Health Benefits of Dairy

Dairy is packed with nutritional value

Many people know dairy foods are an important source of nutrients for growing children and teens. Milk and other dairy foods, however, are great sources of protein, calcium and vitamins for people in all walks of life, including adults, seniors and athletes. Dairy products are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, including carbohydrates, protein, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins A, D, B12, riboflavin and niacin.

Just one 8-ounce serving of milk has 8 grams of protein, which builds and repairs muscle tissue (an equal serving of almond beverage has only 1 gram of protein). One serving of milk also meets the daily values (DV) for the following nutrients (based on Food and Drug Administration guidelines):

  • Calcium (25 percent): Helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth
  • Riboflavin (35 percent): Supports body growth, red blood cell production and metabolism
  • Phosphorus (20 percent): Strengthens bones
  • Vitamin D (15 percent): Helps promote the absorption of calcium
  • Pantothenic Acid (20 percent): Helps convert food into energy
  • Potassium (8 percent): Regulates fluid balance and helps maintain normal blood pressure
  • Vitamin A (15 percent): Promotes good vision and healthy skin
  • Niacin (10 percent): Promotes proper circulation


  • Types of dairy milk

    Using various straining and mixing techniques, milk can be made into a variety of products. Before milk is bottled, all of the fat is removed (skimmed) and added back at specific levels to make different fat-percentage variations of milk. No matter which milk-fat percentage you choose, they all contain the same essential nutrients including protein, vitamin D and calcium.

    • Whole Milk: Whole milk contains 3.5% fat by weight. It delivers  8 grams of fat and 150 calories per 8-ounce serving.
    • 2 Percent Milk: Two-percent milk contains 2% fat by weight. It delivers 5 grams of fat and 120 calories per 8-ounce serving.
    • 1 Percent Milk: One-percent milk contains 1% fat by weight. It delivers 2.5 grams of fat and 100 calories per 8-ounce serving.
    • Skim Milk: Skim (0% fat) milk is what is left after all of the milk fat has been “skimmed” off. It delivers 0 grams of fat and 80 calories per 8-ounce serving.
    • Buttermilk: Traditionally, the term buttermilk referred to the liquid that’s left after butter had been made from milk or cream. Today, buttermilk is made from active cultures added to milk, which creates lactic acid, resulting in the tart taste and thick texture.
    • Lactose-Free Milk: People with lactose intolerance typically lack or have insufficient levels of the lactase enzyme that breaks down lactose — the naturally occurring sugar found in most dairy foods. Lactose-free milk is real dairy milk without the lactose. To make lactose-free milk, manufacturers add a small amount of lactase, which breaks down the lactose, resulting in a milk that can be digested without discomfort by those with lactose intolerance.
    • a2 Milk™: Typical dairy milk contains a combination of both a1 and a2 beta casein proteins. Milk from cows exhibiting only the a2 form of the beta casein protein is sold as a2 Milk™. It is marketed as milk for people with digestive issues, however, there isn’t significant scientific evidence to support the claim.
Dairy's health benefits
  • Bone Health

    Today, there are 10 million Americans with osteoporosis and an additional 43 million at risk of developing the condition. Women are four times more likely to develop the disease, but older men are also susceptible. Although more research is needed to understand the role of dietary protein on bone health, studies show the protein and calcium in milk may play a critical role in bone health and density, thereby decreasing the risk for osteoporosis. Three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy provide essential nutrients that work together to build strong bones. Visit the National Dairy Council for more on dairy and its impact on bone health.

    Researchers have also found:

    • Postmenopausal women who consume a diet low in protein and/or calcium were associated have an increased risk of osteoporotic fractures.
    • Low-protein diets may decrease intestinal calcium absorption and are associated with reduced bone mass in most observational studies.
    • Eating foods rich in calcium may offset a possible protein-calcium loss relationship, improving overall bone health.
  • Heart Health / Blood Pressure Control / Diabetes

    Calcium, potassium and magnesium — minerals all found in dairy foods — may play an important role in maintaining healthy blood pressure. Potassium, in particular, helps regulate fluids and mineral balance in the body to maintain a healthy blood pressure. This is an important role, considering one in three Americans is living with hypertension. Without consuming three servings of dairy foods daily, it may be difficult to meet potassium requirements.
    The Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage children and adults to enjoy three servings of low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese or yogurt each day. Potassium plays such an important role in blood pressure regulation and stroke prevention that the Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of this health claim for foods that are naturally low in sodium, fat and cholesterol and provide at least 350 mg of potassium per serving. Three servings of dairy foods contain a total of about 1200 mg of potassium. More on dairy’s impact on heart health.

    A growing body of research indicates that dairy food consumption is associated with multiple health benefits, including a lowered risk for type 2 diabetes.

  • Benefits of Chocolate Milk: For the Athlete

    Dairy nutrition helps athletes of all levels and ages get the perfect balance of nutrients to improve overall performance and health. From bone building to muscle strengthening, the dairy nutrients in flavored milk provide a variety of positive health benefits. Low-fat chocolate milk is the drink of choice for many athletes for several reasons.

    Low-fat chocolate milk is:

    • A delicious source of high-quality protein to build lean muscle, without the added sugar of most sports drinks
    • The right carbohydrate-to-protein ratio scientifically proven to refuel and rebuild exhausted muscles
    • A great source of vitamin A to support a healthy immune system and normal vision
    • A great source of electrolytes, including calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium to help replenish what’s lost in sweat
    • A source of B vitamins for energy
    • An excellent source of fluids for rehydration
    • A source of calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, protein and potassium to build and maintain strong bones and help reduce the risk for stress fractures

    Low-fat chocolate milk can also be part of a delicious snack for children and adults. When you include low-fat chocolate milk and other dairy products in fun ways like this, you can improve your family’s dairy nutrition and ultimately ensure better bone health.

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