Discover some of the most important benefits and properties of milk for our health, and why it is so important to drink at least 1 glass every day.
Milk has been part of our diet for millennia. Source of calcium, fats, vitamins, good quality proteins and minerals, it has always become the food par excellence; in the basic food in the diet of many peoples and civilizations.
It is, as we will see, one of the most prominent sources of calcium, which is why specialists recommend drinking milk daily from birth, to help build and maintain bone mass in our children.
The percentage of milk fat varies depending on the season of the year in which it is obtained, since it has 2.9% in summer and approximately 4.9% in winter.
Although if it has enough fat, there are processes that help reduce it and use it to make other products. Although there are different types of milk depending on its treatment (an issue that we will echo in the not too distant future), the most common is whole milk, as it is usually sold in stores and hypermarkets.
Nutritional benefits of milk
High protein content of high biological value
When we talk about a certain food -or drink- providing proteins of high biological value (or of good quality), it means that it contains all the essential amino acids, which are those that our body is not capable of producing or synthesizing by itself, and it is necessary to provide them through food.
In the particular case of milk, it is a food that provides precisely all the essential amino acids. These include the presence of leucine, which promotes the healing of skin, bones and muscle tissue, lysine, useful for the production of antibodies and for the formation of collagen, and isoleucine, essential to stabilize and regulate glucose and blood levels. Energy, and the formation of hemoglobin.
High calcium content
Milk is considered the main dietary source of calcium, thanks mainly to the presence of other components naturally present in it (such as proteins, lactose or phosphorus), which offer the possibility of having a high bioavailability; and for its high content of this mineral.
Provides bioactive peptides
The bioactive peptides found in milk seem to play an important role in metabolic regulation and modulation, being able to have, on our body, certain beneficial activity against arterial hypertension (antihypertensive), against high cholesterol levels (hypocholesterolemic), in addition to be antioxidant, antimicrobial and immunomodulatory.
That is, the bioactive peptides contained in milk provide interesting properties with benefits on our immune, digestive and cardiovascular systems.
Interesting contribution of vitamins
In addition to vitamin D, it becomes a good source of vitamin A and B vitamins, highlighting the presence of vitamin B12 and rivoflavin. The B complex vitamins are essential for our nervous system, participating in the synthesis of hormones and obtaining energy.
While, vitamin A is essential for our immune system, for growth and development, as well as for eye health.
Its importance in children and adolescents
As long as the child is not drinking breast milk (the World Health Organization advises exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months of life, and if possible, for the first 2 years or more), milk is a food basic for children and teenagers.
- Basic food within a balanced and varied diet.
- It contains proteins of high biological value, which contribute to proper growth and development.
- Main dietary source of calcium for strong bones.
- It allows to achieve an adequate intake of certain vitamins and minerals.
- Provides fatty acids.
- There is a certain relationship between milk consumption and physical height in children and adolescents.
- Its nutritional value cannot be substituted for vegetable drinks.
- There are many false myths about milk.
- An adequate diet allows correcting deficient nutrient intakes.
- The growth milks become a useful complementary alternative in the diet to reach the recommended intakes of essential nutrients in childhood.
Recent and complete scientific studies, such as the case of Drinking flavored or plain milk is positively associated with nutrient intake and is not associated with adverse effects on weight status in US children and adolescents, highlight the importance -and the need- of the introduction of milk in the diet of children and adolescents, since in case of not doing so, they would suffer a lack of contributions of vitamins and minerals.
In addition, among other important benefits in infant nutrition, thanks to its high content of calcium and vitamin D, milk prevents rickets, as well as arthritis, osteoporosis and other problems directly related to bone demineralization.
In the case of calcium, for example, it has been shown that adequate intake is essential for the proper development and growth of bones during childhood. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) itself recommends a consumption of between 2 to 4 servings of dairy products a day.
How many glasses of milk should we drink per day (and how many servings of dairy?)
As we mentioned in the previous section, the World Health Organization recommends a consumption of between 2 and 4 servings of dairy products a day. However, depending on the age and physiological state of each person, their consumption should be higher or lower.
For example, the recommended daily amount of dairy for children or adolescents is not the same as during pregnancy and lactation, or in those over 60 years of age. In all these stages, in fact, the nutritional needs for calcium are obviously much higher.
It is possible to set the following recommended amounts:
- From 0 to 6 years (Early Childhood): 2 servings of dairy a day.
- Schoolchildren (6 to 11 years old): 2 to 3 servings.
- Adolescents (11 to 14 years old): 3 to 4 servings.
- Pregnancy: 3 to 4 servings.
During any other stage, it is enough to consume 2 to 3 dairy products a day. Obviously, not only milk, but other dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, butter…
Properties of milk, in summary
- It contains both water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins, among which we find vitamins of group B, C, A, niacin and riboflavin.
- It also contains calcium, iron and protein.
- According to studies, drinking milk daily reduces the risk of breast cancer by 60%, especially in women.
- It is recommended in cases of gastritis, since it is capable of neutralizing acidity. In this case it is better to take it skim.