Remember the slogan, "Milk does a body good"?
Turns out, it was on the mark. Research presented at a European health industry conference in early September suggests that consuming milk may benefit your cardiovascular system.
An analysis of nine studies that looked at a total of nearly 60,000 people found that consuming just a little more than two cups of milk a day was associated with lower blood pressure.
"These meta-analyses indicate that there is a link between increasing the number of glasses of milk a day and a lower incidence of hypertension," writes Sabita S. Soedamah-Muthu, PhD, an assistant professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, in a statement about the study.
"Calcium, magnesium and potassium, in particular, are nutrients that help lower, or maintain, a low blood pressure," says registered dietitian Staci Nix McIntosh, an assistant professor at the University of Utah. Most people know low- or nonfat milk is a good source of calcium, but it packs a much bigger nutritional punch. "Since milk also contains a decent source of potassium and magnesium, it is a food source that helps meet these nutrient needs," she says.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that men, women and children 9 and older consume three cups from the dairy group daily, including low- or nonfat milk. A cup of yogurt or two cups of cottage cheese is equivalent to a cup of milk. Other sources of dairy, including cheese and ice cream, might not add up to a healthy alternative because of their fat content.
"Many cheeses, whole milk and products made from them are high in saturated fat. To help keep blood cholesterol levels healthy, limit the amount of these foods you eat," the agency suggests. McIntosh adds that people who are lactose-intolerant might be able to derive the same benefit by consuming dairy substitutes fortified with the same nutrients.