7 Dairy Nutrition Questions Answered

  • Article
  • 5 min read October 17, 2023

Is milk good for you? No surprise, that’s a common question, and whether people ask that of their doctors, dietitians, friends or even Google, the answers can feel like you’ve been listening to hundreds of conversations at once. With widespread information available online and in the media, it can be daunting to discern fact from fiction. Below we address more common questions about dairy's contributions to health and wellness, so you have the facts to make your own choice. (Also, we think milk is in fact very good for you!)

Does lactose intolerance mean no more dairy?

Simply put, lactose Intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, a natural sugar found in dairy foods. Symptoms can vary but usually include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or gas.

Lactose intolerance is different than a milk allergy, where all dairy foods need to be avoided. So, with lactose intolerance, it’s not all or nothing. Think of it as a spectrum, where many people can still confidently enjoy dairy foods. And there are options in the dairy aisle that can help:

If you have questions or concerns about your tolerance, we encourage you to reach out to your healthcare provider.

If you want to learn more, visit our article Lactose Intolerant? Try These 12 Tips To Enjoy Dairy

Does dairy cause inflammation?

This is a very common question and misconception. Research shows dairy foods are not inflammatory and can be anti-inflammatory, too. Most people don’t often recognize how complex inflammation is, as are the types of inflammation (acute or chronic). Also, some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance (see above) can be confused with inflammation.

People around the globe have been eating fermented foods for thousands of years. The natural fermentation process impacts the physical and nutritional matrix of milk to create cheese or yogurt. These changes found in fermented foods impact digestion, absorption and metabolism, which likely play a role in inflammation. All this science is to say one of the best ways to help combat chronic inflammation is through a nutritious diet that includes a variety of whole foods including dairy.

Visit our article to learn more: Does Dairy Cause Inflammation?

How is dairy milk uniquely different from plant-based beverages?

Plant-based beverages can fit in a healthy diet, but they are not nutritionally equivalent to dairy milk. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, only fortified soy drinks are considered suitable dairy alternatives. Compared to plant-based alternatives, dairy milk is often a better source of high-quality protein and 13 essential nutrients with a simple ingredient list and affordable price point. Plant-based beverages vary in nutritional profiles, additives and added sugar. That’s why expert organizations caution against plant-based beverages for growing kids but instead recommend plain milk and water.

For more information, read our article: What’s The Difference Between Cow’s Milk and Plant-Based Alternatives?

Isn’t milk just for kids and strong bones?

Yes, milk and dairy foods are important for healthy growth, development and building strong bones. But did you know eating dairy foods is also linked to healthy hearts, digestion and immune function, as well as early brain development and weight management? Aim for three servings of dairy a day, along with fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains.

Want some inspiration? Try fermented drinks like kefir, which you can use in this colorful acai bowl recipe, or plate this hearty Turkish Eggs With Greek Yogurt and Sautéed Spinach recipe for a fun weekend breakfast. Whether you’re 5 or 55, dairy can help you on your health journey.

Check out our booklet for more information: Dairy Foods Help People Thrive Across Their Lifespan

Can’t I get my nutrients elsewhere?

Most Americans don’t meet recommendations for calcium, vitamin D and potassium, three of the four underconsumed nutrients of public health concern (the fourth being fiber). Dairy foods contribute over half of the calcium and vitamin D in American diets and are the least expensive sources of those vitamins and minerals.

Replacing the nutrients in dairy foods with non-dairy foods would require an increase in total food intake, cost and calories (as opposed to the three recommended servings of dairy foods). Just don’t stop there: Eat a variety of foods – including dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other lean proteins – for the most cost-effective, nutrient-rich diet.

To learn more, read our article: Is It Possible to Eat Healthy on a Budget?

Is flavored milk like chocolate nutritious?

Flavored milk is an important source of nutrients for many growing kids. It offers a good or excellent source of 13 essential nutrients and only supplies about 4% of added sugars to kids’ diets. According to this study flavored milk consumption is not associated with overweight or obesity and often is linked to healthier overall diet quality. Kids like the taste and are therefore more likely to drink it, which leads to nutrition benefits and reduced food waste.

Of course, flavored milk like chocolate milk isn’t just for kids. Grab an 8-ounce serving after your next workout to get what your body needs to help with recovery.

Consult this article to learn more about: Flavored Milk in Schools

Can whole milk dairy foods be part of a healthy diet?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends low-fat or fat-free dairy foods for people aged 2 and older. But the guidelines don’t exclude saturated fat; the limit is capped at 10% of your daily total calories. It is possible to include a serving of whole milk dairy as part of an overall healthy diet.

Emerging research shows eating whole milk dairy foods not only can fit in a healthy eating plan but can help reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, mortality, stroke, high blood pressure and obesity. Its protective effects are likely due to the benefits of dairy's unique nutrient profile.

Visit our article to learn more: What You Need To Know About Whole Milk Nutrition & Health