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4 Surprising Effects of Drinking Milk, Say Dietitians

While many people associate milk with bone health, drinking this beverage is also linked to other health benefits.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

There are many reasons why you may drink milk. It could be to improve your bone health, to improve heart health, reduce the risk of obesity, and more.

Enjoying a cup or two of milk every day is one of the best ways to get readily available calcium and vitamin D into your diet to help you build and maintain strong bones. However, the benefits of drinking milk extend well beyond your bones and teeth. This is because cow's milk is chock full of 13 essential nutrients, including vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin A, zinc, and selenium.

"I recommend drinking milk for anyone looking to add more protein and vitamins such as vitamin A, B12, and D into their diet," said Carly Knowles, MS, RD, a registered dietitian, and doula. "My personal favorite and go-to milk is Organic Valley's Grassmilk whole milk for the added health benefit of extra omega-3 fatty acid (healthy fat) and CLA content, and that's because their cows spend 50 percent more time outside than the organic standard."

Here's a look at the core nutrition facts in a cup of 1% cow's milk:

  • Calories: 100
  • Protein (grams): 8
  • Carbohydrate (grams): 13
  • Grams Fat (grams): 2.5
  • Saturated Fat (grams): 1.5
  • Calcium: 30% Daily Value
  • Vitamin D: 25% Daily Value

Not only is milk a nutritional powerhouse, but it also has myriad health benefits from improving bone health to helping to maintain a healthy heart, may enhance your athletic performance, and can even help reduce the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. Read on to find out how, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss Eating Habits to Lose Abdominal Fat As You Age, Say Dietitians.


It's a natural performance enhancer.

woman drinking milk after workout

There's no reason to pay top-shelf prices for pre and post-workout drinks when you can simply enjoy milk and obtain similar performance-enhancing benefits. According to Jordan Mazur, MS, RD, Director of Performance Nutrition for the San Francisco 49ers, "real milk and dairy has a powerful nutrient package with 13 essential nutrients like high-quality protein, calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin D, is a friend to both flexitarian and vegetarian eating patterns, and contributes nutrients that athletes struggle to consume but are important for supporting performance and recovery."

Mazur includes milk on athletes' training tables because it helps active individuals meet the three Rs of recovery: rebuild, refuel and rehydrate. It's also one of the most affordable sources of calcium, vitamin D, and other essential micronutrients that sports-minded people need to be their best. In addition, numerous studies with whey and casein, the two main proteins in milk, help build muscle mass and enhance recovery.


It helps regulate blood pressure.

blood pressure

Numerous studies have reported that individuals who drink milk and dairy foods have a lower risk for high blood pressure. The overall nutrient package of milk, including calcium, potassium, and other micronutrients in milk helps maintain healthy blood pressure. Studies reveal that those who enjoy more total dairy products and milk experienced a lower increase in systolic blood pressure over time.

In one meta-analysis that analyzed the results of many studies and totaled 45,000 subjects and 11,500 cases of elevated blood pressure reported that consuming dairy foods reduced the risk of having high blood pressure. The association was more pronounced with low-fat dairy foods versus full-fat options. In addition, the acclaimed DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet calls for 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy options like milk along with plenty of fruits and veggies and whole grains to lower blood pressure.

RELATED: Eating Habits You Must Follow if High Blood Pressure Runs in Your Family


It may help you whittle your middle.

measuring belly

Can you really "milk your diet?" Research suggests yes.

The high-quality protein in milk helps up the satiety and reduces hunger and cravings so that you are less likely to overeat and have cravings for sweets and other carb-rich foods. In a review article published in Nutrition Research Reviews, researchers revealed that the proteins in milk enhance satiety more than carbohydrate or fat and that the whey and casein in milk can help regulate your food intake, lower blood sugar levels, and may help reduce overall body fat by boosting the fat-burning.

Having a glass of milk before a meal may provide additional weight loss benefits. In another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition subjects who had consumed whey protein prior to their meals consumed fewer calories during their meal and had a lower blood sugar response to the meal.


It helps prevent type 2 diabetes.

Woman is testing herself for diabetes.

An article published in Nutrition Journal found that individuals with pre-diabetes or those at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes can prevent it by including low-fat dairy products in their eating plan every day. The study reported that among 639 adults who were followed for nearly a decade, those who reported including more low-fat dairy in their diet significantly reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to those who reported having fewer than half a serving of dairy per day. Those who reported drinking low-fat milk reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 41%.

Incorporating one to two servings of milk to your meals and snacks is a wonderful way to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Since milk is affordable and versatile, you'll never get tired of adding healthful milk to your diet.

Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD
Julie Upton is an award-winning registered dietitian and communications specialist who has written thousands of articles for national media outlets, including The New York Times, US News & World Report, and USA Today. Read more about Julie
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