This article has been Fact-Checked by Kendall Kennedy MS, RD, RYT
Some people say you need to stay away from milk to lose weight, others say it’s great. Which one is it and what kind of milk is the best?
Milk has been consumed for 1000’s of years by humans and is still a popular beverage today.
The main part of this article will be about whole cow milk with 3.25% milkfat (1) and at the end you can find out if other kinds of milk are better for weight loss.
Micronutrients in milk
The first thing to look at is the amount of micronutrients in milk.
Micronutrients are a group of nutrients your body absolutely needs to survive and thrive. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. These are involved in basically every aspect of your health, including weight loss.
100 grams of whole cow milk provides you with approximately (1):
- Calcium: 11% of the DV (Daily Value)
- Riboflavin: 11%
- Vitamin D: 10%
- Phosphorus: 9%
- Vitamin B12: 7%
And a few others in smaller amounts. For a whole food these amounts would be nice but not that impressive. Milk is a liquid however. 100 grams of milk is about half a glass. It’s fairly easy to get a good amount of vitamins and minerals from milk.
Milk also contains a substance called conjugated linoleic fatty acid that can possibly help with weight loss (2).
Protein in milk for weight loss
Another thing in food that can help you on your weight loss journey is the amount of protein in it.
Milk contains about 3.2 grams of protein per 100 grams. To compare, there are about 25.4 grams per 100 grams in salmon (3).
That’s not the biggest amount of protein even with the fact that milk is a liquid in mind. That being said, milk can provide you with a nice amount of extra protein.
Eating enough protein will also help you prevent muscle loss. Since, muscle helps you burn extra calories throughout the day this is a big plus for protein and milk for weight loss.
Do keep in mind that overdoing it with protein isn’t good either.
Does milk help you lose weight?
You still need a final fact about milk. The amount of calories in it.
60 calories per 100 gram. 17.9 of these calories come from carbohydrates (5.3 g per 100 grams).
You might be able to fit a glass of milk in a low carb diet but it might be close.
The amount of calories per 100 grams is not very high. For example, it’s lower than bananas (89 calories per 100 grams). A large amount of the calories also come from fat and protein which are pretty filling.
Again, the thing with milk is that it’s a liquid. You might be able to fit in a glass or 2 but there are most likely better foods for your weight loss diet. If you would let yourself go and drink as much milk as you want until you feel full, you would most likely consume a lot of calories.
Not everyone should consume milk
A lot of people don’t deal very well with the lactose in milk. An estimation is that about 65% of adults are lactose intolerant in some form (4).
There is an exception to this. In people from Northern European descent, there is only about 5% of intolerance to lactose. Most likely because of evolutionary reasons (5).
Most of the studies around milk and weight loss are association studies. This is basically asking people how much milk they consume and then weighing them.
The problem with this is that the relationship could be because of all kinds of reasons. For example, people who eat healthily might consume a lot of milk. That doesn’t mean the milk is the cause of their weight.
In general the association studies find that people who drink a lot of milk also happen to be leaner. More research is needed to find out if that’s because of milk.
What milk is the best for weight loss?
There are plenty of non-dairy milk alternatives (without lactose). Find out the differences for weight loss.
- Soy milk: Soy milk is generally lower in calories but also lower in protein. It’s not entirely clear what difference that makes in a weight loss setting.
- Low-fat milk: Low-fat milk is lower in calories but similar in other nutrients. Low-fat milk is probably a better choice for weight loss.
- Almond milk: Almond milk is lower in calories but also lower in protein. It’s hard to know what that means for losing weight.
- Coconut milk: Coconut milk is a lot higher in calories per 100 grams (230 calories)(6). It does contain more vitamins and minerals. Probably not the best choice if you’re looking to lose weight.
- Rice milk: Rice milk is slightly higher in calories than Almond and soy milk but still less than whole cow milk. It is also lower in protein.
Do keep in mind that some brands add sweeteners to these milks. You want to avoid these if you’re looking to lose weight so make sure you read the nutrition labels.