Babies need milk to live, and you need milk for strong bones.
So milk must be good, right?
But then you hear conflicting pieces of information about milk.
For example, latest Harvard research from 2019 says “Dairy isn’t necessary in the diet for optimal health, but for many people, it is the easiest way to get calcium.”
- So do we need milk, or not?
- Why do we crave milk if we don’t need it?
- Is milk required for strong bones?
- And what do milk cravings mean?
In this blog post we’ll list 10 reason you crave milk so that you make meaning of your milk cravings!
1 – You Lack Calcium Or Other Minerals
As the Harvard research indicates, “For many people, it is the easiest way to get the calcium.”
But that’s not the only calcium source. For example, green leafy vegetables like kale also contain calcium.
But what’s easier of these two options?
- Pour a glass of milk with a bowl of cereal?
- Cut up, stir fry and season some green leafy vegetables?
If you don’t eat a lot of green leafy vegetables, then you may be craving milk or other dairy products because your body wants more calcium.
Milk may also contain vitamin a and vitamin d (although fun fact, the vitamin d is added).
One easy idea is to try calcium and vitamin D supplements because if you live in the US and regularly drink milk, milk is likely the largest source of your daily dietary needs of Calcium and Vitamin D.
Summary: If you don’t eat many leafy green vegetables, you might be craving the calcium found in milk.
2 – You Are Hungry
Milk contains a good amount of protein, fat, and sugar.
Overall, one glass of milk contains:
- Calories: 150
- Water: ~90%
- Protein: 7.5 grams
- Carbs: 11.5 grams
- Sugar: 12 grams
- Fat: 8 grams
This is one reason why babies need milk in the beginning of their life! Milk is easy to digest and has lots of vital nutrients.
I remember growing up I would always crave a bowl of cereal. Now years later I see my cravings for cereal were more due to the milk in the bowl of cereal!
Cereal was simply my excuse to get more milk when I was hungry.
Now generally speaking if you aren’t getting enough food, you’ll get cravings to go eat food!
So if you rely on milk to fill you up when you’re hungry, then it’s quite possible that you are thinking it’s a craving for milk, when in fact you are simply hungry.
Other dairy products like ice cream could also be craved too.
Overall, I can’t over emphasize how many food cravings are simply because one is simply hungry! Duh!
Summary: Milk can help satisfy hunger.
3 – You Are Thirsty
Speaking of babies and milk …
You know you need water to live, right? Duh! Of course you know that!
And … drumroll … Milk is approximately 90% water!
This means milk provides both calories and hydration, plus a bunch of other minerals like calcium that you might be lacking.
Sounds like milk is pretty good, right?
Side note – ice cream also provides a moderate degree of hunger satisfaction and a bit of hydration too.
While ice cream has much more sugar than milk, the same factors behind milk cravings also explain the craving meanings of ice cream.
Summary: Milk can hydrate you.
4 – You Are Craving Sugar
Hold on, not so fast!
Remember how I said cereal was just my way to get more milk?
Well … that’s true … but the cereals I was eating back then weren’t so good either …
- Reese’s Puffs
- Cocoa Crisps
Back then I believe I partly craved milk because I craved sugar too, and these cereals were loaded with sugar!
- Milk is often paired with sugary treats like “chocolate for ‘chocolate milk’” or “cookies for ‘cookies and milk’”
- Milk also has sugar about 4-12 grams per cup
So you may be craving the sugar high, but because milk gets associated with sugar so often, your body interprets your sugar craving as a craving for milk.
Plus milk has sugar too!
This also helps explain cravings for chocolate too because milk and chocolate oftentimes are paired together. The common type of “milk chocolate” says all you need to know.
Summary: It’s easy to think you are craving one thing (like milk) but actually be craving another thing (like sugar).
Hint: do you see how this relates back to being hungry? One reason you crave sugar is because you’re not satisfied or are missing protein from your diet!
5 – You Just Ate Something Spicy!
Of course, not everything is about sugar.
Sometimes you just ate something spicy and need milk to reduce those red hot chili pepper burns!
Ever wonder why milk helps with spicy food? Most plant-based spicy foods contain a chemical called capsaicin, which is an oily compound.
Capsaicin is fat soluble, meaning that the 8 grams of fat found in a glass of milk help dissolve the capsaicin oil from the spicy food you just ate!
Good luck with those burns 🙂 Read here if you are craving spicy food.
Summary: The craving meaning for milk in spicy situations could actually be for the fat in milk, to reduce the oily capsaicin compound found in spicy foods.
6 – Creamy Texture
And what’s another reason why people like milk?
It’s creamy 🙂
Milk, especially 2% milk fat or higher, can provide a slightly creamy texture that’s hard to find elsewhere.
It’s possible that the meaning of craving milk is actually not for the nutrients or milk sugars, but rather for the texture.
Texture does play a role in our food cravings, so don’t underestimate this reason!
Just think about your comfort foods, I’m betting these have a soft or creamy texture!
Summary: Milk is a unique liquid with a creamy texture hard to find elsewhere.
7 – Coffee
One reason is that black coffee is detested by many people.
What better way to make your black coffee taste better than by adding some creamy texture to it?
Heck, what about some sugar too?
Well, milk has both sugar and that creamy texture which goes oh, so, good with black coffee.
Fun fact: I personally like drinking about 50% milk, 50% coffee.
Like cereal or cookies listed above, you can get used to milk going with certain food pairings.
Therefore, the association with coffee is another reason you might be craving milk.
Summary: Milk goes great with coffee.
8 – Genetics
Some people are lactose intolerant. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, people from East Asia show the highest rates of lactose intolerance.
People whose ancestors originated in Asia likely didn’t have cows or other animal sources of milk until the past few hundred years. They relied upon a more plant-based diet, for example eating more rice and vegetables.
Read for more info about lactose intolerance in Asia and Africa.
When I lived at a monastery in California and traveled abroad in Thailand, I noticed there wasn’t nearly as much meat or dairy in comparison to the United States. While other factors than genetics can explain this reason, it still is interesting to note.
However, other ethnic groups have a much longer historical connection to milk-bearing animals, and therefore might crave milk because of genetics.
For example, certain groups of humans ended up residing in Europe and had a longer evolutionary history alongside cows and other domesticated animals, as noted in Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, And Steel” book.
It’s likely that these humans developed less resistance to milk, as milk was a primary form of sustenance in the cold, barren European northern lands.
That’s why there are many lactose free cheeses in the world!
Summary: Genes can definitely explain an aversion to milk (lactose intolerance) and it’s likely that genes also play a role in craving milk.
9 – Comfort & Calories When Sick
Whether your ancestors needed milk to survive …
Or whether you just like adding milk to your coffee…
Milk can make people feel comfortable.
Milk is especially useful for feeling comfortable when you are nauseous.
Sometimes when you are nauseous or so anxious you may not be able to eat solid food.
In these situations milk can help you get the calories you need for sustenance.
Summary: If you are struggling to eat food due to nausea or get enough calories, milk can provide an easy way to get sufficient amounts of calories for your body.
10 – You Might Be Pregnant
To finish up this list let’s return to calcium, our first reason listed above.
Another reason you might be craving calcium is because you’re pregnant!
If you are pregnant take a look at these prenatal multivitamins, specially formulated to support the development of baby’s brain, nervous system, bones and eyes.
Now, to answer one of your frequently asked questions …
Is craving milk a sign of pregnancy?
That’s right! Cravings for dairy are actually a very common sign of pregnancy.
According to Dr. People at Parents.com, fruit and dairy are the two most common cravings for pregnant women. The fruit gives vitamin C and dairy gives calcium.
Why am I craving milk before period?
It’s not uncommon to experience cravings for certain foods before your period. Some women crave chocolate, others crave salty snacks. And some women find themselves reaching for a cold glass of milk.
There are a few theories as to why this happens. One is that the body is seeking out calcium-rich foods before menstruation in order to replenish stores that may be depleted during the course of the month. Another possibility is that the body is trying to increase its intake of water and other fluids in preparation for the increased blood flow during menstruation.
Whatever the reason, if you’re craving milk before your period, there’s no need to worry. Just indulge in a tall glass of your favorite chilled beverage and enjoy!
Can drinking too much milk be bad for you?
Yes. The Harvard research that I cited at the very beginning of this article indicates that too much milk can be detrimental. Here’s the science:
This study here followed over 60,000 women and over 45,000 men. Plus, they followed these people for over 13 years!!!!
This is incredible science here, ladies and gentlemen. The resources used to conduct this research were absolutely exhaustive.
What did the research indicate?
Too much milk, as defined by three or more glasses per day, was significantly associated with higher mortality and increased risk of hip fractures.
You’d think with all that calcium the group that drank more milk would see less fractures, but the data didn’t bear that out.
Can someone be addicted to milk?
No. I’m of the belief that you cannot be addicted to foods, period.
At Eating Enlightenment we believe that with proper love, training, nutrients, mindsets, and support …
We can return to our natural selves, which are whole and intuitive, and be normal around food.
Finally, I admit there are some different viewpoints about the issues of sugar addiction.
There are smart people on both sides of the debate, and some feel that cravings of sugar can mean food addiction. For example, they note withdrawal symptoms from some people when deprived of sugary foods.
However, others feel that elements of deprivation set up the sugar to be addicting, so it’s deprivation that’s the problem and not sugar itself.
Regardless, there’s no debate about whether milk is addicting or not. That debate was purely for sugary foods like sodas.
Milk is not addicting.
Why do I crave milk at night?
There are a few reasons why you might find yourself craving milk at night.
Perhaps you’re feeling a bit stressed and your body is craving the comforting properties of milk.
Milk is also rich in calcium, which can help promote relaxation and sleep.
Additionally, if you’ve been working out hard during the day, your body may be craving the protein and nutrients found in milk to help repair your muscles.
Whatever the reason, if you find yourself hankering for a glass of milk before bed, go ahead and indulge!
Why do diabetics crave milk?
There are a few possible explanations for why diabetics may crave milk. One theory is that the body is craving calcium, which is found in milk.
Another possibility is that the body is seeking out extra hydration, since diabetes can cause dehydration. It’s also possible that the body is simply seeking out more calories, since diabetes can lead to restrictive eating.
Whatever the reason, if you’re diabetic and you find yourself craving milk, it’s important to talk to your doctor to make sure that you’re managing your condition properly.
Causes of milk cravings – Summary
It’s not uncommon to have a sudden and intense craving for milk. There are a few reasons why this might happen.
One reason is that you may be lacking in calcium. Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium, so your body may be trying to tell you that you need more of this essential nutrient.
Another possibility is that you’re lacking in protein. Milk is a good source of protein, so if you’re not getting enough from other sources, your body may crave it.
You may also be lacking in fat. Fat is an essential part of the diet, and milk contains a type of fat called saturated fat. If you’re not getting enough fat from other sources, your body may crave milk.
It’s also possible that your cravings are due to genetics. If your parents or grandparents craved milk, you may be more likely to crave it as well.
Pregnancy can also cause cravings for milk. This is likely due to the fact that pregnant women need more calcium than they did before they became pregnant.
Finally, you may be craving milk because you just ate something spicy. Spicy foods can irritate the lining of the stomach, and milk can help to soothe this irritation.
If you find yourself craving milk frequently, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian (or me!) to make sure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need.