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General Asked Questions
What is Whole Milk?
Whole Milk is Real Dairy Milk that is pasteurized and standardized to 3.25% fat. On a volume/weight basis, Real Whole Milk in the store contains 88% water and 12% solids broken down as 3.25% fat, 3.75% protein and 5% carbohydrate, and naturally contains many other nutrients.
Why is Whole Milk standardized to 3.25% fat?
Milk straight from the cow can range 3% to 6% fat. The national average fluctuates from 3.2 to 3.9% fat, which is influenced by season, weather, feed and breed of cattle. Real Whole Milk is standardized for sale at 3.25% fat to be consistent year-round and ensure consistently accurate labeling. Standardization also allows excess fat from above average cows and conditions to be skimmed to make ice cream, butter and more!
How do I know I’m choosing Whole Milk?
Other Real Milks are labeled by fat percentage: Fat-Free (0%) Low-Fat (1%) Reduced-Fat (2%). But Real Whole Milk (3.25%) has a label simply stating, “Vitamin D Milk”. It often has a Red Cap, but some brands use a different color.
Just milk & supplemental Vitamin D.
What about calories?
An 8-oz glass of Whole Milk has 150 nutrient-dense calories as follows:
- 8 grams FAT is 3.25% of weight, 45% of calories, 12% of daily recommended value (DV). Whole milk contains a complex mix of saturated, monounsaturated & polyunsaturated fats, including omega 3 and 6. There are ZERO transfats. Studies show the fats in Real Whole Milk offer benefits: converting to energy, not fat; aiding vitamin absorption; contributing to brain development; positive for mood and alertness; and providing flavor and fullness to curb sugar cravings. Impact on cardiovascular disease is also being debated in a review of the research.
- 8 grams PROTEIN is 3.75% of weight, 25% of calories 16% of daily value (DV). Real Milk protein is a “complete” protein because it contains all 9 essential amino acid building blocks needed by the human body. This high-quality protein builds and repairs muscle, keeps us fuller longer, provides energy and focus, helps maintain bone health and a healthy weight, while supporting a healthy immune system. Real Milk protein is readily absorbed and hard to replace.
- 12 g CARBOHYDRATE is 5% of weight, 30% of calories, 4% of daily value (DV). Milk’s carbohydrates are all in the form of Lactose — a simple ‘sugar’ found naturally in milk that is roughly equal to the natural ‘sugar’ found in a small banana and about half the amount of natural sugar found in apple juice. Real Milk has ZERO ADDED SUGAR!
What other benefits are in Whole Milk?
Besides hydrating water and a healthy matrix of fat, protein and carbohydrate, Whole Milk contains essential vitamins and nutrients shown below:
- CALCIUM builds & maintains strong bones & teeth, plays a role in nerve & muscle function.
- VITAMIN D aids absorption of calcium, enhances bone mineralization, positively influences mood & alertness.
- IODINE is used by thyroid gland to make essential hormones that control growth, repair cell damage, support healthy metabolism.
- POTASSIUM is essential for regulating the balance of fluid in our bodies, helping to maintain normal blood pressure.
- PHOSPHORUS strengthens bones, generates energy in the cells of our bodies.
- VITAMIN A maintains normal vision and skin as well as helping build and maintain a healthy immune system.
- RIBOFLAVIN (Vit. B2) helps convert food to energy.
- NIACIN is important for normal function of enzymes and is involved in metabolism of sugars and fatty acids.
- VITAMIN B-12 helps build red blood cells carrying oxygen from lungs to muscles for all functions of body and mind.
- ZINC strengthens immune system & reduces oxidative stress.
- THIAMIN & Vit. B6 work with Zinc & other B vitamins to convert dietary energy into
- MAGNESIUM which helps many aspects of health & fitness, including metabolism & strong bones.
What about flavored milks?
Real Whole Chocolate Milk has more of the creaminess of the 3.25% fat and therefore doesn’t need as much added sugar to mix well & taste great! Real Whole Chocolate Milk is the perfect mix of hydration, energy, protein and nutrients to refuel after a workout and power through the day.
Milk Q&A with a Registered Dietician
Stephanie Edson, MS, RDN, LD, LMNT
Are Whole Milk and full-fat dairy foods good for us?
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans still restrict anyone over age 2 from having 2% or Whole (3.25%) Milk, and they push fat-free and low-fat dairy products from age 2 and up, yet we see all of this research linking complex milk fat to reduced all-cause mortality, reduced cardiovascular disease, higher HDLs (good cholesterol), better management and prevention of Type 2 diabetes, satiety that can help curb snack cravings, improved brain development and alertness – even mood! Help us sort through the mixed messages on Whole Milk and full-fat dairy foods.
- YES! Whole dairy milk and full-fat dairy foods can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. The key is to consume leaner meats and be more conscious of the fat in other foods such as snack foods and desserts. When consuming whole dairy milk and higher fat dairy foods, but consuming fewer fatty meats, snack foods, and desserts, we observe improvements in health. It’s up to the consumer as to if they want to consume fat in dairy or in the form of other foods. When choosing full-fat dairy instead of fatty meats, snack foods, and desserts, the fat can have healthful effects. Since many Americans are overweight, public health professionals see recommending fat-free/skim and 1% milk as an easy way to cut calories. As more research is published on the benefits of whole fat dairy, I expect to see liberalizing the current dairy recommendations to include fuller fat dairy foods if we consume less fat elsewhere in the diet.
Why should growing children have the option to choose Whole Milk at school instead of being restricted
to fat-free and 1% low-fat?
When children have options and are involved in choosing foods, they are more likely to eat/drink the foods they choose. Giving children the option allows them to take an active role. While fat-free/skim and 1% are still great choices, children who are accustomed to a higher fat dairy milk at home will be less likely to drink the fat-free/skim or 1% options at school. Calories do matter, but more importantly is getting our children to consume adequate nutrients to support health. Choosing whole dairy milk can be important for children who otherwise wouldn’t drink milk and for children who are food insecure. The additional calories in whole dairy milk do not have to be seen as a negative, when providing so much nutrition. A food, such as dairy milk, is only nutritious if we consume it, so the extra 65 calories in 8 ounces of whole dairy milk vs fat-free/skim milk is well worth the nutrition.
A part of the conversation that cannot be ignored is physical activity. According to the CDC, less than one-quarter, only 24% to be exact, of school age children participate in the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day. When encouraging daily activity, whole dairy milk can come into the conversation. The calcium and vitamin D, and protein in dairy milk support bone and muscle health, respectively, as children grow and supports being physically active. When being physically active, the additional calories in whole dairy milk compared to fat-free/skim is less of an issue.
USDA’s own studies show that the fat-free and low-fat milk required at school is the most frequently
discarded item in the school lunch. At the same time, calcium status of teenagers is in decline,
to more broken bones and scoliosis cases according to orthopedic doctors. Are kids getting enough milk
and dairy? How can we improve this?
Honestly, offering whole dairy milk at lunch alone will not likely increase consumption. At school, we need to do a better job on educating students on why milk is part of a healthy lunch and let students try milk in the classroom as an educational activity. Giving students the chance to taste different dairy milks (fat-free/skim vs 1% vs 2% vs whole) would be a neat activity to let them share their thoughts and if they like it, they will be more likely to choose milk at lunch. We also need to encourage parents to provide dairy milk for their children prior to reaching school age, so children are used to consuming it. Parents have the responsibility to lead by example and if kids see parents drinking sodas or other beverages, they will be less likely to choose milk. A marketing campaign showing the truth about dairy including how passionate farmers are and how much they care, the nutrition dairy provides, and how dairy can support health would be a good start to reach the adult/parent population.
The medical community has also identified Vitamin D, Iodine and Potassium as essential nutrients of
concern, meaning kids and adults are not getting enough. How does including Whole Milk and dairy foods
in the diet help?
Dairy milk is a source of these nutrients and an easy way to consume them! Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium which supports bone health, iodine plays important roles in metabolism and cognitive function, and potassium supports fluid balance and blood pressure, muscle contractions and nerve signaling. The fat in whole dairy milk aids in the absorption of vitamin D and is a tasty way to get these much-needed nutrients.
What other nutrients are important in Milk and dairy products that most of us don’t think about?
In addition to vitamin D, iodine, and potassium, dairy milk is a source of essential nutrients including protein, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins B3/niacin, B2/riboflavin and B12. When looking at all the nutrients in dairy milk, for the calories, it is an easy and healthy way to get lots of nutrition. Protein builds and repairs muscle tissue and can be a source of energy, calcium helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth, phosphorus, along with calcium, helps strengthen bones, vitamin A supports vision and skin as well as helps maintain a strong immune system, niacin, also known as vitamin B3, supports enzymes in the body which are vital for the metabolism of sugars and fatty acids, pantothenic Acid, also known as vitamin B5, also supports metabolism, riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, supports metabolism and converting food into energy, and vitamin B12 supports our red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout our bodies. A glass of milk is much more than just milk!
How does the protein in milk and dairy products differ from plant-based proteins?
While plant-based proteins can be part of a balanced diet, each protein is made from different amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins, and some are essential, whereas others our body can synthesize from other amino acids. Dairy milk, as well as other animal products, contain all the essential amino acids that the body needs. When consuming dairy, you do not have to worry about ‘complementary proteins’ or if you are getting the right mix of amino acids.
Can plant-based alternatives replace all that Milk and dairy products provide in the diet?
No! Plant-based beverages can be fortified with vitamins and minerals to be comparable to real dairy milk, but they still do not contain the protein that is naturally in dairy milk. Also, plant-based beverages often have sugar added to make them taste better vs dairy milk which contains a naturally occurring sugar, just like sugar is naturally in fruit! You will get much more nutrition in one glass of dairy milk compared to plant-based beverages. Calorie for calorie, dairy milk is the healthier choice!
What are some things you think are important about Whole Milk and dairy products at stages of
and as adults?
Dairy milk is an important food no matter the life stage. Milk contains good nutrition for children while growing and adequate nutrition to maintain nutrient stores for adults. Since fat is flavor, whole dairy milk often tastes better compared to fat-free or skim, making someone more likely to drink it. The fat in milk also helps the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin D. Since many individuals have nutrition related chronic diseases, consumption of dairy milk, along with a balanced diet may prevent and even aid in controlling conditions such as osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Does Whole Milk and dairy consumption help in weight management?
Whole dairy milk contains a little more fat which can help aid in satiety since fat contains twice as many calories per gram compared to proteins and carbohydrates. If choosing whole fat dairy, I recommend choosing leaner meats to balance out the fats and calories, thus aiding in weight management. The protein, vitamins, and minerals in dairy milk also work to satisfy nutrient needs and allow the body to function at its best.
What do you see as the trends in Milk and dairy consumption that are positive or negative for health?
Milk is often villainized, but when taking time to learn about how much farmers really do care for their herds, the milk production process, and the nutrients contained in dairy, milk is a great choice. Milk is not an essential food, but it does contain many essential nutrients. Milk is an easy, great tasting way to get lots of nutrition in one glass. Children can be picky, but if willing to drink milk, it is a good way to provide nutrition that otherwise chicken nuggets or fruit snacks do not. When dairy consumption trends down, the biggest concern is for children since they are growing and developing. I do have to say, while milk can be part of a healthy diet, even too much of a healthy food, can become unhealthy. Three servings of dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese) each day is the right amount to support health!
What, if any, advice would give people who believe they have digestive sensitivity to milk?
If sensitive to dairy milk, it may be the natural sugar in the milk, lactose. First try a lactose-free real, daily milk. If you still experience digestive sensitivity, try a real, dairy milk from cows only expressing the A2 protein. Normal milk contains both A1 and A2 proteins, but some dairy milk is from cows that only express the A2 protein, which is easier to digest and well tolerated among many people. If you cannot drink milk, you can still enjoy other dairy options such as yogurt and cheese, which are made from dairy milk and are sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Is chocolate milk a healthy beverage choice?
Yes, chocolate milk can be part of a healthy balanced diet! Chocolate milk is a healthier choice compared to sweetened beverages such as sodas and some juice options. Chocolate milk also has the preferred ratio of carbs to protein that promotes muscle recovery after physical activity making is a great post-workout/refueling beverage!