Your morning cereal wouldn't be complete without a splash of milk, but the type of milk you choose affects the nutrition of your breakfast. Milk is part of the bone-building dairy group, and you need 3 cups of dairy a day for good health. Two percent milk is packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, but 1 percent milk provides the same nutrients with less fat.
Two Percent Milk
Pouring a cup of 2 percent milk on your cereal adds 125 calories and 8.5 grams of protein to your bowl. The percentages of milk refer to the amount of milk fat. Whole milk has 3.25 percent milk fat, and 2 percent milk is a reduced-fat milk. Reduced-fat foods have at least 25 percent less fat than the regular product, but they are not necessarily low-fat options. Whole milk contains 8 grams of fat per serving, and 2 percent milk has 5 grams. Three of the 5 grams are saturated fats, an unhealthy fat that can stick to arteries and contribute to heart disease. For a 2,000-calorie diet, consume no more than 22 grams of saturated fat a day.
One Percent Milk
If you want a lighter cereal topper, 1 percent milk is an excellent choice. One cup of 1 percent milk provides 102 calories, 8 grams of protein and only 2 grams of fat. One percent milk is a low-fat milk, because it has less than 3 grams of fat per serving. It also contains only 1.5 grams of saturated fat, half the amount in 2 percent milk. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends choosing low-fat and fat-free milk varieties to meet your daily recommended servings of dairy.
Trans fats are bad news for your cholesterol levels, and the American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 2 grams of trans fats a day. Synthetic trans fats are added to foods for taste and texture, but milk contains some natural trans fats. Due to its lower fat content, 1 percent milk has less trans fat than 2 percent milk. A handful of studies suggest that the natural trans fats in milk may not have the same damaging effects on cholesterol, but the results are inconclusive. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest choosing 1 percent or skim milk instead of full-fat milk to limit your total intake of trans fats.
One percent and 2 percent milks are packed with calcium and phosphorus, two minerals that boost bone health. For healthy bones, you need 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 700 milligrams of phosphorous a day. One cup of 1 or 2 percent milk provides about 200 milligrams of phosphorous and over 300 milligrams of calcium. The vitamin D in milk allows for calcium absorption. Milk also provides potassium, which controls blood pressure and promotes muscle contraction. You need 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day, but most adults meet only half of this recommendation. Drinking 1 cup of milk at breakfast, lunch and dinner adds over 1,000 milligrams of potassium to your day. Both 1 and 2 percent milks are rich sources of nutrients, but 1 percent milk offers the same benefits for less fat and fewer calories.
- USDA Nutrient Database, 1 Percent Milk
- USDA Nutrient Database, 2 Percent Milk
- National Institutes of Health: Calcium Needs
- Mayo Clinic: Milk Joins the Roster of Sports Drinks
- USDA: How Much Food from The Dairy Group Is Needed Daily?
- FDA: Food Labeling Guide
- USDA Nutrient Database, Whole Milk
- Mayo Clinic: Healthy Diet: End the Guesswork with These Nutrition Guidelines
- MedLine Plus: Phosphorus in the Diet
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Potassium
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.