Milk's 9 Essential Nutrients

milk's essential nutrients

We spend a lot of time talking about how great milk is for you and how smart it is to pair nutrient-rich milk with your favorite foods to maintain a healthy diet. But what exactly do we mean when we say “nutrient-rich”? Let’s find out.

The USDA defines an “essential nutrient” as a dietary substance necessary for healthy body functioning. People have to rely on their diet to get these essential nutrients because the human body isn’t capable of producing enough of them to meet its daily needs. Milk contains nine of these essential nutrients.

The nine essential nutrients found in milk are calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and niacin. Each of these nutrients is a key ingredient of milk, and they all work together to help keep our bodies healthy.

The National Dairy Council shares with us how your body benefits when you drink just 8 ounces of low-fat milk. This is what you get:

Calcium (30% DV*) - Calcium helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth. It also plays an important role in nerve function, muscle contraction and blood clotting.

Potassium (11% DV) - Potassium regulates the body’s fluid balance, helps maintain normal blood pressure and is needed for muscle activity and contraction.

Phosphorus (20% DV) - Phosphorus strengthens bones and generates energy in the body’s cells.

Protein (16% DV) - Protein builds and repairs muscle tissue and serves as a source of energy during high-powered endurance exercise.

Vitamin A (10% DV) - Vitamin A helps maintain normal vision and skin, helps regulate cell growth and maintains the integrity of the immune system.

Vitamin D (25% DV) - Vitamin D helps promote the absorption of calcium and enhances bone mineralization.

Vitamin B12 (13% DV) - Vitamin B12 helps build red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to working muscles.

Riboflavin (24% DV) - Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, helps convert food into energy - a process critical for exercising muscles.

Niacin (10% DV) - Niacin (or niacin equivalent) is important for the normal function of many enzymes in the body and is involved in the metabolism of sugars and fatty acids.

It’s easy to see why milk is one of the most nutrient-dense drinks out there, and it’s even easier to see why it’s recommended that Americans include 3 servings of low- or fat-free milk or other dairy foods in their daily diet. From bone strength and muscle function to energy levels and good vision, milk is a key ingredient of your overall health.


(*Percent of Daily Value based on rounded values for 8-ounce cup of milk as found on Nutrition Facts Label according to FDA. Information provided by the National Dairy Council)

image credits: Sprogz / / CC BY-NC-ND