Foods provide us with energy in the form of calories (Kcal). Calories effectively act as the fuel that powers our bodies and enables us to function, in the same way that petrol fuels a car.
Milk can be described as “nutrient dense” relative to its energy content as it is such a good source of many vitamins and minerals.
Higher calorie milks are more suitable for those who have increased energy requirements e.g. children and adolescents, or those with poor appetites who need nutrient dense foods to provide as many calories as possible in small amounts e.g. the elderly. Lower calorie milks are suitable for the majority of the population and are especially useful when consumed as part of a calorie controlled diet for contributing to weight loss.
Protein is essential for growth and repair of tissues and for the production of hormones and enzymes which are essential to the correct functioning of the body. Milk is a source of “high biological value” protein - which means that it provides us with all the essential amino acids that the body cannot make itself.
Carbohydrates provide the body with energy required for most functions in the body. The form of carbohydrate found in milk is known as lactose and is the least damaging sugar with regards to tooth decay. For this reason, plain milk and water are the only 2 drinks recommended by dentists to be safe to consume between meals.
Fat is required for many functions in the body including storage and provision of energy, production of hormones, protection, warmth and provision of fat soluble vitamins amongst many others.
The fat in milk contributes unique characteristics to the flavour, texture, appearance and satiability of dairy foods as well as providing a source of fat soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids and other health promoting compounds.
Vitamin A is required for good vision, immune health and for normal growth and development of body tissues.
Vitamin D plays an important role in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus and is essential for healthy bones and teeth.
Milk contains appreciable amounts of many of the B vitamins, and is particularly rich in vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is required for maintenance of healthy nerves and red blood cells, energy production and normal cell division.
Thiamin (vitamin B1) and riboflavin (vitamin B2) are also present in milk.
Thiamin (vitamin B1) is necessary for carbohydrate metabolism, neurological and cardiac function.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is necessary for the release of energy from foods and healthy membranes and skin.
Niacin is involved in energy metabolism, the recommended amount for children and adults is 6.6mg/1000kcal and milk provides an individual with up to 3% of the daily requirement for niacin.
Folate is an important vitamin essential for cell division and correct development of tissues.
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) is an essential vitamin involved in protein metabolism and is required for the formation of red blood cells and for maintaining a healthy immune and nervous system.
This vitamin is only present in small amounts in milk.
Vitamin C is required for the correct structure and maintenance of blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and bone.
Milk is a source of calcium, which is essential for the healthy growth and maintenance of teeth and bones and is a vital function in blood clotting and muscle contraction.
Zinc is a constituent of many enzymes in the body; its role is to fight infections, growth development, wound healing and for our sense of taste.
The main sources of phosphorus come from milk and milk products. It is the second most abundant mineral in the body and plays a vital role in calcium and protein metabolism. Phosphorus is also essential for healthy bones and teeth as well as cell membrane structure, tissue growth and regulation of pH levels in the body.
Potassium is mainly present in the fluid of the cells in the body and is important for fluid balance, muscle contraction, nerve conduction as well as for the correct functioning of the heart.
Sodium, selenium and iron are also found in milk in low levels.
Milk and dairy products are providers of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and protein which are all essential for healthy bone growth and development.
Adequate consumption of milk and dairy from early childhood and throughout life can help to make the bones strong and protect them against diseases like osteoporosis (a debilitating, brittle bone disorder) in later life.
The amounts of calcium and phosphorous in milk and dairy products are also beneficial for the development and maintenance of healthy teeth.
Dentists recommend that milk is the only safe drink to have between meals (except for water) as it has been shown not to cause tooth decay even in conditions perfect for damaging teeth!
An increasing number of studies suggest that consuming 3 portions of dairy each day, along with 5 portions of fruit and vegetables as part of a low salt diet can reduce high blood pressure in both adults and children.
Contrary to popular belief, research has shown that people who consume milk and dairy foods are likely to be slimmer than those who do not.
Studies suggests that regular consumption of milk and dairy foods as part of a calorie controlled diet is associated with increased weight loss, particularly form the abdomen.
Studies suggest that regular consumption of low fat dairy products can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, which has been a longstanding problem in adults, and is becoming increasingly common in children and adolescents.
Milk is an excellent choice of fluid as it not only re-hydrates the body, but provides a host of beneficial nutrients and protects the teeth at the same time!