Milk: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Milk is a dairy product, known for its high calcium content and potential health benefits, such as supporting bone health and aiding in muscle recovery after exercise.

What is Milk?

Milk is a nutrient-filled food made by mammals to feed their young. Humans consume breast milk as infants and often consume cow’s milk (or other mammals’ milk) as a source of protein. Milk is used in many cuisines as a base for sauces, drinks, baked goods, ice creams, and much more.

Is Milk Good For You?

That is up for debate. Some people consume it because it is a good source of protein and calcium and is a complete food. But other people do not consume it because of lactose intolerance or because of varying beliefs to not consume dairy.

6 Health Benefits of Milk

1. Milk is a good source of protein

  • One cup of milk has about 8 grams of protein.

  • Milk contains two types of protein: casein (insoluble) and whey (soluble).

  • Casein makes up 80% of the milk proteins.

    • Helps increase absorption of calcium and phosphorus

  • Whey makes up 20% of the milk proteins

    • Rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): essential amino acids, meaning our bodies can’t make it and therefore we must get them from food.

2. Milk is rich in Vitamin B12 and B2 (riboflavin)

3. Milk is a complete food, meaning it contains every nutrient we need

4. Milk is rich in calcium and phosphorus

5. Milk is good for bone health and osteoporosis

  • Cow’s milk is intended to promote bone growth and development in the young calves, which it seems to do the same for humans because of the calcium

6. Milk may help blood pressure

  • Some studies suggest that dairy products have been linked to a reduced risk of high blood pressure, maybe because of the combination of calcium, potassium, and magnesium

History, Background, and General Facts about Milk

  • Before the agricultural revolution, the only dairy humans drank was breast milk from their mothers. This was in the paleolithic period, which is why people following the paleo diet don’t consume dairy or milk.
  • Initially animals were kept for meat, but then they were eventually used for milk, hair/hide, and labor.
  • Humans first consumed the milk from other mammals after the domestication of animals during the Neolithic Revolution or the beginning of agriculture. 
  • The first domesticated dairy animal was the sheep (about 9,000 years ago), followed by goats and cattle, then donkeys, water buffalo, and horses.  
  • People first domesticated cattle, sheep, and goats in Southwest Asia 
  • Camels in central Arabia in 4000 to 3000 BC, were used as dairy animals in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Other animals used for milk have been: goat, camel, reindeer, and yak.
  • Domestication of mammals for milk occurred independently in several areas around the world from as early as 9000 to 7000 BC in Mesopotamia to 3500 to 3000 BC in the Americas.
  • Domesticating dairy animals spread from Southwest Asia to Europe (around 7000 BC and reached Britain and Scandinavia after 4000 BC) and South Asia (7000 to 5500 BC).

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Milk?

  • Indian - milk is used to make paneer (cheese) 
  • French - bechamel sauce
  • Thai - Thai iced tea
  • Italian - gelato and tiramisu
  • Dutch - butter cake
  • American - Dutch baby, milkshakes, American version Italian dishes, e.g. Fettuccine Alfredo
  • Sicilian - ricotta cheese

What Is The Best Way To Store Milk?

The best way to store milk is in the refrigerator, keeping with the suggested expiration date.

What Are The Different Types Of Milk?

Whole Milk

  • Milk that has 3.25% milk fat by weight. 

  • There are 150 calories in an 8-ounce glass of whole milk, with 8 grams of fat.

2% Milk (Reduced Fat Milk)

  • The milk fat is 2 percent of the total weight of the milk. 

  • An 8-ounce glass of 2% milk has 5 grams of fat and has the same 13 essential nutrients as every other type of milk.

1% Milk (Low-Fat Milk)

  • The milk fat is 1 percent of the total weight of the milk.

  • An 8-ounce serving of low-fat milk has 2.5 grams of fat and 100 calories, compared to whole milk, which has 8 grams of fat and 150 calories in the same amount.

Fat-Free Milk (Skim milk)

  • There are just 80 calories in fat-free milk in each 8-ounce glass and no fat. 

  • The 13 essential nutrients, including 8 grams of protein, are still intact.

Organic Milk

  • Strict farming practices, defined by the United States Department of Agriculture, set the standards for organic dairy farms to produce organic milk. 

  • From what cows eat to how farmers care for their cows governs the production of organic milk.

Grass-Fed Milk

  • The cows were raised in a pasture and ate grass

  • Milk that is labeled ‘grass-fed’ is higher in fat-soluble vitamins, especially vitamin K2, an nutrient needed for regulating the metabolism of calcium and supporting bone and heart health

Lactose-Free Milk

  • It is still regular cow’s milk, but the lactose has been broken down for easier digestion, especially for people with lactose intolerance

  • It still contains the same essential nutrients, including calcium, protein, and vitamin D.


Raw Milk

  • Milk that hasn’t been pasteurized

  • It’s not widely available to buy and consume because federal laws prohibit its distribution across state lines because it is believed that it may contain harmful bacteria since it isn’t pasteurized

  • Some people believe it to be more nutritious because it hasn’t undergone any processing


Nonfat Dry Milk

  • Powdered milk that can be reconstituted to make milk or used in baking


Evaporated Milk


  • Milk made by heating milk until about 60 percent of its water content has evaporated. It is homogenized, usually canned, and sterilized after the water content has been reduced. 

  • The result is a dense and super-concentrated milk that can be stored for months.

  • The high heat used in processing also adds a slightly caramelized flavor and color than regular milk.

  • There are skim, low-fat, and whole milk varieties of evaporated milk.


Condensed Milk (aka Sweetened Condensed Milk)

  • This milk is also evaporated (milk that 60 percent of the water content has been removed) and then sugar is added before canning. 

  • Condensed milk has 40 to 45 percent sugar. 

  • It’s rich and thick, with a caramel color and a super-sweet flavor.

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Milk

Milk is considered safe to consume unless you are lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy.

What Is The Best Substitute For Milk If I Don't Have Any?

If you don't have milk available or need a substitute for it in a recipe, there are several alternatives you can consider depending on the purpose and desired outcome. Here are some options:

  1. Non-Dairy Milk: Non-dairy milk, such as almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, or coconut milk, can be used as a substitute for regular milk in many recipes. They are suitable for individuals with lactose intolerance or those following a vegan or dairy-free diet. When using non-dairy milk as a substitute, choose the one that best complements the flavors of the recipe. Keep in mind that non-dairy milks may alter the taste and texture of the final dish.

  2. Yogurt or Sour Cream: In recipes that require milk for moisture and tanginess, you can use plain yogurt or sour cream as a substitute. They work well in baking recipes, soups, and sauces. For each cup of milk required, use an equal amount of yogurt or sour cream thinned down with a bit of water or broth to achieve a similar consistency.

  3. Nut Butters: Nut butters, such as almond butter or cashew butter, can be mixed with water to create a creamy and nutty substitute for milk. Use about 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter per cup of water, and blend until smooth. This alternative is particularly useful in recipes like smoothies or baked goods.

  4. Water: In certain recipes where milk is used primarily for moisture, such as some bread doughs or pancakes, you can substitute water instead. However, be aware that using water may result in a slightly denser texture and a less rich flavor compared to using milk.

  5. Evaporated Milk: If you have evaporated milk on hand, it can be diluted with water to substitute for regular milk in many recipes. For each cup of milk required, mix ½ cup of evaporated milk with ½ cup of water to achieve the desired consistency.