Nutrients in Milk

Answering the question, "Is milk healthy?" is simple. Yes, milk is both nutritious and delicious. The nutrient levels in milk are very high relative to its small number of calories (see nutrient table below). It is a refreshing beverage and can be used as a base for other drinks such as hot chocolate or specialty coffees. Milk is the main ingredient in puddings, custards and mousses and is commonly included in recipes for soups, sauces and batters.

Health Benefits of Milk

A glass of milk contains three of the four nutrients that USDA deems under-consumed by most Americans—calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Thus, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that individuals ages 9 and older consume three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day; those 4 – 8 years should consume 2-1/2 cups each day. One serving of milk is one 8-ounce cup.

Most people think of milk and its important role in building strong bones, and it is true, milk helps build strong bones. The body doesn't work with one nutrient at a time rather works together with the many nutrients found in food. Milk and milk products provide the right amounts of bone-building nutrients, specifically calcium and vitamin D, protein, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B12 and zinc.

Milk is an important component of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet designed to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. This diet, which includes three servings a day of low-fat and fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, and 8 to 10 servings daily of fruits and vegetables, has also been shown to reduce other risk factors for heart disease. 

Milk produced in California abides by higher nutritional standards, exceeding the federal standards for protein, calcium and other nutrients. California milk producers accomplish this by fortifying milk with nonfat milk solids, which improves taste and adds additional nutritional benefits. This is important in bridging nutrient shortfalls, specifically calcium, which is especially important among our children and adolescent population. Specific levels of nutrients in California milk can be found by contacting the manufacturer or by reading the label.

There are no sugars added to fat-free, low-fat, reduced-fat or whole milk. The sugars listed in the tables below refer to the natural sugars (primarily lactose) found in milk. The nutrient content of chocolate and other flavored milks is similar to that of unflavored milk with the addition of sugar or a sugar substitute. If sugar or high-fructose corn syrup is used, it generally adds about 13 grams of sugars (about 60 calories) per cup.

References:

National Institutes of Health http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/SGR/surgeon_generals_report.asp. Accessed 12/1/2014.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2006). Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH (NIH Publication No. 06-4082).
 

Nutrient
Milk (1 cup)
Fat-free
Low-fat 1% Reduced 2% Whole 1% Choc
Kilocalories
83 102 122 149 158
Protein (g)
8 8 8 8 8
Carbohydrate (g)
12 12 12 12 26
Sugars (g)
12 13 12 12 25
Fiber (g)
0 0 0 0 1
Total Fat (g)
0 2.4 4.8 7.9 2.5
Calories from Fat
0 22 43 71 23
Saturated Fat (g)
0 1.5 3.1 4.6 1.5
Cholesterol
5 12 20 24 8
Cholesterol (%DV)
2% 4% 7% 8% 3%
Sodium (mg)
103 107 115 105 152
Sodium (%DV)
4% 5% 5% 4% 6%
Potassium (mg)
382 366 342 322 425
Potassium (%DV)
11% 11% 10% 9% 12%
Vitamin A (IU)
500 478 464 395 490
Vitamin A (%DV)
10% 10% 13% 11% 14%
Vitamin B12 (ug)
1.2 1 1.3 1.1 0.8
Vitamin B12 (DV)
20% 17% 22% 18% 13%
Vitamin C (mg)
0 0 1 0 2.2
Vitamin C (%DV)
0% 0% 2% 0% 4%
Vitamin D (IU)
115 117 120 124 108
Vitamin D (DV)
29% 30% 30% 31% 27%
Calcium (mg)
299 305 293 276 290
Calcium (%DV)
30% 31% 29% 28% 29%
Folate (ug)
12 12 12 12 12
Folate (%DV)
3% 3% 3% 3% 3%
Iron (mg)
0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.7
Iron (%DV)
1% 1% 1% 1% 4%
Magnesium (mg)
27 27 27 24 32
Magnesium (% DV)
7% 7% 7% 6% 8%
Phosphorus (mg)
247 232 224 205 258
Phosphorus (%DV)
25% 23% 22% 21% 26%
Thiamin (mg)
0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Thiamin (%DV)
7% 7% 7% 7% 7%
Riboflavin (mg)
0.45 0.45 0.45 0.41 0.42
Riboflavin (%DV)
26% 26% 26% 24% 25%
Niacin (mg)
0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.3
Niacin (%DV)
1% 1% 1% 1% 2%

Source of all nutrient values: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/

Vitamin D fortified dairy products can be an excellent source of vitamin D, however, levels vary considerably. Read the food label or contact manufacturer for specific levels.

The sugars listed on the Nutrition Facts label include naturally occurring sugars (like those in fruit and milk) as well as those added to a food or drink.

% DV = Daily Value, based on energy and nutrient recommendations for a general 2000-calorie diet.

Units: g=grams
  mg=milligrams
  ug=micrograms
  IU=International Units