Milk, the 'Real' King of Beverages

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As an orthopedic surgeon, I am often asked by parents to comment on the potential benefits of various nutritional products for their children.

In this day of dietary supplements promising explosive athletic performance, super mega-vitamins that allow you to live longer and expensive elixirs derived from an exotic berry found only in some far away rainforest.

Here’s a little secret: Milk, and better yet chocolate milk, gives you far more bang for your hard earned buck.

Few beverages, sports drinks and vitamin enhanced waters included, have been more scientifically studied than good old milk. And with very few exceptions, if any, nothing beats it for anywhere near the cost. Some drinks may have a greater benefit in one area or another but overall milk is clearly superior.

Children should drink 24 oz. of milk per day. Teenage bodies are growing rapidly and converting their skeletons to hard adult bone therefore about 32 oz. of the good stuff are suggested each day ( 8 oz. per glass or 3-4 glasses per day ). Numerous studies have proven that children on free school milk programs on average grow faster and larger than financially more well-off children whose family must pay for their milk and subsequently consumed less. The mere regular addition of milk provided significant health and growth benefits to children from financially challenged backgrounds even though they may have lacked nutritionally at home.

Convincing a child or teen to drink 24 to 32 ounces of milk per day seems like a daunting task but fortunately there is a top secret weapon called chocolate. Studies have shown that chocolate or flavored milk is an easy sell when it comes to kids. They seem to view it as a treat or reward and will readily drink the suggested amounts.

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Curiously enough, chocolate milk tested far superior to sport drinks for replenishing an athlete when consumed 30 minutes after a vigorous work out. The specific combination and balance of protein and carbohydrates in chocolate milk seems nearly ideal for nourishing depleted muscles ( American College of Sports Medicine ’04 ). And, the myth of unwanted weight gain associated with chocolate milk has been disproved.

• Milk is rich in key vitamins and minerals that are vital to normal growth and development:

• Calcium: helps build strong bones which is especially important in teenage girls to help guard against osteoporosis in later adult life.

• Protein: vital in muscle, ligament/tendon and brain development.

• Vitamin A: vision, immune system and healthy skin.

• Vitamin B-12: immune system.

• Vitamin D: promotes calcium and phosphorus absorption in bone.

• Potassium: important in regulating blood pressure, fluid balance and muscle contractions.

• Phosphorus: necessary for the proper strengthening of bones.

• Niacin: nervous system development and proper function of enzymes.

Young athletes and non-athletes alike can easily be overwhelmed and mislead with all of the hype associated with performance enhancing products. Sports drinks certainly have a real but very limited place for young growing athletes.

Remember that their bodies are rapidly developing and their nutritional requirements are far different than those of their adult sports heroes. Those so-called performance enhancing nutritional supplements, heavily caffeinated "energy" drinks and steroids have absolutely no place in your child’s life.

Dr. Benjamin’s daily prescription for a healthy child:

• Balanced diet that includes 24-32 ounces of milk

• 1 hour of exercise

• 1 hour of reading not associated with school work

• Spiritual guidance

• 24 hours of love

Information found within this article was derived through careful consideration of peer reviewed independent research. Dr. Benjamin does not claim to be the author of this research nor did he receive any financial consideration from cows or the dairy industry.

Chairman of the Department of Orthopedics, Director of the Joint Implant Center and Director of Medical Specialty Procedures Surgery Center in Vero Beach, Florida are among the countless highlights of Dr. Benjamin's career.

As one of the handful of African American fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeons in the country, Benjamin, has worked with three-time light-heavyweight world champion, Antonio Tarver; three-time junior welterweight and welterweight world champion, Arturo Gotti; and former welterweight world champion, Vernon Forrest. As Departmental Chair his medical expertise guides the 30+ physicians, therapist, nurses and staff of his private practice.