Milk contains a variety of nutrients that are essential for human health. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming about 3 cups of dairy products each day. However, fat-free and low-fat products are recommended over full-fat products, since full-fat dairy typically contains large amounts of saturated fat.
Healthy Diets and Dairy Consumption
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most people who consume a standard 2,000 calorie diet should incorporate about 3 cups of dairy into their daily diets. Dairy is composed of milk, cheese, yogurt, frozen products like ice cream and even fortified soy beverages.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans specifically recommend consuming low-fat and fat-free products, as this can help minimize your saturated fat intake. While full-cream milk, also known as full-fat milk, can be consumed in moderation, it is considered to be a less healthy option compared to low-fat or skim milk.
Dairy Consumption and Dietary Fat
Full-cream milk has a large amount of fat compared to other milk-based beverages. Each cup of milk has 7.9 grams of fat. More than half that amount (4.6 grams) is from saturated fat.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that adults consume 20 to 35 percent of their daily calories from fat. For people following a 2,000 calorie diet, this is a total of about 65 grams of fat per day. However, this fat shouldn't come from just any source — most should be healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Excessive consumption of unhealthy fats and insufficient consumption of healthy fats causes the highest likelihood of increased health problems.
Saturated fat, which can be found in most animal products, isn't considered to be a healthy fat. The FDA's recommended daily value for this fat is 20 grams per day or less. Other authorities list a much stricter recommendation; for instance, the American Heart Association recommends that most people consume no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day. You can find saturated fat in foods like:
- Fatty beef
- Poultry skin
- Dairy drinks
- Tropical plant oils
Saturated Fat and Your Health
Saturated fat is considered bad for your health because it can increase your cholesterol levels. This causes increased risk of serious health problems like heart disease and stroke.
Excessive saturated fat consumption can also cause other health problems, like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and insulin resistance. These issues occur because your liver struggles to process saturated fat compared to healthier, unsaturated fats.
Saturated fat is the ingredient that heads any list detailing the primary "cons" of milk consumption. If you were going to drink 3 cups of full-cream milk — your full daily allowance of dairy — you would be consuming 13.8 grams of saturated fat. By the standards of the American Heart Association, that's more than your entire daily saturated fat allowance. By the standards of the FDA, that's about 70 percent of your maximum recommended saturated fat allowance.
Full-Cream Milk Nutrition Facts
Even though milk contains saturated fat, it is also rich in a variety of beneficial nutrients. Each cup of full-fat milk (8 ounces or 244 grams) supplies minerals, including:
- 21 percent of the daily value (DV) for calcium
- 7 percent of the DV for copper
- 7 percent of the DV for potassium
- 6 percent of the DV for magnesium
- 16 percent of the DV for phosphorus
- 16 percent of the DV for selenium
- 8 percent of the DV for zinc
Vitamins contained in each cup of full-fat cow's milk also include:
- 12 percent of the DV for vitamin A
- 9 percent of the DV for vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- 32 percent of the DV for vitamin B2
- 18 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
- 5 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
- 46 percent of the DV for vitamin B12
- 16 percent of the DV for vitamin D
Full-fat milk also has a small amount (between 1 and 4 percent) of other vitamins, like vitamin B9 (folate) and vitamin E. Each cup also contains 6 percent of the DV for nutrients like choline and 7.7 grams of protein.
Read more: 18 Fat-Rich Foods That Are Good for You
Full-Fat Versus Other Milks
Given its nutritional content, full-cream milk has benefits and disadvantages. The nutritional profile of this milk makes it one of the healthiest and most nutrient-rich beverages you can consume. Unfortunately, the high saturated fat content of this drink means you should consume this product in moderation.
Compared to full-cream milk, skim milk contains slightly more of certain vitamins and slightly less of certain minerals. The most varied beverage among those considered to be common dairy products is soy milk, which is a fortified, plant-based milk product.
Pros and Cons of Milk
In order to obtain the most nutritional benefits from milk and minimize your saturated fat intake, you should always try to choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products when possible. However, although nonfat and fat-free milk products are healthier choices, they may not be similar enough products to the items in a recipe you are cooking.
Full-fat milk is often preferred when making many types of desserts, including flan, milk, cake and ice cream. Full-fat milk may also be used when poaching fish or chicken, making soup or even making homemade paneer, a type of Indian cottage cheese.
Although drinking 3 cups of full-cream milk each day would likely be unhealthy, cooking with full-cream milk can incorporated into a healthy diet much more easily. For instance, choosing to use full-fat milk instead of lard, butter or other products with a higher saturated fat content can be a healthy choice. Using full-cream milk so that you can cook with wet heat (poaching or stewing) instead of frying with refined oils can also be good for your diet.
- MyFoodData: Nutrition Comparison of Unsweetened Soy Milk, Low-fat Milk 2%, Whole Milk, Low-fat Milk 1%, and Skim Milk
- Health.gov: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020
- American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Care: Saturated Fat Is More Metabolically Harmful for the Human Liver Than Unsaturated Fat or Simple Sugars
- Medical Hypotheses Journal: Saturated Fat Consumption May Not Be the Main Cause of Increased Blood Lipid Levels
- American Heart Association: Saturated Fat
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Total Fat
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Saturated Fat
- Environmental Media Association: 13 Foods You Should Always Buy Organic
- The New York Times: Study Questions Fat and Heart Disease Link