AUBURN, Ala.—For most, milk is usually not the first beverage choice. However, because of the nutrients it offers, you should consider reaching for the milk before anything else. Milk contains nutrients such as calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals—almost every nutrient your body needs. There are many types, including soy, almond, fat-free (skim), low-fat (1%), reduced-fat (2%) and whole milk. No matter which one is your favorite, each of them offer much needed nutrients.
Choosing Your Percent
“When choosing a milk beverage, it usually comes down to taste preference, which obviously varies from person to person,” said Helen Jones, an Alabama Extension regional agent of human nutrition, diet and health. “If you don’t have any allergies, all of them can be included in a healthy diet.”
According to Jones, whole, reduced-fat (2%), low-fat (1%) and fat-free milk are the most popular. The percentages indicate the amount of fat by weight. The government sets minimum standards for milk production. For example, reduced-fat milk must contain all the nutrients of whole milk without any added water.
“The amount of calcium changes insignificantly with the amount of fat, however, it is recommended to choose low-fat or fat free milk and products,” said Onikia Brown, an Alabama Extension specialist of human nutrition, diet and health. “Whole milk is an excellent choice for children who are 1 to 2 years old because it is a way to get more fat, which helps with brain development. Otherwise low-fat or skim is better due to the common high-fat diets of Americans.”
Milk Offers Health Benefits
Jones said that milk builds strong bones, but milk provides other nutrition benefits as well.
“Milk and dairy foods are highly nutritious foods. They contain a unique package of nutrients that are an essential part of a healthy eating plan,” said Jones. “Research continues to identify positive ways that milk impacts health. In addition to building healthy bones, consuming dairy can boost immunity, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes, reduce the risk of some cancers and help maintain your weight.”
Jones shared research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines for 2015 to 2020.
According to these USDA guidelines, “Beverages that are calorie-free, especially water, or that contribute beneficial nutrients, such as fat-free and low-fat milk, should be the primary beverages consumed. Most individuals in the United States would benefit by increasing dairy intake in fat-free or low-fat forms, whether from milk (including lactose-free), yogurt and cheese or from fortified soy beverages.”
With so many health perks, next time you are looking for a refreshing beverage, consider choosing milk.