Should You Be Drinking Milk? (And If So, What Kind?)

There’s a debate raging around dairy, with some people advocating its consumption for a variety of health reasons, and others shunning it based on their own digestive or ethical concerns. But the new dietary guidelines are clear. They continue to recommend three servings per day of dairy as the best way to meet the requirements for calcium, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin A and magnesium. “The guidelines say that dairy is crucial, because for most Americans it is the primary source of those nutrients that many come up short on,” says Isabel Maples, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics.

But many Americans experience symptoms of lactose intolerance that make consuming dairy products particularly unpleasant. The gas, bloating and diarrhea are caused by an inability to digest lactose — the sugar that naturally occurs in cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk.

Recently, however, science has started to tease out another possible explanation for many people’s post-dairy discomfort. “Researchers looked into why people who thought they were lactose-intolerant could drink goat’s milk without issue, even though it has as much lactose as cow’s milk,” says Bonnie Johnson, M.S., R.D., nutrition director, a2 Milk Company.

It turns out that it’s not just the lactose that’s a problem. Many more people are actually reacting to milk’s A1 protein — a genetic mutation that occurred in cows as dairy farming became bigger and herds were bred for increased milk production.

Goats and sheep don’t have this mutation, so their milk contains only the easier-to-digest A2 protein. A new product, simply called a2 Milk, is sourced from small herds of cows that have all been DNA tested to confirm that their milk contains only the A2 protein.

For those who truly are lactose-intolerant, however, the solution remains avoiding large quantities of dairy, especially milk. “Many people can still tolerate yogurt and aged cheese, because they actually contain very little lactose,” says Maples.

Check the nutrition facts label for the amount of carbohydrate in a dairy product — if it contains little to none, that means there’s little to no lactose. And the dietary guidelines do rank fortified soy milk on par with dairy (but not other nondairy alternatives such as rice and nut milks), because its nutrition profile most closely matches that of cow’s milk.

Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Why You Should Drink Port

In world of Unicorn Frappuccinos, port is like grandpa yelling at the grandkids to put their phones down and have some darn respect.

Should You Drink Bottled Water or Tap Water?

Should you be dropping cash on bottled water or is tap the way to go? We’re diving into this controversy and sprinkling you with all the facts.

Do You Drink Coffee Right When You Wake Up? Maybe You Should Wait

The best time to give your body its first caffeine boost of the day is actually not when you first wake up, science shows.

Drink Pink: How Rosé Got So Popular

If you’ve found yourself suddenly drinking rosé wine, you’re part of a national trend. But how did the pretty pink wine get so popular, so suddenly?

Giada Reveals Why Food Network Star Is So Hard and What Finalists Should Do Before They Get Here

Hear from Food Network Star mentor Giada De Laurentiis about the importance of self-confidence in this competition.

Drink Floaters

You can't have a pool party without your floaters--liqueurs that float on the top of your drink! The Kitchen has 3 frozen cocktail floater ideas perfect for poolside sipping.

Should You Eat Bugs?

Insects like crickets, mealworms, ants and caterpillars are being touted as one of the hottest culinary trends. Should these crawly critters be part of your diet?

Holiday Drinking Strategies

This December, don’t guzzle down hundreds of empty calories at holiday parties. Instead, review these helpful tips before heading out to your next shindig.

Let Them Drink Cake

Toast Mardi Gras with a drink inspired by New Orleans' signature treat: king cake.

On TV

The Pioneer Woman

9:30am | 8:30c

Cupcake Wars

10am | 9c

Cake Wars

11am | 10c

Cake Wars

12pm | 11c

The Pioneer Woman

1:30pm | 12:30c

Beat Bobby Flay

2:30pm | 1:30c

Beat Bobby Flay

3:30pm | 2:30c

Beat Bobby Flay

4:30pm | 3:30c

Beat Bobby Flay

5:30pm | 4:30c

Beat Bobby Flay

6:30pm | 5:30c

Chopped

7pm | 6c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Chopped

9pm | 8c

Beat Bobby Flay

10:30pm | 9:30c

Beat Bobby Flay

11:30pm | 10:30c

Chopped

12am | 11c

Beat Bobby Flay

1:30am | 12:30c

Beat Bobby Flay

2:30am | 1:30c

Mystery Diners

4:30am | 3:30c

Food Network Apps

In the Kitchen

Get over 70,000 FN recipes on all your mobile devices.

Facebook Messenger

Ask our bot for recipes, meal ideas and daily food trivia.

Amazon Echo

Just say "Alexa, enable Food Network skill" to get started.