Myths vs. Facts: Everything you need to know about milk

1 of 3 | allied-milk-producers
2 of 3 | allied-milk-producers
3 of 3 | allied-milk-producers

You’ve seen the got milk? advertisements. You’ve seen replacement nut beverages popping up in grocery stores. You’ve likely been told by a parent to finish your glass of milk before leaving the table. But how much do you really know about this dietary staple?

Just Add Dairy

Turns out, there’s a lot of misconceptions about milk—and a lot of misinformation floating around. But the people who know the truth, like Allied Milk Producers, an alliance of milk farmers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, are helping milk make a well-deserved comeback. And now, thanks to Allied Milk Producers, we are, too—check out the milk myths and facts below, and see how much you really know about this common food item.

3 Cups: the amount of milk & milk products recommended daily for those over age 9

Fact: Athletes can use milk as a sports drink replacement. Drop the sugary sports drink, and pick up a tall glass of milk—that’s right, this dietary staple is one of the most nutrient-rich recovery drinks on the market. In choosing a post-workout beverage, it’s important for athletes to opt for something that will hydrate, strengthen, and repair—and the nutrients packed into every glass of milk have the ability to do just that.

Myth: Soy milk, almond milk, and other nut milks are still forms of dairy. Milk alternatives, including beverages made from almonds, soy, and rice, are considered non-dairy substitutes. But don’t let the word “substitute” fool you, since they don’t offer the same level of health benefits as dairy milk does. Alternative “milks” are naturally low in calcium and protein—and even though some brands attempt to make up the difference by fortifying their drinks, the levels often still fall far below that of dairy milk.

Fact: Milk is extremely inexpensive. A single gallon of milk can hold 16 eight-ounce (one cup) servings, and at $3-$4 per gallon, milk costs just $0.25 per serving. While this is objectively inexpensive, milk is also inexpensive in comparison with similar beverages—coconut water can cost up to $1 for the same eight-ounce serving size—and offers far more nutritional benefits per glass.

Myth: If you’re lactose intolerant, you need to avoid all dairy products. Lactose intolerance is a common justification for not consuming milk or other dairy products, as it can often cause stomach pain and problems. Yet many are under the incorrect impression that any lactose intolerance should be treated with full avoidance of all dairy products; hard cheese, yogurt, and lactose-reduced milk are all good options for those who want to maintain a healthy diet without an inevitable stomach ache, while eating baked goods containing milk can help reduce lactose intolerance.

Poll: What's your favorite dairy product?

Fact: Milk is the best dietary source of calcium. Milk and other dairy products, including yogurt and cheese, are pretty much universally considered the most concentrated—and best—dietary source of calcium. Leafy greens and legumes follow behind dairy as sources of calcium, but by no means do they follow closely behind, as it would take 10 cups of raw spinach or six servings of legumes to compare to just one cup of milk.

Milk is the No. 1 food source of nine essential nutrients for children and six essential nutrients for adults in the U.S.

Myth: Milk may be high in calcium, but it’s low in other nutrients. Most everyone knows that milk is one of the best natural sources of calcium, a crucial nutrient for strong bones and teeth. But many don’t realize that the nutritional benefits of milk go far beyond calcium. Milk of all types, including whole, low-fat, and fat-free, is also a good source of protein, necessary for tissue repair and muscle development, as well as vitamins D and B12. 

Fact: Kids don’t drink enough milk. Good habits start young; unfortunately, bad habits do as well. Though 99 percent of U.S. households purchase milk, only 30 percent of boys ages 9-18 and 12 percent of girls get the recommended daily servings of dairy. This means that 70 percent of preteen and teen boys and 88 percent of preteen and teen girls aren’t consuming enough dairy, putting them at risk for osteoporosis in the future—especially since calcium is best absorbed into bones at age 12 for girls and age 14 for boys.

Myth: Milk is just another example of outdated dietary recommendations. We get it—dietary recommendations and requirements have changed over the years. But the hype around milk has stood the test of time for a reason: the health benefits speak for themselves. Milk continues to be considered a core nutrient and integral component of a healthy diet, and parents are encouraged to pass the importance of dairy consumption onto future generations—hopefully, as their parents did for them.