contribution to a healthy diet. Here you can find some information on the most important nutrients in milk.
Proteins are built from amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids in foods, of which 9 amino acids are essential. These essential amino acids are important for a healthy diet. Milk protein contains a good package of all the essential amino acids that the body needs to make proteins.
Milk is world-famous for containing calcium. Calcium is essential for the maintenance of bones and teeth. Every day a bit of bone mass is being resorbed and being formed with the result that in a few years all your bones are renewed. During all stages of life we need calcium to maintain this continuous process. But it is not only calcium that is required for good bone health. Minerals such as phosphorus and protein from milk are also involved. And vitamin D is important for bone health.
But calcium is involved in a lot more functional processes: it is also important for the normal functioning of muscles (it plays a role in the contraction of muscles), the impulse conduction in the nerves, blood clotting and the functioning of
the digestive enzymes.
Milk is a very good source of calcium, because of its high level and its bioavailability. And it fits easily in a daily diet. Other sources of calcium are nuts, seaweed, dried fruit and (leafy) vegetables.
Along with calcium, phosphorus is a building block for the skeleton. Phosphorus is also involved in releasing energy in the human body. Phosphorus is available in almost all everyday products like milk, fish, meat, and bread.
Potassium is involved in blood pressure regulation. Potassium helps to control the blood pressure-raising effects of excess sodium (salt). And potassium also contributes to a normal functioning of the muscles and the nervous system. Potassium is available in almost all daily products like potatoes, milk, meat and vegetables.
Milk is a source of vitamin B2. Vitamin B2 has several functions in the body. Amongst others, it plays a role in the proper functioning of the nervous system and also in the energy-yielding metabolism where it is required for production of energy from carbohydrates and fats. It helps to reduce tiredness.
Vitamin B2 particularly occurs naturally in milk, and it is also available in meat, vegetables, fruit, and bread.
Milk is an important source of vitamin B12. Just like vitamin B2, vitamin B12 is important in several processes in the body. It is involved in the functioning of the nervous system, the production of red blood cells, the immune system and the energy-yielding metabolism. It also helps to reduce tiredness.
Vitamin B12 only occurs in animal products such as meats, fish, and milk products and does not occur naturally in foods derived from plant matter. People who do not eat meat or fish can obtain vitamin B12 in a natural way from milk.
Vitamin A and D
Vitamin A and D are both fat soluble and present in multiple forms. Milk and milk products have relatively low natural levels of vitamin A and D; however they are generally considered suitable products for fortification. Therefore milk products are enriched with vitamin A and/or vitamin D in quite some countries.
Vitamin A is naturally present in milk fat that typically contains approximately 10 µg retinol (preformed vitamin A) and 6 µg carotenoids (pro-vitamin A) per gram of fat. While plant foods don’t supply retinol, they do provide high levels of carotenoids. These can be converted into vitamin A in the body.
Dietary sources of vitamin D account for around 10% of our body’s supply, as vitamin D is also synthesized in the skin by exposure to sunshine. Dietary vitamin D comes in two major forms: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol – typical form in plants) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol – from animal foods in the diet).
Vitamin A and D have many functions in the human body. Vitamin A contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system and maintaining normal vision. Vitamin D contributes to bone growth and maintenance, as it plays a key role in the uptake and availability of calcium. Furthermore, it plays a role in proper functioning of the immune system and of the muscles
Milk is an excellent source of, particularly calcium. It has an important role in bone health. Nutritionists recommend that people have milk and other , such as yoghurt and cheese, every day as part of a balanced diet.
recommend that people over the age of 2 years have mostly reduced fat products to lower the amount of energy (kilojoules) while still getting all of the other nutritional benefits from dairy foods.
Nutrients In Milk
Milk and milk products have a good balance of, and carbohydrate and are a very important source of essential nutrients, including:
- vitamins A and
Milk products also have ‘high-quality proteins’ that are well suited to human needs. For example, having milk (or yoghurt) with cereal can provide amino acids that may be lacking in the cereal product.
Milk And Health Conditions
There are many myths about the negative impacts of milk on health. Changing how much milk you drink because of these myths may mean you are unnecessarily restricting this highly nutritious drink.
Australians often restrict dairy foods when they try to, believing them to be fattening. While dairy products naturally contain fat, there are many reduced fat products available.
Dairy foods like milk, yoghurt and cheese (particularly reduced-fat products) are not a threat to good health if had as part of a.
Research has shown:
- Cardiovascular health – there may be a protective effect of milk for risk. The Heart Foundation says that unless you already have coronary or elevated , full fat milk, yoghurt and cheeses are unlikely to increase your risk of heart disease when consumed as part of a healthy eating pattern.
- – if milk and milk products are removed from the diet, it can lead to an inadequate intake of calcium. This is especially a concern for women over the age of 50 and the elderly, who have high calcium needs. Calcium deficiency may lead to conditions like osteoporosis (a disease that results in loss of bone).
- Colorectal cancer (also known as ) – according to the World Cancer Research Fund, people who regularly eat more than one serve of dairy products each day (particularly milk) have a reduced risk of developing colon cancer.
- – having milk and dairy products is associated with lowered blood pressure. And, when low-fat dairy foods are combined with a high intake of fruits and vegetables, blood pressure is lowered more than by just having fruits and vegetables.
- – dairy products in general, particularly those that are low-fat, are protective against developing type 2 diabetes.
Many people in Australia believe that nasal stuffiness or increased mucous is related, in part, to how much milk you drink. However, there is no evidence to support this theory. Milk doesn’t encourage extra mucous production.
Milk is an important source of nutrients for children. A glass of milk with a small amount of flavouring (such as one level teaspoon of chocolate powder) is a healthier option for children than othersuch as soft drinks, flavoured waters, fruit drinks and cordials. However, if you choose to give your child flavoured milk, this should be in moderation.
As children move into their teenage years, the time when they need the most calcium, they tend to drink less milk and more sugary soft drinks. As milk is a healthier choice, it’s worth encouraging teenagers to drink reduced-fat flavoured milk rather than soft drinks.
and plain milk are the best drinks for children and teenagers.
Milk And Tooth Decay
Milk and milk products are thought to protect against. Eating cheese and other dairy products:
- reduces oral acidity (which causes decay)
- stimulates saliva flow
- reduces plaque formation
- reduces the incidence of dental caries (tooth decay).
Drink Pasteurised Milk
Most milk on the market is pasteurised (heat treated then cooled). While pasteurisation reduces the amount of some vitamins, such as vitamin C, it also kills bacteria.
Never drink, as you have an increased risk of from pathogens (bugs, germs, bacteria).
There are many types of pasteurised milks on the market, including:
- Full cream – full-cream milk contains around 4% fat. For children up to the age of 2 years, full-cream milk is recommended.
- Reduced fat – expect around half as much fat in reduced-fat milk as full-cream. Children over the age of 2 years can drink reduced-fat milk.
- Skim milk – has a maximum of 0.15% fat. There are some brands of reduced-fat and skim milk that have vitamin A and added to replace the naturally occurring vitamins that are reduced when the fat is removed.
- Calcium enriched – a 250 ml glass of calcium-enriched milk contains 408–500 mg of calcium.
- A2 milk – milks labelled as ‘A2’ primarily consist of a form of β-casein protein called A2 and generally lack the A1 form. It is thought that the A2 form of β-casein protein is more easily digested by some people than the A1 form.
- Lactose-free – these milks are the same as regular milks but have had the lactose (sugar) removed to make it easier to digest for people who have difficulty digesting lactose.
- Flavoured – these milks can either be full cream or reduced fat. However, most varieties contain added sugar and should be consumed only sometimes.
- UHT (ultra-high temperature-treated) milk – is treated with very high heat to allow milk to be stored for long periods.
What Is Permeate?
When shopping for milk, you might have seen the word ‘permeate’ on the label. Permeate is the term used in the dairy industry that refers to the lactose, vitamin and mineral content that has been extracted from milk using ultrafiltration – it is not an addition of anything to milk that was not already there.
The quality and composition of milk varies between different breeds of cows, different farms and at different times of the year. Because of this, sometimes manufacturers use permeate to ‘standardise’ the milk, to ensure a consistent product is produced year-round.
Cow’s Milk Allergy
Anand related dairy products affects one in 50 babies and is different to lactose intolerance. Very few adults are allergic to cow’s milk. People who are allergic to cow’s milk can also be allergic to milk from other animals such as goats, sheep and buffalo.
If a person has an allergic sensitivity, it’s usually because of one or more of the proteins in milk. The proteins in goat’s milk are closely related to those in cow’s milk, so replacing one type of milk with the other usually doesn’t help.
Milk allergies are more common in very young children and most tend to grow out of them or build up a tolerance to milk.
Lactose is a type of carbohydrate or sugar that naturally occurs in milk from any mammal, including humans. Normally, an enzyme in the small intestine called lactase breaks down lactose so it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Some people don’t produce enough lactase. When they drink milk, undigested lactose is broken up by the bacteria in their large intestine causing gas, bloating, pain and diarrhoea. This condition is called ‘’.
You can be born lactose intolerant or develop it later in life. If you think you may be lactose intolerant, see your doctor.
Milk and milk products are highly nutritious, so people who are lactose intolerant should not give them up entirely. If you have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, try using lactose-free milk, or continue to have standard milk but in lower quantities.
Some Dairy Foods Contain Less Lactose
Most people with lactose intolerance can handle small amounts of lactose such as a glass of milk, which contains 8 to 10 grams of lactose. Natural yoghurts are usually well tolerated because the bacteria have their own lactase that breaks down the lactose in the milk.
Some dairy foods contain less lactose than others and may be better for people who have lactose intolerance. For example:
- Fresh cheeses such as cottage and ricotta tend to have very low levels of lactose and are usually well tolerated in small amounts, for example, 3/4 of a cup.
- Fermented milk products, including kefir, some yoghurts, mature cheeses (like cheddar cheese, fetta and mozzarella) and butter, generally pose no tolerance problems. (However, butter is high in saturated fat and is not recommended for good heart health).
- Heated milk products, such as evaporated milk, seem to be better tolerated than unheated foods, because the heating process breaks down some of the lactose.
Foods that contain lactose are better tolerated if eaten with other foods or spread out over the day, rather than being eaten in large amounts all at once.
Soy And Other Plant-Based Milks As Alternatives
There are many plant-based milks and plant-based milk products (such as custard, cheese and yoghurts) available to buy. These include, rice, oat, coconut and nut milks such as almond and macadamia.
These ‘milks’ are all lactose-free and suitable for people following. However, they don’t all provide the same nutrient types and amounts as regular cows’ milk, so it is important that you read their labels closely.
If choosing plant-based milk and plant-based milk products over dairy milk and dairy milk products, make sure you choose products that are fortified with calcium, and are unsweetened.