Milk: Everything you need to know about this liquid food

Milk: Everything you need to know about this liquid food

Milk is one of the most hotly debated food sources. Today, we’re going to look at its properties and benefits, whether it’s healthy, its myths, and much more.

What is milk?

Milk is a food source from the mammary glands of mammals, including humans, who produce it to feed their young before they can eat solid food.

Because of this, its nutritional profile aid growth.

Despite this, much information about milk is contradictory, with both advocates of milk and those who demonise its consumption.


There are compelling arguments for both cases, although sometimes unsupported by science.

Milk is nothing more and nothing less than another food. It is not essential for proper nutrition.

Nutritional Information for Milk

Milk is a magnificent food source with an important nutritional value.

Below, you’ll find its composition of both vitamins and minerals, and the NRV (Nutrient Reference Values – established in the Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 of 25 October 2011):

Vitamin A275mcg (34%)
Vitamin C8.6mg (11%)
Vitamin D7.8mcg (153%)
Vitamin E0.5mg (4.2%)
Vitamin K1.8mcg (2.4%)
Thiamine0.3mg (28%)
Riboflavin1.2mg (85.7%)
Niacin0.6mg (3.7)
Vitamin B60.3mg (21.5%)
Folic Acid37mcg (18.5%)
Vitamin B123.3mcg (132%)
Pantothenic Acid2.3mg (38%)
Calcium912mg (114%)
Iron0.5mg (3,5%)
Magnesium85mg (22.6%)
Phosphorus776mg (97%)
Potassium1330mg (66.5%)
Zinc3.3mg (33%)
Copper0.1mg (10%)
Selenium16.3mcg (29%)

Table of Vitamins and Minerals for 1 litre of whole milk

Why you should drink it

There is probably no other food that has been the subject of so many myths and issues.

In certain respects, unless you are lactose intolerant, I don’t think there’s any reason not to consume milk, except for issues regarding the means of production, but that would be another topic. In this case, we’re looking at milk from a nutritional point of view.

Milk is the Food with the Best “Macros”

And this isn’t coming from me, but nature, and if it’s been created in such a way, there must be a reason for it…

The best food for a newborn baby is breast milk, as it provides everything a baby needs: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. It also contains a series of substances that will develop and boost the newborn’s immune system.

Milk contains all the macronutrients in certain percentages, with carbohydrates being quite high, followed by fats, and finally proteins.

Milk benefits

In a litre of whole cow’s milk, we find, approximately: 32g of Protein, 46g of Carbohydrates, 34g of Fat.

As for the composition of milk, we find up to 87% of water, and around 0.8% of minerals and 0.1% of vitamins. This composition can vary depending on various factors related to the strategies used in milking the cow (season of the year…).

How much should you drink?

It will depend on our requirements and how we usually consume it, as we won’t use the same amount for milk in a coffee as if we would for porridge with milk for breakfast, or if we cook a tasty rice pudding.

We can look at it from the nutritional point of view: an adult needs an average of 1000mg of calcium a day; 110 mg of calcium for every 100 ml of product, so with one cup of milk we would cover a quarter of the requirements.

If you need to find out which dairy source and non-dairy sources are rich in calcium, click through to this post.

What are the benefits of drinking milk?

Nutritional density

It’s a fantastic food, which provides a very interesting nutritional balance.

Milk contains a wide range of micronutrients, but it’s in whole milk that we find the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K.

Milk contains CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), a type of fatty acid with numerous benefits for the body, some of them related to improving lipid profile.

Source of high biological value protein

Milk protein is, together with eggs, on of the top two highest quality protein sources.

This refers to the fact that it contains all the essential amino acids, required in essential processes of the body: from enzyme synthesis, neurotransmitters, intervening in immune system mechanisms, to muscle growth.

It is no wonder whey is the star supplement to help gain muscle mass, in addition to its other important benefits.

Post-training option

On top of its great flavour (many people think it’s delicious), it’s a great option for post-training.

This is due to its high water content, which promotes rehydration, along with the aforementioned vitamins and minerals, and of course, protein, carbohydrates, and fat, which are great for improving recovery after exercise and for those seeking to increase muscle mass, meaning it truly is a great ally to have.

Strong teeth and bones

As we saw earlier, milk is a source of calcium.

This mineral is involved in maintaining the health of the skeletal system. But it’s not just calcium, other nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, or vitamin D and K support this process too.

Its consumption is related to osteoporosis prevention anda lowered risk of fracture.

The protein content of milk also plays a role in maintaining bone health.

Why should you not drink milk?

From a nutritional point of view, if there are no intolerances, there is no disadvantage in not drinking milk.

You can take it or leaving it depending on whether you like the taste or now.

But if we look at how milk is produced, from an ethical point of view, certain practices of certain groups in the sector don’t seem right to me, with the term “exploitation” taking on its fullest meaning.


In terms of how we humans exploit animals for our own benefit, there are also any other livestock practices, such as egg production or chicken meat.

That is why, as far as possible, you should opt for organic products where the techniques used don’t generate any type of risk to the health of the animal, which often results in a product of better quality and composition.

What’s the problem with Milk?

The problem is not really with the milk itself, but with those who suffer from an intolerance to one of its components: lactose

This is because such people don’t properly generate the enzyme responsible for its metabolism, lactase. The result? Some stomach problems, such as flatulence, bloating or swelling of the stomach, which in the majority of cases will lead you to the toilet…

The lactase enzyme is key.

Non-human milk began to be drunk by adult humans around 7,500 years ago. This happened in Europe, in the central and Balkan region, from where it spread in successive waves to the rest of the continent.

As always happens, evolution favours those with genetic traits that facilitate adaptation to the environment and give them an advantage over competitors from other species or among their own kind.

As shown in a study by the magazine PLoS Computational Biology, About 7,500 years ago, a group of adult humans were able to drink milk by preserving lactase, the enzyme present in the villi of the small intestine that breaks down lactose into two easily digestible simple sugars, glucose and galactose.

Lactose is the sugar present in milk, and can also be found in other dairy products:

  1. When the body receives lactose, with the enzyme lactase, it will metabolise it into galactose, and from here it will finally reduce it into glucose and pass into the bloodstream.
  2. If there are insufficient levels of lactose: this process is not carried out correctly, and it will not be absorbed, remaining in the large intestine or colon.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a problem that affects a certain percentage of the population, while others are still unaware of the problem…

Lactose intolerance shouldn’t be confused with a milk allergy, which are two distinct phenomenons:
  • In the case of intolerance, the body will react to the milk itself, not to the sugar content (lactose).
  • A person allergic to milk will not be able to consume any dairy product.


Today, a large part of the European adult population produces the enzyme lactase all their lives.

It’s due to an evolutionary mechanism or mutation, meaning that at birth our lactase production can be reduced or suppressed.

For many people, intolerance tends to occur when we reduce or stop consuming milk, leading to a decrease in lactase production.

However, in the rest of the world, a large part of the adult population doesn’t produce lactase, and drinking milk and dairy products causes digestive problems.

Lactose tolerance among adults is a rarity and it is estimated, as reflected in this study, that around 65% of the world’s population has hypolactasia, that’s to say, low levels of lactase or even total absence, which would prevent them, to varying degrees, or degree to assimilate lactose.

The prevalence of lactose intolerance varies greatly between ethnic groups: in Latin America, as well as in many countries in Asia and Africa, between 50% and 100% of the population is unable to digest lactose.

Lactose intolerance is difficult to detect as it is often confused with poor digestion and binge eating, with the symptoms being similar, including bloating, gas, heartburn, etc. If you’d like to delve deeper into the subject and find solutions, we recommend you visit this article.


The 3 types of milk we can find, as everyone knows, are whole, semi-skimmed and skimmed milk. The main difference being the percentage of fat in each:

  • Whole milk: 3.25%.
  • Semi-skimmed: 1%.
  • Skimmed: less than 0.5%.

Is skimmed milk better?

Many people opt for skimmed or semi-skimmed milk because of the false belief we’ve been taught about the evil of fats in nutrition.

There’s so much fear of fat that even people without weight problems choose to drink skimmed milk.

  • With skimmed milk, when the fat is removed, vitamins are also suppressed, and in their absence, through processing, they are artificially injected.
  • Semi-skimmed milk still has a percentage of fat, and in it, these vitamins.

Milk whey

From my point of view, I prefer the whole milk version, and we can even take it with out post-training meal mixed with Whey Protein.

Whole milk produces the highest satiety index, and unlike the others, it doesn’t cause such an abrupt change in blood glucose levels.

Alongside these options is powdered milk, which is nothing more than the food in its dehydrated version. Once reconstituted, it has the same values as if it hadn’t undergone the process. Its main virtue are its shelf life and the fact that you don’t need to keep it refrigerated.

What is Lactose-Free Milk?

The industry is used to remedying any situation, and it’s no different in this case:

Lactose-free milk, essentially, is a type of milk to which the enzyme lactase is added during production to directly present the galactose and glucose molecules.

This let’s people suffering from this milk intolerance consume milk without any problems.

Milk alternatives

Manufacturers have found a solution to the problem of lactose intolerance by producing low-lactose products or directly opting for others that don’t contain lactose. As a result, we have the following:

  • Soy milk is another classic product that gives us the full benefits of milk without any lactose.
  • In addition, there’s also rice milk. This variety has more carbohydrates than normal milk, as well as being enriched with vitamins and minerals such as calcium to improve its nutritional value.

Plant milk

Plant milk has no protein or calcium value, but it also has no cholesterol and its taste is great

  • Almond milk is another alternative to take into account, rich in vitamin E and D, as well as having a significant amount of sodium, potassium and energy.
  • Hazelnut milk could be another alternative, with lots of iron and calcium, as well as important vitamins essential for the optimal functioning of our body.
  • Finally, oat milk is an alternative that contains little cholesterol, fat and sugar, but has a sweet taste that makes it a perfect product to drink with beverages or just on its own.
According to the European Parliament regulation obtained exclusively from the mammary secretion of one or more lactating mammals. The regulation recognises that the association of the term “dairy” in ingredients not associated with this origin is not permitted within the the European trade area.

7 myths about milk

Milk reduces iron in children

This is why in 1993, the US National Academy of Pediatrics issued an official statement expressing its opinion that no child should drink animal milk before 18 months of age.

They also stated that it contributes to the deficiency of essential fatty acids and Vitamin E.

This is only half true, as it has been seen that there was no improvement in symptoms for children with anaemia who were given iron together with milk.

Milk children

However, as we can see in the study, this phenomenon is due to an immature gastrointestinal system that is only transitory. Hence the importance of following the Beikost diet in infants.

Even so, there are no studies that prove a direct relationship for sure, and, as the study says, it would only occur in children with anaemia whose consumption is higher than one litre of milk per day.

Animal milk stimulates the body to produce mucus.

This is why when suffering from a cold, doctors recommend not to drink milk.

Totally false, there is no link between mucus production and milk consumption.

This is shown in the following article, where 600 patients were studied and concluded that there is no link between milk consumption and mucus. Even in Rhinovirus-2 patients (Rhinovirus is one of the most common agents of influenza disease).

There was no relationship between milk consumption and mucus.

Animal milk is full of bacteria

It is therefore an excellent medium for bacteria growth in the body.

That’s why children who don’t drink animal milk or dairy products of animal origin fall ill less, suffer less from tooth decay and get fewer ear infections.

False, dairy products such as fermented milks have beneficial effects on our intestinal flora.

An example of this is the following study where it was observed that those who drank fermented milk increased IgA (Immunoglobulin A) levels, improving the body’s immune response.

Drinking and consuming milk is associated with various illnesses

Such as: diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, Chron’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and even cataracts…

False. Let’s see what the research says

In 2013, the Department of Experimental Medicine at McGill University (Canada) evaluated the effects of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics to determine whether they resulted in a variation in cytokine concentrations.

Concentrations of TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-4 and cytokines were measured. Lipopolysaccharide concentrations were significantly reduced by administration of B. bifidum and B subsp. longum. infantis.

Even the cell counts of Gram-negative and positive bacteria were clearly affected by the administered probiotic. In addition, . B. longum subsp. infantis demonstrated higher capacities to reduce TNF-alpha (Tumour Necrosis Factor) concentrations and to increase IL-4 concentrations.

These findings suggest that specific probiotic bacteria, such as B. longum subsp. infantis, may decrease colon lipopolysaccharide concentrations, resulting in a less aggressive immune response.

More Studies

Other studies at the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology in Valencia have found that by co-incubating a special type of immune system cell, the dendritic cells, with B. longum ES1 or with pathogenic bacteria (enterobacteria) detected in the digestive tract of coeliacs results in the opposite effects.

In the case of enterobacteria, they induce changes in the shape of dendritic cells and cause them to trigger an inflammatory response in the presence of gliadin (responsible for gluten allergy), but the presence of B. longum ES1 does not lead to changes in morphology and decreases inflammatory activity, even leading to the synthesis of some compounds with anti-inflammatory activity.

Milk is harmful for people with high cholesterol

False, milk does not “clog” arteries through high cholesterol levels.

Scientific evidence shows that milk helps to improve cholesterol levels. Although it’s true that this is most effectively achieved by eating yoghurt. It’s also false that variations are different in older persons.

As we observed in this study, more than 200 women aged 55-85 years improved their blood pressure without significantly changing their cholesterol levels, although this last parameter is questionable, as other studies have shown an almost 10% reduction in LDL cholesterol.

Milk is associated with prostate cancer in men and ovarian cancer in women.

There is no relation between dairy consumption and increased likelihood of developing cancer.

In women:

Recent studies have shown that, after a review of 40 control studies, there is no link between dairy consumption and breast cancer.

As we can see in the McCullough study, in which almost 70,000 women participated, there is even slight decrease in the risk of breast cancer observed in those who consumed more calcium.

Finally, we come to ovarian cancer in women. Once again, the inconsistency of this statement is reflected in the analysis by Genkinger in 2009, where after 14 studies involving more than 500,000 women, the result was NO association between dairy products and ovarian cancer.

In men:

The findings are similar for prostate cancer. Perhaps the study that best illustrates this myth is the study conducted by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition.

In this study, almost 150,000 men took part. It found that dietary fat is unrelated to the development of prostate cancer, demystifying another of the article’s points about the harm of fat in milk.

Drinking milk may contribute to bone fractures

The studies and meta-analyses show that dairy intake increases bone mineralisation. Without weight gain due to milk fat, as concluded here.


We can say that at least in dairy products and yoghurts, the evidence shows that they do not put bone health at risk.

What protein does milk contain?

The protein in milk is formed by 80% casein and 20% whey.

Both fractions correspond to slow and fast proteins, respectively, and refer to the speed at which our body digests and absorbs them.

Milk contains high levels of IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor type 1), which is a hormone that promotes cell development and growth.

The IGF-1 in cow’s milk is practically identical to that of human milk (amino acid sequence), so milk consumption could be related to higher levels of IGF-1 in our bodies, producing a powerful response to muscle growth.

Milk Amino-gram

We can see that the essential and non-essential amino acid content in 100g of product is more than 12g, with Branched Chain Amino Acids or BCAAs almost 6g, together with more than 5.5g of Glutamine.

Essential Amino Acids

Essential Amino AcidsNon-Essential Amino Acids
Isoleucine1592mgAspartic Acid1997mg

Table of essential and non-essential amino acids in milk

How many grams of protein does a glass of milk have?

As we saw at the beginning, milk contains around 3.5% of protein.

For example: with a cup or glass of milk of about 250ml, we would be getting about 8g of protein. Milk protein is a protein of high biological value.

Whey Milk Supplements

La proteína Milk Concentrate 85% is perhaps the supplement that we can find the greatest similarity with respect to milk, in terms of protein composition, as it maintains the proportion of casein and whey at 80:20, as occurs in milk.

The main difference is that the powdered format contains just traces of carbohydrates and fats..

The combination of both protein fractions, according to studies, produces an optimal response to the continuous delivery of amino acids, achieving better protein synthesis.

To achieve the same amount of protein as a serving of 85% Milk Concentrate (1 serving of 30g), giving 25.5g of protein, it would take almost 1 litre of milk.

This is perhaps the point to note, as many users may be reluctant to consume such a large amount of milk after training, or at any another time of the day, and may resort more effectively to supplementation to obtain virtually the same protein balance.

Whey protein isolate HSN

Protein supplements such as Whey Protein Isolate offer a nutritional profile dominated by the protein fraction of whey with almost no fat or carbohydrates.

Although the origin is milk, a product like Hydrolysed Whey Protein Isolate from RawSeries can be consumed by lactose-intolerant people, given the extremely low levels of lactose it contains.


  1. Fatty acids in bovine milk fat. Månsson HL1.

Related Entries

  • Are dairy products good or bad for our health? We answer your question: here.
Review of Milk

What it is - 100%

How should you drink it? - 100%

Myths - 100%

Recommendations - 100%


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About Javier Colomer
Javier Colomer
"Knowledge Makes Stronger", Javier Colomer's motto, sets out his clearest statement of intentions expressing his knowledge and fitness experience.
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