U.S. Dairy Products > Milk Powders

Health & Nutrition

U.S. milk powders are a source of high-quality protein, with the amino acids readily digestible and completely bioavailable. Whey protein - which represents 20% of the protein in milk powders - is valued for its many health-enhancing properties.

Milk powders are high in soluble vitamins and minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, and can be used to fortify a wide range of products - just 100g of skimmed milk powder contains 1,300mg of calcium. Milk powders contribute to a healthy image and a clean ingredient label.

Nutritional Benefits

Milk is a highly nutritious food composed of essential amino acids, calcium and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Although nutrient levels vary among them, milk powders retain many of the nutritional properties of their original milk source. This chart shows average nutrient values for nonfat dry milk/skimmed milk powder, dry whole milk/whole milk powder and buttermilk powder/dry buttermilk.

Comparative Typical Composition of Dry Milks*

  Nonfat Dry MilkDry Whole MilkDry Buttermilk
Protein (%) 36.00 26.50 34.00
Lactose (%) 51.00 38.00 48.00
Fat (%) 0.70 26.75 5.00
Moisture (%) 3.00 2.25 3.00
Total minerals (%*) 8.20 6.00 7.90
Calcium (%) 1.31 0.97 1.30
Phosphorus (%) 1.02 0.75 1.00
Vitamin A (I.U./100g) 36.40 1,091.30 507.10
Thiamin/Vitamin B1 (mg/100g) 0.35 0.26 0.26
Ribofalvin/Vitamin B2 (mg/100g) 2.03 1.48 3.09
Niacin/Vitamin B3 (mg/100g) 0.93 0.68 0.99
Niacin Equivalents (mg/100g) 9.30 6.75 8.95
Pantothenic Acid (mg/100g) 3.31 2.87 3.09
Pyridoxine/Vitamin B6 (mg/100g) 0.44 0.33 0.44
Biotin (mg/100g) 0.04 0.04 0.04
Ascorbic Acid/Vitamin C (mg/100g) 2.00 2.20 5.00
Choline (mg/100g) 111.20 88.18 110.20
Energy (calories/100g) 359.40 498.20 379.80

*Please consult your supplier for detailed information to be used for nutritional labeling purposes. Composition ranges should be used for specification purposes as the product composition may vary.


Cow's milk powder is recognized as an excellent source of high-quality protein. Protein accounts for 38% of the total solids-not-fat content of milk. Milk powder also contains small amounts of various enzymes. Of the total milk protein, about 80% is casein and 20% is whey protein. Caseins include alpha-casein, beta-casein, kappa-casein and gamma-casein. The whey proteins (also called milk serum proteins) are the proteins that remain soluble when caseins are coagulated by either enzyme or acid. The whey proteins include beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, blood serum albumins, immunoglobulins and protease-peptones fractions.

The building blocks of protein are amino acids. There are about 20 amino acids in all, and at least nine of them are dietary essentials. Milk powders contain all of these essential amino acids, plus others that are required by children, in significant quantities. Lysine is of particular interest, as this is the first limiting amino acid in people whose diets are mainly based on cereals and vegetable protein sources.

Milk's protein content alone makes it and its products an essential component of the diet.

Typical Essential Amino Acid Profile of Milk Powders

Amino Acids (g/100g)Nonfat Dry Milk/Skimmed Milk PowderDry Whole Milk/Whole Milk Powder
Isoleucine 2.24 1.61
Leucine 3.43 2.47
Valine 2.40 1.73
Methionine 0.86 0.62
Phenylalanine 1.70 1.22
Threonine 1.61 1.16
Tryptophan 0.49 0.35
Lysine 2.72 1.96
Histidine 0.92 0.66


Lactose, the principal carbohydrate in milk powder, accounts for about 54% of the total solids-not-fat content of milk. Minor quantities of oligosaccharides, glucose and galactose are also present in milk powder. Researchers speculate that galactose may have a unique role in the rapidly developing infant brain. Lactose is the first and only carbohydrate every newborn mammal consumes in significant amounts. In infants, some lactose enters the colon where it promotes the growth of beneficial lactic acid bacteria, which may help combat gastrointestinal disturbances.

Because digestion of lactose is much slower than of glucose and fructose, lactose is considered relatively safe for diabetics. It does not cause a sharp increase in blood glucose levels like sweeteners, and therefore has a nutritional advantage in the diabetic diet.

Lactose is recognized for stimulating the intestinal absorption of calcium.

Some individuals have difficulty metabolizing lactose because of reduced lactase levels, a condition called lactase nonpersistence. Recent research indicates that most people with lactase nonpersistence are able to consume the amount of lactose in 250-500ml of milk a day if taken with a meal.


Milk fat contributes unique characteristics to the appearance, texture, flavor and satiability of dairy foods and foods containing dairy ingredients. It is also a source of energy, essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins and several other health-promoting components. Milk fat is not only characterized by a number of different fatty acids, but also by their chain length. More than 400 different fatty acid derivatives have been identified in milk fat.

Emerging science findings indicate that milk fat contains several components such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), sphingomyelin, butyric acid and myristic acid, which may potentially protect against major chronic disease. Milk fat may also have a beneficial effect on bone health, according to experimental animal studies.


Milk contains many of the vitamins essential for human growth. The vitamin content of milk powders is similar to what would be found in the fluid milk from which it was derived. Vitamins A, D, E and K are associated with the fat component of milk and are therefore contained in greater amounts in dry whole milk/whole milk powder than in reduced-fat milk powders.

Vitamin A plays important roles in vision, cellular differentiation, growth, reproduction and immune-competence. Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin which enhances the intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphorus, is essential for the maintenance of a healthy skeleton throughout life. Vitamin E (mainly tocopherol) is an antioxidant, protecting cell membranes and lipoproteins from oxidative damage by free radicals. This vitamin also helps maintain cell membrane integrity and stimulate the immune response. Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting and may also have a protective role in bone health.

In addition to the essential fat-soluble vitamins, milk and other dairy foods also contain all of the water-soluble vitamins required by humans in varying amounts.


Minerals are divided into two categories: those required in the daily diet in amounts greater than 100mg per day, simply referred to as minerals, and those required in amounts less than 100mg per day, often called trace elements. Milk powders and milk products are important sources of major minerals-particularly calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and trace elements such as zinc.

One of the minerals showing the greatest deficiency in the world population is calcium. Milk products such as milk powders are a rich source of calcium. Milk powders can be used as ingredients to fortify other manufactured food products that are poor in calcium.

Calcium plays a critical role in maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis. Bone health is such a concern that the recommended daily intakes for calcium have been recently revised and increased for almost all age categories.

Calcium is also crucial for nerve conduction, muscle contraction, heartbeat, blood coagulation, the production of energy and maintenance of immune function.