What's the Best Time for Milk?

April 17, 2017
By Fan ZhihongEditor: Wang Huaizhou, Gu Wentong and Amanda Wu

A young woman drinks milk. [Provided by Quanjing]


Milk is considered to be highly nutritious, and it is widely believed to help improve physique and build resistance to diseases. However, there are conflicting opinions about the best time to drink milk. If consumed in the morning, milk helps you stay energetic and improves your bodily functions. At night, milk helps calm your mind, so you can have a good night's sleep. So, when is the best time to drink milk? In the morning, or at night? 

If you drink milk at different times of the day, you will receive various health benefits. Drinking milk at night will help you fall asleep, as milk contains vitamin B6, tyrosine (one of the 20 standard amino acids used by cells to synthesize proteins) and the amino acid tryptophan, which helps increase melatonin (also known as the "sleep hormone") levels in the body.

Milk is a good source of calcium, which is important for maintaining bone health. Also, one's body can absorb calcium more fully in the evening, when one is involved in fewer activities than he/she does during the daytime.

Milk is an ideal option for a midnight snack. It is better to have a bottle of milk than to eat noodles, biscuits, bread and/or potato chips at night, as milk contains less heat than the above-mentioned foods. Also, milk contains lactalbumin, also known as "whey protein," which is the albumin obtained from whey (the liquid that remains after milk has been curdled and strained). The element can help you lose weight and strengthen your muscles.

Although drinking milk at night may help you fall asleep quickly, there is no evidence that drinking milk in the morning will induce weariness. Having milk with cereal in the morning will help you replenish nutrients, and it will postpone the rise of postprandial blood sugar. Also, as milk contains proteins, it will make you feel full for a few hours. 

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Chinese, promulgated by Chinese Nutrition Society in 1989, the recommended daily intake of dairy products is 300 grams — half the amount of milk in a disposable paper cup — on average. 

When you have milk, yogurt, milk powder, cheese and other dairy products, which contain proteins, fat and carbohydrates, you should eat less staple foods and/or meat to avoid excess intake of calories.

People who are lactose intolerant should not drink milk on an empty stomach, to ensure they do not suffer from abdominal distension, abdominal pain and/or diarrhea. To avoid such adverse effects, lactose-intolerant people should eat other foods before they have milk. People who are lactose tolerant may drink milk on an empty stomach, to directly absorb milk's nutrients, including fat, protein, calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P) and ferrum (Fe).

It is advisable to have milk with other foods, to increase nutrition and postpone the rise of postprandial blood sugar. For example, if you use milk (instead of water) to steam buns, sponge cakes or twisted rolls, you will discover the wheaten foods are more delicious. You may also add milk to porridge or soybean milk to make the liquids tastier.

Medical studies indicate the best time to drink milk is 30 minutes before you eat breakfast. If you are lactose intolerant, you may have yogurt, soybean milk or other dairy products instead. As the liquids will make you feel full, you will likely eat less food during breakfast. That will help you keep your body weight, and it will help you control your blood sugar.

People who are allergic to milk, have a fever, and/or suffer from indigestion, anemia, and/or acute nephritis should not drink milk. Also, those who have undergone abdominal surgeries and/or gastric resections should not have milk. As lactate dehydrogenase (an enzyme found in nearly all living cells, which catalyzes the conversion of lactate to pyruvic acid and back) reduces in the patients' bodies, lactose cannot be resolved in the bodies after they drink milk, so they might, very likely, suffer from abdominal distension.

Fan Zhihong is an associate professor with the Department of Nutrition and Food Safety at China Agricultural University. As a member of the China Association of Health Promotion and Education, a member of the Chinese Nutrition Society, and Deputy Secretary-General of the Food and Nutrition Advisory Board, under China Cuisine Association, Fan has long studied nutrition and health. She has also publicized information about nutrition and health.


Fan Zhihong [Provided by Fan Zhihong]

A cup of milk [Provided by Quanjing]


(Source: Women of China English Monthly March 2017 Issue)

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