Why milk is good for your body.

1. It helps keep your weight in check.

Several observational studies show that people who consume more dairy products weigh less and have less body fat than those who consume less. Milk seems to satisfy our hunger better than other drinks-perhaps due to its protein, suggests a study published in 2009 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In that study, people who drank skim milk felt fuller and ate less at their next meal than people who drank a fruit drink. If you are concerned about weight gain, choose low-fat or nonfat milk instead of whole milk, which can have as much as 8 grams of fat per serving.

2. It builds bone.

Just 1 cup of milk provides 30 percent of the daily value of calcium, a mineral that helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth. To get that amount of calcium from other foods you'd have to eat more than 7 cups of raw broccoli, for example. Calcium is critical to the formation of bones in children and teenagers and becomes equally important to rebuild the bone mass that we lose as we age.

3. It's the #1 source of vitamin D.

Scientists are discovering that vitamin D is not only important for proper calcium absorption, but also may improve immunity, reduce risks for some cancers, diabetes and multiple sclerosis, and promote better blood pressure. According to new research presented at the annual Experimental Biology meeting in April 2010, milk provides nearly 43 percent of the vitamin D we get through our diets, making it the number one source. Fortification of milk began in the 1930s to prevent rickets, a disease characterized by soft, deformed bones. Today, all commercial milk sold in the United States is fortified with vitamin D. This is not necessarily true for other dairy products.

4. It helps keep muscles strong.

One cup of milk provides 16 percent of the daily value for protein, which builds and repairs muscles. In fact, several small studies (partially funded by the dairy industry) found that chocolate milk might help athletes refuel as well as or better than popular sports drinks. Chocolate milk contains the mix of protein and carbohydrate the body needs to recover its energy supplies after an intense workout.

July/August 2010