Should You Drink Milk?: Milk 101 Series Part 1/4

"Milk does a body good."

"Humans were not made to drink milk."

"Got milk?" 

"Don't cry over spilled milk."

Do these phrases sound familiar? {Okay, that last one was a bit superfluous.} Welcome to the first of many nutrition series where I lay down the scientific evidence about certain nutrition conundrums that can confound even the best of us.

First up: milk.

Coconut milk, hemp milk, almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk, rice milk, quinoa milk, soy milk. Suffice it to say that the world of alternative milks has exploded over the past 5 years along with an eruption of confusion of what exactly is the best beverage to put in our bodies. Have you been overwhelmed with these options? Me too! But over the next few weeks we will navigate this milky way {ha. ha. ha.} together in this 4 part series.

On today's docket: Should you drink milk? {And when I say "milk" in this sense I am referring to cow's milk.}


Nutrition Breakdown of Cow's Milk

For all the flack it's given, cow's milk is a surprisingly fantastic and convenient source of many of the nutrients our bodies need. A cup of cow's milk contains 16% (or 8g) of your daily protein needs and provides over 25% of your daily needs for many vitamins and minerals including riboflavin (a B vitamin that plays a big role in helping our body produce energy), calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin B12.

Consuming whole foods that naturally have these vitamins and minerals "packaged" inside of them is far better than choosing foods that have these vitamins added to them. This is one big advantage cow's milk has over the alternative milks, which have to be fortified with many nutrients. No worries, I will discuss this more in a later post. 

And what about the fat content of cow's milk? Due to all the hullaballoo surrounding milkfat recently, I am saving this topic for a later post. But as a teaser, several studies have shown that milkfat may have many protective effects in the body and may even help with the absorption of the nutrients I mentioned before... Intrigued? So am I!


Possible Drawbacks of Cow's Milk

Generally, cow's milk consumption is considered very safe when consumed in moderation, which translates to 1-3 glasses per day. Beyond that, as with consuming too much of anything, could put you at risk for missing out on other more nutritious foods {FOMO with nutrition - who knew?!}. 

The one aspect that I want to discuss more later are the environmental concerns that come with the great milk debate. Suffice it to say for now that there is a known difference in the nutritional profiles of cow's milk based on how they were fed and raised. If this concerns you and you still wish to consume cow's milk, consider buying certified organic and/or local milk. {And tune in to a later post that will talk about organic vs. conventional milk!


My {Semi} Professional Opinion

As a RD-soon-to-be, what do I think about cow's milk? Frankly, unless you're allergic, it ain't gonna kill you. 

I used to consume ALL the alternative milks despite growing up in Wisconsin and drinking milk everyday. Mostly, I just got excited and intrigued by all of the options out there. But then grad school came around, all the monies went away, budgets were drawn up, and I realized as I was looking into buying expensive protein powders to put in my almond milk smoothies when cow's milk contains all those naturally packaged nutrients AND would be the cheaper choice! Bingo! Now, although I don't drink milk too often, I opt for organic whole milk - a decision I will justify with some more science in a later post. 

How's that for a basic primer on cow's milk?? Tune in the next couple weeks as I dive into the following topics: 

  • Should you drink conventional or organic milk?
  • Skim, reduced fat, whole milk - should you care?
  • What kind of alternative milk is best?

What are your thoughts on milk? Do you drink it and, if so, what kinds? Let me know in the comments!

-Aly