Of late there has been sporadic criticism of milk and whether it should be a part of the daily diet of children. Milk has been so much a part of the wisdom passed down the generations.

Is milk’s goodness an old wives tale or is there more to it?

While milk isn't the perfect food, it still delivers a lot of nutrition in all its various forms, such as cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt. Besides, milk and dairy products are foods that kids will eat and drink willingly. Despite the bad press about milk, it has a lot of good nutritional things going for it.

What are the nutritional benefits of milk?

Milk is unique because no other beverage in the world contains as many natural nutrients. It contains nearly all the basic nutrients that a growing child needs: fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals (except iron).

The nutritional benefits of milk, per 8-ounce glass are:

  • Protein: 8 grams.
  • Carbohydrates – lactose, 11 grams
  • Fat: Depending on what kind of milk you choose (nonfat to whole milk), milk contains anywhere from negligible amounts of fat in non-fat milk to eight grams of fat per 8-ounce glass in whole milk.
  • Calcium: 300 milligrams or 35 percent of the RDA for school children. Note that the percentage of calcium absorbed from dairy products is much higher than that absorbed from most vegetables. Milk is fortified with vitamin D, which boosts calcium absorption.
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 8-ounces of milk supply half the RDA for children under three years, one-third of the vitamin B2 requirement for school-age children, and one-fourth the requirement for teens and adults.
  • Vitamin B-12: 30 percent RDA for children
  • Zinc: one eight-ounce glass, 10 percent RDA for children

Has the importance of giving milk to young children overstressed?

No the importance of giving milk to young children daily has not been overstressed. Young children need the nutrients milk provides because their developing skeletal systems replace bone mass about every two years until they reach maturity. It is not that these nutrients are found only in milk. But it has been observed that, children eat or drink dairy products in greater amounts and more consistently than other foods. It will not be easy making a child eat a breakfast of calcium-rich broccoli, kale, and sardines twice a week forget every day.

Should adults, especially women also drink milk every day?

Milk is not just good for children, but adults too, especially women. It is good for bone health and teeth. Some experts opine that it would be difficult to get the required amount of calcium everyday without the ubiquitous glass of milk. Apart from Calcium and vitamins milk has, Riboflavin, Phosphorous and, Pantothenic acid . Milk protein contains the essential amino acids, which the body is incapable of producing by itself. It also helps in meeting the body's requirement for vitamins. One glass of milk contributes about 44% to our daily-recommended vitamins intake.

Should I have pasteurized milk or unpasteurized milk?

You should have pasteurized milk even though pasteurization reduces the amount of some vitamins, such as vitamin C. The process of pasteurization kills bacteria. Unpasteurized milk is a health hazard because of the dangers of bacterial diseases.

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose is a type of carbohydrate or sugar that naturally occurs in milk from any mammal, including humans. Normally, an enzyme in the small intestine called lactase breaks down lactose so it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Some people don’t produce enough lactase – undigested lactose is broken up by the bacteria in their large intestine causing gas, bloating, pain and diarrhoea. This condition is called ‘lactose intolerance’.