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Milk nutrition

Milk is a nutritious liquid that occupies an important place in the promotion of the health of humans, especially young children. It is consumed as a drink or employed in the preparation of other dairy products such as yogurt, cheese and in the cooking.

Milk is produced by the mammary glands of female mammals. Cow's milk is the most widely used, but water buffalo, sheep, goat, donkey, mare, and camel milk is also consumed as the principal source of "milk drink" in different regions. The word milk without any mention of the animal species refers to cow's milk.

milk nutrition
Fresh milk. Photo: Zeyus Media

Milk nutrition facts

  • Milk and other dairy product consumption are common in the United States and other Western countries, Australia and New Zealand. Milk contains an important disaccharide carbohydrate, lactose. Humans carry the "lactase" enzyme in their stomach juices, which breaks down lactose into glucose and galactose. This ability to digest lactose after early infancy is a genetic adaptation in populations that consume milk.

  • Milk is basically composed of water, fat globules, and protein. Also, in small amounts- minerals and vitamins. The rich taste of milk comes from its fats which are among the most easily digested dietary fats. Fats constitute 49% of the calories of whole milk. Break up composition- 62% saturated fatty acids, 29% monounsaturated fatty acids, and 3.7% polyunsaturated fatty acids. Milk also contains linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid.

  • Milk nutrition is a complete source of protein since all the essential amino acids are present in it. They represent 38% of the non-fatty solids in milk. Among these casein represents 82% of the protein in milk.

  • The Lacto-serum or "whey" represents an 18% portion of liquid left over after the fat and casein have been extracted from milk. It is particularly high in lysine, which makes milk a good complement to cereals and grains, nuts, and seeds.

  • Lactose accounts for 97% of the carbohydrates in milk and 30% to 56% of the calories depending on the type of milk.

Health benefits of milk

  1. Milk is indispensable food as it is plentiful, inexpensive, and very nutritious being an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

  2. 100 g of whole milk carries 64 calories, 3.66 g of fats, and 3.28 g of protein.

  3. Milk nutrition composes all the essential amino acids, and therefore, it is recognized as a high-quality protein source.

  4. Milk is rich source of calcium; 100 g of fresh milk contains 119 mg. Calcium ensures proper teeth development, acts on the functioning of the heart cells, nerves, and muscles, encourages bone growth, and plays a role in the prevention of osteoporosis, hypertension, and, possibly, colorectal cancer and hypercholesterolemia.

  5. It is a good source of B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, vitamin B12, magnesium, and Zinc.

  6. Apart from calcium, it contains healthy amounts of phosphorus (93 mg) and potassium (151 mg), and a moderate amount of sodium (49 mg).

  7. Natural grass-fed cow's milk is a rich source of vitamin A and β-carotene. β-carotene is the pigment responsible for the yellow color of milk, more noticeable in butter.

  8. It is, furthermore, considered that for the overall population, there is a greater risk of calcium, riboflavin, vitamin D (in fortified milk), and Vitamin B12 deficiencies if dairy products, particularly milk nutrition, are not part of the daily diet.

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:
Milk nutrition, fluid, 3.7% milkfat, Nutritive value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percent of RDA
Energy 64 Kcal 3%
Carbohydrates 4.65 g 3.5%
Protein 3.28 g 6%
Total Fat 3.66 g 18%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 0 g 0%
Folates 5 μg 1%
Niacin 0.084 mg <10%
Pyridoxine 0.042 mg 3%
Riboflavin 0.161 mg 12.5%
Thiamin 0.038 mg 3%
Vitamin A 138 IU 4.5%
Vitamin C 1.5 mg 2%
Sodium 49 mg 3%
Potassium 151 mg 3%
Calcium 119 mg 12%
Copper 0.010 mg 1%
Iron 0.05 mg <1%
Magnesium 13 mg 3%
Manganese 0.004 mg <1%
Zinc 0.38 mg 3.5%


Fresh milk is readily available all across the United States. However, the sale of raw milk is banned in many of Europe and the Americas. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidelines that milk sold across the state must be pasteurized and meet the standards (A-grade) of the US Pasteurized Milk Ordinance.

It is usually sold fortified with Vitamin D, homogenized and whole, fat-reduced, skimmed, evaporated, flavored, or powdered. Buy fresh milk in cans, bottles, tetra-packs, etc.


Heat, oxygen, and light affect the nutritional value of milk. It must, therefore, be refrigerated as quickly as possible. Never return used milk to the original container as it may contaminate the rest.

Milk keeps well in the fridge for 10 days, but it will not keep as long if it has been previously left at room temperature for longer periods.

Here are some steps to storing tips:

  • Always boil and cool milk before use (pasteurization).

  • Avoid keeping it at room temperature as much as possible.

  • If in the deep freezer, preferably defrost it in the fridge (upper shelf) itself.

Serving ideas:

As food, milk occupies an important place in the cuisine of several countries, especially Western countries.

  • It is consumed as a drink or added in cooking.

  • It is made into yogurt, butter, clarified butter (ghee) and cheese.

  • It is used in the preparation of delicate and hearty soups, sauces such as béchamel sauce, crepes, cakes, pastries, desserts such as flans, custard, cooked creams or sweet dishes.

  • It is often employed in vegetable, meat, and poultry dishes.

Safety profile

The inability to digest lactose, known as lactose intolerance, is caused by a deficiency in lactase, an enzyme that turns lactose into a substance that can be absorbed in the intestine.

Individuals who are lactose intolerant can suffer from abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas, bloating, nausea, and cramps. Milk with a lactose content reduced by 90% is available in the market.

Oxytocin and bovine somatotropin (sometribove (rBST) hormones are often used for stimulating an increase in the production of milk in cows. Oxytocin residues in milk are often a cause of hormonal side effects in humans.

Milk nutrition is generally poor in iron and vitamin C. Infants and young children often require iron supplementation to avoid iron deficiency anemia. (Medical disclaimer).

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Further Resources:

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database. (opens in new window).

  2. US Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. (pdf-opens in new window).

  3. Bovine somatotropin. (opens in new window).

  4. Vitamin D for Milk and Milk Alternatives.. (opens in new window).

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