Milk: It’s not just for breakfast

By: 
Dr. Mark Anderson

Got Milk? This nutrient-dense superdrink is a recommended part of your diet at every stage of life.

Drinking milk can promote healthy bones, lower your risk for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, give you more energy and help your vision and your immune system. It’s the one part of your diet that can supply protein to your bones, brain and body. It also contains Vitamins A and B12, calcium, Vitamin D, potassium, zinc and many other nutrients.

Most Americans, however, don’t drink nearly enough milk.

A recent study found that up to one-third of adults take in fewer than two servings of dairy per day. Another study found that children age 2-11 consumed, on average, twice as much milk as adults.  

If you find yourself realizing that you should be drinking more milk, you are not alone. The number of servings of dairy we should have in a day depends most on your age, but for almost all of us, the recommended amount is at least 16 ounces a day or more.

We shouldn’t be talking about whether it’s good to drink milk, but rather how we can get enough of it. We live in America’s Dairyland, for crying out loud!

Some of us don’t like the taste of milk or can’t drink it.

Lactose intolerance is definitely a common struggle, and so for those who live with it, soy milk can be quite a good alternative for anyone over age 2, as it contains a similar protein content to milk.

For those of you who don’t like the taste of milk, I would encourage you to find something you do like or find ways to “hide” your dairy in your daily diet. Can you take a serving of milk in your cereal? Could you add cheese to your meals? What about a yogurt or a Greek yogurt with your lunch? 

For another option, give the milk-alternatives a try (soy or almond milk, for example).

They do have a slightly different taste and texture from milk, but this is not a bad thing. Some people prefer the “smoothness” and taste of soy. If you are going to drink soy, I would recommend buying fortified soy milk for the added nutrients (especially the added calcium).

For the rest of us, it’s a matter of staying diligent. Pour some on your cereal, have a big glass with lunch and dinner or fill a Thermos for your commute. Add some yogurt or cheese to your lunch.

Do whatever you need to do to get the correct number of daily servings for your whole family. With all its benefits, milk really shouldn’t just be a breakfast beverage.

 

Dr. Mark Anderson practices family medicine at the UW Health–Yahara clinic in Monona.

 

Dr. Anderson’s topic for June: What do these labs mean?

How much milk do I need?

The recommended number of servings of milk varies based on age.

  • Younger than one year: breast milk or infant formula, generally working toward drinking about 24-32 ounces per day.
  • Age 1-2: Two to three 8-ounce glasses of whole milk, whose increased fat content is crucial for adequate brain development.
  • Age 2- 8: Two 8-ounce glasses of low-fat milk
  • Age 8-50: Three 8-ounce glasses of low-fat milk
  • Over 50: Four 8-ounce glasses of low-fat milk.
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