When we hear the words “dairy foods” or “milk,” we often think of calcium and strong bones. It’s well established, dairy foods are an excellent source of calcium. In fact, milk is the number one food source of calcium, while cheese is the number two food source of this bone-building nutrient.

But did you know that milk is a good or excellent source of nine essential nutrients – nutrients that help nourish your body, not just your bones?

Just one eight-ounce cup of cow’s milk provides all of the following:

Twenty-five percent of the daily value (daily recommendation) for CALCIUM: Calcium is the nutrient most commonly recognized for its role in bone development. In fact, 99 percent of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. The remaining 1 percent of calcium in the body circulates (mainly in the blood), playing many significant roles in muscle contraction, nerve stimulus, blood clotting and the secretion of hormones.

Sixteen percent of your daily value for PROTEIN: Simply put, proteins are differing chains of amino acids, and are important for life. When a protein is broken down, each of its amino acids has a different role. Proteins are needed any time the body is growing or building, moving or digesting, healing or repairing. Dairy proteins are considered “high-quality” because they provide all 20 essential amino acids — building blocks necessary for many body functions.

Fifteen percent of your daily value for VITAMIN D: Vitamin D is well known for its role in bone health, working with calcium and phosphorus to build and maintain bones and teeth. Yet, vitamin D is technically a hormone and scientists have discovered many additional roles vitamin D may play including, but not limited to, immune function, cancer prevention, memory and reproduction. Vitamin D is naturally found in few foods. In the United States, cow’s milk is fortified with vitamin D.

Cow's milk in a glassTwenty percent of your daily value for PHOSPHORUS: This nutrient plays a role in supporting tissue growth and helping to maintain strong bones and teeth. In fact, 85 percent of phosphorus is stored in bone. Phosphorus is also recognized for many other important roles, so thankfully, it is readily available in many nutrient-rich foods, including dairy foods.

Fifteen percent of your daily value for VITAMIN A: Did any of your family members ever tell you that eating carrots would help you see in the dark? This old wives-tale comes from the fact that carrots are rich in the orange pigment beta-carotene which is easily converted to vitamin A in the body. Most notably, vitamin A keeps eyes healthy, and luckily, it’s in dairy foods, too.

Thirty-five percent of your daily value for RIBOFLAVIN: Riboflavin plays a necessary role in the conversion of carbohydrate, fat and protein to fuel (energy) for use by the body. The amount of riboflavin each person needs will depend on their specific energy requirements.

Fifty percent of your daily value for VITAMIN B12: This vitamin is unique in that it is naturally only found in foods of animal origin. There are no symptoms from having too much vitamin B12, but not having enough over time can cause people to become extremely tired, with loss of appetite and even paralysis of the body. The vitamin B12 in milk is particularly important for anyone following a vegetarian diet, or for those who naturally limit meat and poultry.

Twenty percent of your daily value for PANTOTHENIC ACID and ten percent of your daily value for NIACIN: Like riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin are necessary for energy metabolism – helping turn food into energy for use by the body.

Dairy foods are more than just calcium. Together, milk, cheese and yogurt provide many important nutrients not easily obtained from other foods. Enjoying just two to three daily servings of dairy foods each day can help Americans meet nutrient needs – and research continues to suggest that healthy eating styles that include low-fat and fat-free dairy foods are linked to reduced risk of certain chronic diseases, specifically cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

I’d love to answer any questions you may have, so please comment below or send me a message on Twitter @RDJenna.

Categories: Milk Facts, Nutrition Tips, Tip from an RD