Cow’s milk has been a daily staple for many people for millennia. While milk is a popular food, new research suggests it may be damaging to the body. However, other evidence indicates that dairy has health benefits.

So, what really is the truth? Continue reading to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of milk, as well as some alternatives to consider if you can’t tolerate milk or choose not to drink it.

Nutrients in milk

Milk is classified as a complete food. It contains 18 of the 22 important nutrients.

NutrientAmount per 1 cup (244 grams) of whole milkPercentage of recommended daily amount (RDA)
Calcium276 mg28%
Folate12 mcg3%
Magnesium24 mg7%
Phosphorus205 mg24%
Potassium322 mg10%
Vitamin A112 mcg12.5%
Vitamin B-121.10 mcg18%
Zinc0.90 mg11%
Protein7–8 grams (casein and whey)16%

Milk also provides:

  • iron
  • selenium
  • vitamin B-6
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin K
  • niacin
  • thiamin
  • riboflavin

Fat content varies. Whole milk contains more fat than other forms of milk:

  • 4.5 grammes saturated fat
  • 1.9 g of unsaturated fat
  • 24 mg cholesterol (mg)

Benefits of milk

Appetite control

Milk consumption has not been connected to weight growth or obesity, and it may help suppress hunger. A 2013 research of 49 adults found that dairy made people feel fuller and helped them eat less fat overall.

Full fat dairy consumption has been linked to lower body weight in some studies. Furthermore, several studies have found that dairy consumption in general may help to avoid weight gain.

Bone development

According to a 2016 study, milk may help children increase their weight and bone density. It also lowers the likelihood of infantile fractures.

According to research, pregnant women who ate a healthy diet rich in dairy and calcium-rich foods had infants with greater bone growth and mass than women who ate a less healthy diet.

Milk also contains proteins that are required for the formation and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth, and muscle. A cup of milk contains around 7 to 8 grammes of casein and whey proteins.

Bone and dental health

A cup of milk contains over 30% of an adult’s daily calcium requirement. Milk includes potassium and magnesium as well. These minerals are necessary for strong bones and teeth.

Dairy accounts for over half of the calcium in the average American diet.

Most milk contains vitamin D. A cup of fortified milk contains roughly 15% of the daily required intake. Vitamin D is an important vitamin that promotes calcium absorption and bone mineralization among other things.

Diabetes prevention

Diabetes type 2 is characterised by elevated blood sugar levels. Diabetes can raise your chances of developing:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • kidney disorder

Several studies have suggested that drinking milk may help adults avoid type 2 diabetes. This could be due to milk proteins improving blood sugar equilibrium.

Heart health

Milk fat may help raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Healthy HDL cholesterol levels may protect against heart disease and stroke.

Milk is also a good source of potassium. This mineral aids in blood pressure regulation.

Milk from pastured or grass-fed cows has higher omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid. These fats aid in the protection of the heart and blood vessels.

Negative side effects of milk


According to a 2016 study, teenagers with acne drank more low fat or skim milk. Adult acne may also be exacerbated by dairy.

Acne has also been associated to skim and low fat milk in other research. This could be because milk affects some hormones, such as insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).

More research is needed to investigate the diet-acne link.

Other skin conditions

According to a clinical review, some foods, such as milk and dairy, may aggravate eczema.

A 2018 study, on the other hand, discovered that pregnant and breastfeeding women who included a probiotic in their diet lowered their child’s risk of eczema and other food-related allergy reactions.

Dairy products may also be a rosacea trigger for certain individuals. A recent study, on the other hand, reveals that dairy may really help with rosacea.


According to some experts, up to 5% of children have a milk allergy. It can induce skin reactions like dermatitis and digestive problems including:

Other significant reactions are as follows:

  • anaphylaxis
  • wheezing
  • trouble breathing
  • bloody faeces

Milk allergies in children can be overcome. Adults might develop milk allergies as well.

Bone fractures

Women who consume three or more glasses of milk per day may be at greater risk of bone fractures.

According to research, this could be linked to a sugar in milk called D-galactose. However, the report did state that more research is needed before making dietary recommendations.

Another study found that bone fractures in older persons owing to osteoporosis are more common in locations with higher dairy, animal protein, and calcium consumption.


Calcium intake from milk and other foods may raise the risk of prostate cancer. Milk sugars may be associated with a slightly increased incidence of ovarian cancer.

Lactose intolerance

Cow’s milk has more lactose than milk from other animals. According to a 2015 study, 65 to 70 percent of the world’s population suffers from lactose intolerance. Most people with this illness can safely consume tiny amounts of dairy.

Alternatives to milk

Cow’s milk alternatives for infants and toddlers who are allergic to milk proteins include:

BreastfeedingBest source of nutritionNot all women can breastfeed
Hypoallergenic formulasProduced with enzymes to break down milk proteinsProcessing may damage other nutrients
Amino acid formulasLeast likely to cause an allergic reactionProcessing may damage other nutrients
Soy-based formulasFortified to be nutritionally completeSome may develop an allergy to soy

Plant and nut-based milks suitable for lactose intolerant or vegan people include:

Soy milkContains similar amount of proteins; half the carbs and fats of whole milkContains plant estrogens and hormones
Almond milkLow fat; high calcium (if enriched); high vitamin ELow protein; contains phytic acid (hinders mineral absorption)
Coconut milkLow calories and carbs; half the fatNo protein; high saturated fats
Oat milkLower in fat; high fiberHigh carbs; low protein
Cashew milkLow calories and fatLow protein; fewer nutrients
Hemp milkLow calories and carbs; high essential fatty acidsLow protein (though more than other plant-based milks)
Rice milkLow fatLow protein and nutrients; high carbs
Quinoa milkLow fat, calories, and carbsLow protein

The takeaway

Milk is a natural source of important nutrients in a convenient and easily accessible form. Milk consumption is especially crucial for youngsters. It could help you and your child stay healthy.

The nutritional value of milk varies. Milk from grass-fed or pastured cows has more healthy lipids as well as higher levels of several vitamins.

More research is needed to determine the optimal amount of milk to consume, as well as the effects of antibiotics and artificial hormones administered to dairy cows.

Choose organic milk from animals who have not been given growth hormones. Milk substitutes can also be part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.