Milk: The benefits for bones and beyond

milk

It’s well established, dairy foods are a great source of calcium! Even more people nowadays are recognizing that dairy foods contain protein, too -- anyone else enjoy Greek yogurt this morning?

Did you know that milk is a good source of nine essential nutrients?  Just one eight ounce cup of cow’s milk provides all of the following:

30 percent of the daily value (daily recommendation) of CALCIUM: Calcium is the nutrient most commonly recognized for its role in bone development. In fact, 99 percent of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. The remaining 1 percent of calcium in the body circulates (mainly in the blood) plays many significant roles including participation in muscle contraction, nerve stimulus, blood clotting and the secretion of hormones. Dairy foods are the greatest source of calcium in the American diet.

30 percent of your daily value of VITAMIN D: There is currently a lot of research looking at the roles and recommendations for vitamin D. Some may even call it a “hot topic” in the nutrition science world. Vitamin D is well known for its role in bone growth -- working with calcium and phosphorus to grow and maintain bones and teeth. Yet, vitamin D is technically a hormone and scientists have discovered many additional roles vitamin D may play including, but not limited to, immune function, cancer prevention, memory and reproduction. Vitamin D is naturally found in few foods. In the United States, cow’s milk is supplemented to provide Americans an adequate amount of vitamin D through a food they are (hopefully) enjoying every day.

10 percent of your daily value of POTASSIUM: Of interest to athletes, potassium plays a key role in electrolyte balance, one of the reasons the potassium in milk is helpful as a refuel beverage. Sodium and potassium work as a team to maintain many systems in the body that are vital for both children and adults.  Potassium also assists with muscle contraction and nerve impulses. Adults who get very little potassium from foods tend to have higher blood pressure and a higher risk for stroke.

25 percent of your daily value of PHOSPHORUS: In the sports nutrition world, phosphorus is very rarely recognized by its formal name but more often appreciated as a phosphate group in the body’s energy source -- ATP. Athletes are not the only people who appreciate phosphorus: ATP is everyone’s energy source. Phospholipids are the structure of cell membranes, and 85 percent of phosphorus is stored in bone. Phosphorus is also recognized for many other important roles, so thankfully, it is readily available in many nutrient-rich foods, including dairy foods.

16 percent of your daily value of PROTEIN: Simply put, proteins are differing chains of amino acids and are important for life. When a protein is digested, each amino acid has a different role. Proteins are needed any time the body is growing or building, moving or digesting, healing or repairing. Dairy proteins are considered “high-quality” because they provide all of the 20 essential amino acids -- building blocks necessary for many body needs.

25 percent of your daily value of RIBOFLAVIN: Riboflavin is necessary for the body to produce energy. The amount of riboflavin each person needs will depend on their specific energy requirements.

10 percent of your daily value of NIACIN: Similar to riboflavin, niacin is also necessary for energy -- it helps turn food into energy for the body. People who are deficient in niacin can suffer severe consequences including symptoms related to abnormalities of the skin, digestive system and nervous system, but this only tends to only occur when people choose a diet which lacks variety and niacin.   

10 percent of your daily value of VITAMIN A: Did any of your family members ever tell you that eating carrots would help you see in the dark? The root of this wives-tale comes from the fact that carrots are rich in the orange pigment beta-carotene which is easily converted to vitamin A in the body. Most notably, vitamin A keeps eyes healthy, and luckily it’s in dairy foods, too.

20 percent of your daily value of VITAMIN B12: The vitamin B12 in milk is particularly important especially for any one following a vegetarian diet, or people who don’t eat animal products regularly. Vitamin B12 is unique in that it is naturally only found in animal foods. There are no symptoms from having too much vitamin B12, but not having enough over time can cause people to become extremely tired, with loss of appetite and even paralysis of the body.  

Dairy foods are more than just calcium. When we eliminate dairy foods from our diets, it becomes challenging to consume adequate amounts of many nutrients -- nutrients that are important for all aspects of health.

Athletes can train harder and perform better with proper nutrition. Visit WesternDairyAssociation.org to read more about milk as an exercise recovery beverage and learn how to eat for peak athletic performance.