Is Whole Milk Good For You? Read On To Find The Answer 2024

Sevginur Akdas

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Dr G. Michael DiLeo, MD

is whole milk good for you

Consuming whole milk is good for your health because it provides essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamins D and A, and phosphorus. In previous years, a trend, especially within the diet sector, promoted skimmed milk as more beneficial due to its reduced fat content. However, recent findings have shown that milk fat has many beneficial effects, and consuming skimmed milk doesn’t result in many changes in health parameters. Therefore, consumers have switched back to whole milk. Is whole milk healthy for you? Is whole milk good for you? Or is whole milk bad for you? Let’s examine the benefits of whole milk and its milk fat.

Is Whole Milk Good For You?

Whole milk is a good diet component to maintain your health with its several benefits; it is also affordable and easy to access for many people.

  1. Whole milk is a rich source of essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamins A and D, and phosphorus. 
  2. It helps maintain strong bones and overall health.
  3. Whole milk benefits weight loss and diabetes parameters. 
  4. Whole milk lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Whole Milk Nutrition

One glass or a school container of whole milk,[1] approximately 244 grams, includes:

  • Energy: 149 calories.
  • Protein: 7.98 grams.
  • Total fat: 7.81 grams.
  • Carbohydrate: 11.3 grams.
  • Calcium: 300 milligrams.
  • Magnesium: 29.3 milligrams.
  • Phosphorus: 246 milligrams.
  • Potassium: 366 milligrams.
  • Sodium: 92.7 milligrams.
  • Zinc: 1.02 milligrams.

Milk fat[2] has 96% to 99% triglycerides, its main fat form. It contains 2 to 13 micrograms of carotenoids, of which 95% is beta-carotene. Milk fat also contains fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K. The membrane of milk fat particles includes functional phospholipids that play a role in maintaining healthy cellular structures in humans.

Benefits Of Whole Milk

It is clear that there are many benefits of milk. A comprehensive meta-analysis study in 2021 showed multifunctional roles in milk[3] consumption. Researchers found that every 200 milliliter of increment of milk consumption per day was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, colorectal cancer, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and osteoporosis. It also showed beneficial effects for type 2 diabetes mellitus and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Furthermore, several studies compare whole milk favorably to 2% fat/semi-skim or 1% fat/skim milk.

Obesity & Diabetes

Obesity & Diabetes

Recent research indicates that the negative metabolic effects of consuming dairy products high in saturated fats may have been overestimated. Some studies even suggest that consuming milk fat can be beneficial for our health. 

Specifically, a study examined the connection between dairy consumption and central obesity. The study found that individuals who consumed high levels of dairy fat were less likely to develop central obesity,[4] while those who consumed low levels of dairy fat had a higher risk of developing it.

In a recent meta-analysis study, milk consumption was shown to lower the risk[5] of having a high waist circumference.

Consuming low-fat dairy products was found to be linked with a greater risk of diabetes, while consuming whole-fat dairy products, including whole milk, yogurt, or cheese, was associated with a significantly lower risk.[6] However, these associations varied depending on the subtype of the dairy product. Specifically, nonfermented, low-fat milk was associated with a higher risk, whereas fermented, whole-fat milk was associated with a lower risk, and nonfermented, whole-fat milk was not associated with risk.

Cardiovascular Effects

Cardiovascular Effects

Consuming three or more servings of whole cow’s milk per week was associated[7] with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, lower blood lipids, and higher good — HDL — cholesterol. Another study found that whole milk consumption of 500 milliliters per day increased HDL cholesterol[8] in healthy individuals compared with skimmed milk consumption but didn’t increase the bad — LDL — cholesterol or other lipids.

A meta-analysis in 2020 indicated that milk consumption lowered the risk[5] of elevated blood lipids and high blood pressure.

Osteoporosis 

Osteoporosis 

A dose-response analysis showed that an increased dairy intake of up to 250 grams daily reduced osteoporosis risk.[9] Consuming an additional 200 grams of milk per day was associated with a 22 to 37% lower risk of osteoporosis. In terms of hip fracture, milk consumption reduced risk by 25% in cross-sectional and case-control studies. 

It is noteworthy that the bioavailability of calcium in milk increases with vitamin D, and whole milk dairy products include more vitamin D, adding to its bone benefits over skim milk. 

Vitamin And Mineral Bioavailability

Vitamin And Mineral Bioavailability

In the 20th Century, there arose a sense that food was a mere vehicle for delivering calories and only isolated nutrients. In the case of dairy foods, this has led to general recommendations to consume reduced-fat dairy products. This consensus has been largely based on the perceived negative effects of total and saturated fat on cardiovascular diseases and obesity.

However, advances in nutrition science have shown complex combinations[10] of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive components in dairy foods correspond with complex benefits of health and disease. Also, other factors such as phospholipids, prebiotics, and probiotics have shown that whole-fat dairy products support human health better.

Side Effects

Studies evaluating the effects of high-fat or low-fat milk consumption with equal calorie impact on weight loss have shown that whole-fat milk provides greater benefits. However, if you are trying to create a calorie deficit and follow a weight-loss diet, you need to pay attention to portion sizes. Thus, the research concludes that it is more beneficial to control the portions of whole-fat dairy products than to restrict calories or choose fat-free dairy products. 

However, if you are allergic to, or have an intolerance to, substances such as lactose or casein in milk, you need to eliminate them from your diet. In such cases, you can opt for alternative plant-based milk or consider lactose-free milk alternatives.

Alternatives To Whole Milk 

  1. Soy milk.
  2. Almond milk.
  3. Coconut milk.
  4. Rice milk.
  5. Oat milk.

These milk alternatives are often used as a substitute for cow’s milk, especially by people with dietary constraints, such as vegans, those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, or those who simply prefer the taste of non-dairy milk. It’s important to note that each milk alternative has its own unique taste, nutritional profile, and cooking properties, so it’s worth experimenting with for your personal preferences and needs.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, whole milk provides a variety of health benefits that should not be overlooked. Contrary to the long-held misconception that whole milk is unhealthy due to its fat content, emerging research has shown that it may actually be beneficial for weight management, cardiovascular health, and diabetes prevention. Whole milk is simply better as a rich source of essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus, that are crucial for maintaining strong bones and overall health. While individuals with lactose intolerance or allergies to milk proteins should avoid consuming whole milk, for others, it can be a healthy addition to a well-balanced diet.


+ 10 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Usda.gov. (2023). FoodData Central. [online] Available at: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2340762/nutrients
  2. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. (2021). Milk fat: opportunities, challenges and innovation. [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398.2020.1778631?journalCode=bfsn20
  3. Zhang, X., Chen, X., Xu, Y., Yang, J., Du, L., Li, K. and Zhou, Y. (2021). Milk consumption and multiple health outcomes: umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses in humans. Nutrition & Metabolism, [online] 18(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12986-020-00527-y.
  4. Holmberg, S. and Thelin, A. (2013). High dairy fat intake related to less central obesity: A male cohort study with 12 years’ follow-up. Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care, [online] 31(2), pp.89–94. doi:https://doi.org/10.3109/02813432.2012.757070.
  5. Hidayat, K., Yu, L.-G., Yang, J.-R., Zhang, X.-Y., Zhou, H., Shi, Y.-J., Liu, B. and Qin, L.-Q. (2020). The association between milk consumption and the metabolic syndrome: a cross-sectional study of the residents of Suzhou, China and a meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition, [online] 123(9), pp.1013–1023. doi:https://doi.org/10.1017/s0007114520000227.
  6. Ericson, U., Hellstrand, S., Brunkwall, L., Schulz, C.-A., Sonestedt, E., Wallström, P., Gullberg, B., Wirfält, E. and Orho-Melander, M. (2015). Food sources of fat may clarify the inconsistent role of dietary fat intake for incidence of type 2 diabetes. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [online] 101(5), pp.1065–1080. doi:https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.114.103010.
  7. Sun, Y., Jiang, C., Cheng, K.K., Zhang, W., Leung, G.M., Lam, T.H. and Schooling, C.M. (2014). Milk Consumption and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Older Chinese: The Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study. PLoS ONE, [online] 9(1), p.e84813. doi:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0084813.
  8. Engel, S., Elhauge, M. and Tholstrup, T. (2017). Effect of whole milk compared with skimmed milk on fasting blood lipids in healthy adults: a 3-week randomized crossover study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [online] 72(2), pp.249–254. doi:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-017-0042-5.
  9. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. (2020). Consumption of milk and dairy products and risk of osteoporosis and hip fracture: a systematic review and Meta-analysis. [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398.2019.1590800
  10. Thorning, T.K., Bertram, H.C., Bonjour, J.-P., de Groot, L., Dupont, D., Feeney, E., Ipsen, R., Lecerf, J.M., Mackie, A., McKinley, M.C., Michalski, M.-C., Rémond, D., Risérus, U., Soedamah-Muthu, S.S., Tholstrup, T., Weaver, C., Astrup, A. and Givens, I. (2017). Whole dairy matrix or single nutrients in assessment of health effects: current evidence and knowledge gaps ,. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [online] 105(5), pp.1033–1045. doi:https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.116.151548.
Sevginur Akdas

Written by:

Sevginur Akdas, RD

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

Sevginur Akdas is a researcher, medical writer, and clinical dietitian, who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in metabolism, chronic diseases, and clinical nutrition fields. She has many scientific articles, meta-analyses, systematic reviews, and book chapters on nutrition, chronic diseases, dietary supplements, maternal and child nutrition, molecular nutrition & functional foods topics as a part of a research team currently. Besides her academic background, she is also a professional health&medical writer since 2017.

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

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