The Real Reason You're Craving Milk

Milk and cookies is a classic — and with good reason. Milk is a nutritional powerhouse with few adverse effects, according to a 2016 study published in Food & Nutrition Research, which found that milk and dairy products were associated with a reduced risk of childhood obesity. But many people are giving up dairy or cutting back on cow's milk; between 2010 and 2018 sales of milk dropped by 13% (via The New York Times). If breaking the habit is causing cravings for dairy milk, you might be surprised that there are actually scientific reasons for them.

Dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend consuming a 3-cup equivalent of dairy per day, such as milk, yogurt, or cheese. Milk is a great option, according to Medical News Today, as it's a substantial source of calcium, good for strengthening teeth and bones. Typically, milk is also fortified with vitamin D, which helps calcium to be absorbed by the body. Vitamin D has also been known to lower the risk of depression. Additionally, milk is a great source of potassium, vitamin A, protein, vitamin B-12, and zinc.

What do my cravings mean?

According to Healthline, there are a number of reasons why you might be craving a tall glass of ice-cold milk. For one, you could simply be thirsty. Since milk is 87% water, a cup of milk could be what your body wants to quench your thirst. Similarly, you could be hungry. The protein and fat content in milk fills your stomach and satiates hunger. And the combo of fats and sugars in milk can make it feel like a "comfort food," according to a 2014 review in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, as this blend of nutrients can trigger reward centers in the brain.

Also, if you're avoiding that splash of half-and-half or cream in your morning coffee, your body might be yearning for a creamy addition — one that is denser — rather than a dairy-free alternative. A gulp of milk might also be the perfect antidote to eating spicy foods, since the fat content mitigates the spice. Lastly, you could be lacking vitamins and minerals that your body needs, and since milk has 18 out of 22 of the essentials, it might be just the thing to hit the spot (via Healthline).