For an affordable source of protein and nutrients, milk is always a good choice. Milk can increase the calcium, potassium, vitamin D and magnesium in your diet. . The USDA recommends that you consume two to three servings of dairy per day. However, not all milk is created equal -- and some options can be healthier than others.
Consider Fat Content
If you are trying to consume fewer calories, choose fat-free or low-fat milk options. Fat-free milk has 66 fewer calories and 4 grams less of saturated fat per cup compared to whole milk. Choose lower-fat versions especially when you drink more than one serving of a milk per day.
Keep it Plain
Kids may gravitate toward flavored milk, but not for its nutritional content. Flavored milk really should be called sweetened milk, because sugar is the main addition to the product. An 8-ounce carton of flavored milk has about 4 teaspoons of added sugar. Healthier choices are plain varieties of milk that are not flavored and feature only naturally occurring sugar -- lactose -- found in dairy products.
Because of cattle grazing and diet requirements, organic milk features additional nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in eye health. A study in the “Journal of PLOS ONE” showed that organic milk contains 63 percent more omega-3s than conventionally produced milk. The study emphasized, however, that fatty fish like salmon provides you with significantly more omega-3s.
Drink plant-based milks, such as almond, soy, rice and coconut, if you are not able to digest lactose. Plant-based milks can provide nutrients commonly found in dairy milk, sometimes in higher quantities. Almond milk contains 15 percent more calcium than skim dairy milk. Also, soy milk contains 5 percent more vitamin D than dairy. Choose plant-based varieties that are labeled as unsweetened, because many contain flavorings and added sugar. Look for coconut milk in the refrigerated section; the canned version is more concentrated and higher in calories.
- USDA: Whole Milk Nutrition
- USDA: Why Are Americans Consuming Less Fluid Milk?
- PLOS ONE: Organic Production Enhances Milk Nutritional Quality by Shifting Fatty Acid Composition: A United States–Wide, 18-Month Study
- USDA: Skim Milk Nutrition
- USDA: Consumption of Food Group Servings
- Jamie Olive Foundation: The Hard Facts About Flavored Milk
- Extension: Organic Dairy Certification: Why, How, and What?
- Yale Health: Be A Sugar Detective
- Silk: Unsweetened Almond Milk
- Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids