From the Desk of Joleen Wilson, Pathway Dietician: Milk Your Diet
Written by: Joleen Wilson, Registered Dietician, Certified Nutrition Support Clinician, for Pathway for Eating Disorders Treatment at Brookhaven Hospital
We’re the only mammals who drink it into adulthood, because we are the smartest! When it comes to whole foods that are sources of complete protein, meaning they contain the full set of essential amino acids required by the body, there are few that out-perform milk. In fact, milk’s Biological Value, a scale of measurement used to determine what percentage of protein in a food is absorbed and used by the body, is higher than that of fish, poultry, or beef.
One reason for this advantage is because milk contains both whey and casein protein. Whey is a “fast protein” because it quickly breaks down into amino acids, making it more desirable for muscle repair immediately after strenuous activity. Whey is also high in branched chain amino acids, which have been shown to be the most capable of muscle repair and strength in response to exercise. Whey decreases hunger because protein empties from the stomach at a slow rate. It also stimulates immune health and revs up your metabolism by increasing thermogenesis.
Conversely, casein protein is digested slowly, providing a steady supply of amino acids to the muscles. Together, whey and casein offer the best of both worlds. A 2012 European Journal of Applied Physiology study found that participants who downed milk following muscle-damaging exercise experienced fewer markers of muscle damage and less reduction in muscular performance. A very good post workout snack is 8-12 ounces of chocolate milk. The fast-digesting simply carbohydrates from the chocolate helps to rejuvenate glycogen stores lost during extended exercise and the whey/casein combo helps repair muscles both in the short- and long-term post-exercise period.
One glass of milk offers 30% of your daily value of calcium and 25% of your daily value of vitamin D. There is no other food (besides a fortified, man-made substance) that can tout this nutrient profile. Although calcium is vital for bone health, it’s also important for muscle contraction, and several studies also link higher intake of calcium from dairy to improved fat loss (likely due to the satiation bestowed upon the individual who drinks it). Milk is one of the few reliable dietary sources of vitamin D. In recent years, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and depression. Milk also contains riboflavin which is necessary for releasing energy from the carbs we eat. Furthermore, milk supplies vitamin B-12 that keeps our nervous system functioning properly, as well as potassium for proper heart and skeletal muscle firing. All these reasons are more proof that dairy can be considered one of the more nutrient-dense options in the supermarket.