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Is Milk Healthy for Breakfast?

A registered dietitian nutritionist responds to this frequently asked question.

In today’s nutrition environment, the benefits of dairy are debated.

By: Megan Holdaway, RDN

  • Monday, February 10, 2020
  • 2 Minute Read   

In today’s nutrition environment, the benefits of dairy are often debated. Voices on both sides of the aisle argue about the health benefits of dairy. This leaves many wondering whether milk is healthy to drink for breakfast. According to the latest nutrition science research, the answer to this question is a resounding yes.

A cup of milk contains 8 grams of protein, important for a feeling of satisfaction after a meal. Protein helps build bones, muscles and immune elements and is essential to every cell in the body. Most American adults have an unbalanced meal distribution of protein, with the majority of daily protein consumed during the dinner meal and less than 16 grams at breakfast. Protein is essential for developing and maintaining lean muscle, but if adequate protein is not eaten throughout the day, muscle maintenance is not at the maximal level.1

In addition to its high protein content, milk also has nine essential vitamins and minerals, including potassium, calcium and Vitamin D—nutrients that the USDA says Americans under consume. Milk is also a good source of high-quality vitamin A, magnesium, phosphorus and several B vitamins.

Getting these vitamins and minerals first thing in the morning gives a jump start on meeting daily nutrient requirements. Studies show that those who regularly eat cereal and milk for breakfast get more essential nutrients than those who don’t consume these foods.2 Intake of dairy products is associated with improved bone health, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and lower blood pressure in adults.3

So is milk healthy for breakfast? Yes, and when paired with foods from two other food groups it makes a balanced meal that can have a positive impact on energy levels and long-term health. Click to read more about the health benefits of milk or the latest scientific research about milk and dairy foods.

1. Layman DK, Anthony TG, Rasmussen BB, et al. Defining meal requirements for protein to optimize metabolic roles of amino acids. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;101(6):1330S–1338S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.084053
2. Albertson AM, Thompson D, Franko DL, et al. Consumption of breakfast cereal is associated with positive health outcomes: evidence from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health study. Nutr Res. 2008 Nov;28(11):744–752. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2008.09.002
3. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nutrients and health benefits. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/dairy/dairy-nutrients-health. Updated June 26, 2015. Accessed September 17, 2019.

Megan Holdaway, RDN

Megan Holdaway, RDN

Megan Holdaway is a registered dietitian nutritionist and the Nutrition Science Program Manager at Dairy Council of California.

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