Milk is nutritious by nature. It is much more than calcium alone. Fresh milk delivers a set of essential nutrients, such as proteins, vitamins and minerals and therefore it has a significant contribution to a healthy diet. Here you can find some information on the most important nutrients in milk.
Proteins are necessary for building the structural components of the human body, such as muscles and bones. A balanced diet supplies all of the protein one needs. Meats, eggs, and milk products are sources of protein, but a variety of cereals, legumes and nuts also provide proteins. Milk products are an important source of protein. The quality of proteins in milk products is high.
Proteins are built from amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids in foods, of which 9 amino acids are essential. These essential amino acids are important for a healthy diet. Milk protein contains a good package of all the essential amino acids that the body needs to make proteins.
Milk is world-famous for containing calcium. Calcium is essential for the maintenance of bones and teeth. Every day a bit of bone mass is being resorbed and being formed with the result that in a few years all your bones are renewed. During all stages of life we need calcium to maintain this continuous process. But it is not only calcium that is required for good bone health. Minerals such as phosphorus and protein from milk are also involved. And vitamin D is important for bone health.
But calcium is involved in a lot more functional processes: it is also important for the normal functioning of muscles (it plays a role in the contraction of muscles), the impulse conduction in the nerves, blood clotting and the functioning of
the digestive enzymes.
Milk is a very good source of calcium, because of its high level and its bioavailability. And it fits easily in a daily diet. Other sources of calcium are nuts, seaweed, dried fruit and (leafy) vegetables.
Along with calcium, phosphorus is a building block for the skeleton. Phosphorus is also involved in releasing energy in the human body. Phosphorus is available in almost all everyday products like milk, fish, meat, and bread.
Potassium is involved in blood pressure regulation. Potassium helps to control the blood pressure-raising effects of excess sodium (salt). And potassium also contributes to a normal functioning of the muscles and the nervous system. Potassium is available in almost all daily products like potatoes, milk, meat and vegetables.
Milk is a source of vitamin B2. Vitamin B2 has several functions in the body. Amongst others, it plays a role in the proper functioning of the nervous system and also in the energy-yielding metabolism where it is required for production of energy from carbohydrates and fats. It helps to reduce tiredness.
Vitamin B2 particularly occurs naturally in milk, and it is also available in meat, vegetables, fruit, and bread.
Milk is an important source of vitamin B12. Just like vitamin B2, vitamin B12 is important in several processes in the body. It is involved in the functioning of the nervous system, the production of red blood cells, the immune system and the energy-yielding metabolism. It also helps to reduce tiredness.
Vitamin B12 only occurs in animal products such as meats, fish, and milk products and does not occur naturally in foods derived from plant matter. People who do not eat meat or fish can obtain vitamin B12 in a natural way from milk.
Vitamin A and D (when fortified)
Vitamin A and D are both fat soluble and present in multiple forms. Milk and milk products have relatively low natural levels of vitamin A and D; however they are generally considered suitable products for fortification. Therefore milk products are enriched with vitamin A and/or vitamin D in quite some countries.
Vitamin A is naturally present in milk fat that typically contains approximately 10 µg retinol (preformed vitamin A) and 6 µg carotenoids (pro-vitamin A) per gram of fat. While plant foods don’t supply retinol, they do provide high levels of carotenoids. These can be converted into vitamin A in the body.
Dietary sources of vitamin D account for around 10% of our body’s supply, as vitamin D is also synthesized in the skin by exposure to sunshine. Dietary vitamin D comes in two major forms: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol – typical form in plants) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol – from animal foods in the diet).
Vitamin A and D have many functions in the human body. Vitamin A contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system and maintaining normal vision. Vitamin D contributes to bone growth and maintenance, as it plays a key role in the uptake and availability of calcium. Furthermore, it plays a role in proper functioning of the immune system and of the muscles.