“Drink your milk” …these are my words every night at dinner. My daughter’s milk is always the last thing touched at dinner. She seems to eat everything separately. First it is all her vegetables, even ask for seconds, then the starch, followed by a few bites of protein. Left untouched is her glass of milk. She is sensitive to lactose so for several years she drank soy milk but grew tired of the taste. She wanted “regular” milk like her brother. I gradually added milk to her diet and over time she has grown to tolerate milk. 🙂 She is a preteen and getting that calcium is so important for her long-term bone health. Every now and then I remind her how her body needs that milk. So just as I do every night, I remind her to drink her milk.
Here is how children and adults benefit from drinking milk…
Benefits of Cow’s Milk
Cow’s milk contains more of the essential vitamins and minerals required by humans than any other single food. Milk contains nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D.
Drinking milk provides:
- Calcium, for building strong bones and teeth
- Vitamin D, which functions as a hormone to enhance calcium absorption
- Vitamin A, which is needed for vision and helps regulate the immune system
- Protein, which builds and maintains muscle
- Potassium, which regulates blood pressure and fluid balance
- Riboflavin, which helps produce energy in body cells
- Niacin, which helps enzymes function normally in the body
- Vitamin B12, which plays a key role in cell growth and division
- Phosphorus, which keeps bones strong
Prior to one year of age, breast milk is optimal for infants. Breast milk provides infants with all the nutrients they need plus antibodies to help protect them from many common illnesses. If cow’s milk is introduced too early in life, an infant may develop an allergy to milk products. Cow’s milk also contains too much protein for an infant’s stomach to digest.
It is very important for young children to consume adequate amounts of calcium when their bones are growing the fastest during the “tween” (children 9-12 years of age) and teen years. You cannot make up for lost calcium in their later years.
If children are to attain their genetically potential peak bone mass, the diet must meet the threshold of calcium needed to satisfy the needs of the skeleton.
- Milk is produced with differing amounts of fat with each type providing 300mg of calcium per 8 ounce glass.
- Low-fat and no-fat milks are better choices for growing children because they provide the needed calcium without adding extra fat in their diet.
Importance of Milk Consumption for Children
Lactose intolerance is the body’s inability to digest the lactose sugar in milk and dairy products. It is uncommon to be born without the lactase enzyme. Lactose maldigestion is a condition that occurs naturally over time and as a result of low lactase enzyme activity. Those with lactose intolerance and lactose maldigestion can benefit from milk if they consume milk with other foods, gradually increasing serving size to build tolerance.
For children and adults with lactose intolerance, drinking lactose-free milk or consuming a lactase enzyme tablet, such as Lactaid, will allow them to receive the nutritional benefits of milk.
- Studies show that children and teenagers with primary lactose intolerance can usually consume 8 to 12 ounces (1 to 1 ½ cups) of milk without experiencing symptoms.
- It also may be helpful for children with lactose intolerance to consume milk with other foods to reduce the adverse effects.
People can also benefit from milk alternatives, such as soy, almond, and rice milk, that are widely available and are fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Healthy bones in children and adults depend on calcium, which in turn depends on vitamin D for absorption. Vitamin D functions as a vitamin and as a prohormone and can be synthesized from cholesterol found in our skin cells. A deficiency in Vitamin D will result in poor calcium absorption, poor regulation of calcium in the body, and possibly osteomalacia. After menopause, it can lead to osteoporosis.
Good to know
- Milk is a rich source of calcium, Vitamin D, protein, phosphorus, potassium, Vitamin B12, magnesium which all are important to bone health.
- The bioavailability of the calcium in milk can help build stronger bones and aids in preventing osteoporosis later in life.
Foods Containing Calcium
- Fat-free or low-fat yogurt
- Calcium-fortified orange juice
- Low-fat cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, swiss)
- Cottage cheese
- Tofu (made with calcium)
RDA for Calcium
|Birth to 6 months||200 mg|
|Infants 7–12 months||260 mg|
|Children 1–3 years||700 mg|
|Children 4–8 years||1,000 mg|
|Children 9–13 years||1,300 mg|
|Teens 14–18 years||1,300 mg|
|Adults 19–50 years||1,000 mg|
|Adult men 51–70 years||1,000 mg|
|Adult women 51–70 years||1,200 mg|
|Adults 71 years and older||1,200 mg|
|Pregnant and breastfeeding teens||1,300 mg|
|Pregnant and breastfeeding adults||1,000 mg|