Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese contain many key nutrients for nutritional health. These nutrients include calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B-12, protein, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorous. They also play a role in maintaining healthy bones, teeth, soft tissue, metabolic processes, blood clot- ting, and even muscle and nerve functions.
According to the National Dairy Council, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 suffer from osteoporosis, which is the weakening of bones. Consuming dairy products helps maintain bone density throughout the aging process, which can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Another study has shown that consuming 3 servings of milk products a day can reduce blood pressure twice as much as consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables alone. Consuming proper amounts of dairy can also help with weight maintenance and reduce the risks of:
- Metabolic syndrome (group of factors that increase the chance of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes)
- Colon cancer
Since dairy is a source of protein as well, it’s a good idea to add it into your diet if you don’t consume enough meat, fish, or other protein sources.
Adding Dairy to Your Diet
It is recommended that adults consume 3 cups from the milk group each day. One cup from the milk group can count as one cup of low-fat or skim milk, one cup of low-fat or nonfat yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese, 2 ounces of processed cheese, or one cup of pudding or frozen yogurt made from low fat milk. It is best to choose low-fat or non-fat dairy products to reduce the amount of fats and cholesterol in your diet.
Tips to Add Dairy
- Start your day with a serving of dairy by eating cereal with milk for breakfast. Or, try crispy cereal with a cup of yogurt to add some variety.
- Try making milk based broths for your soup, or even try cooking rice or risotto with milk instead of just water. This will add more flavor too.
- Like fresh fruit? Try it in a bowl of cottage cheese. This will provide fruit and dairy sources.
- If drinking milk is too bland, try blending in some fruit for a smoothie.
If enough dairy cannot be consumed through everyday diet, there are many supplements that can provide equivalent amounts of calcium and vitamin D as well.
Elemental Calcium refers to the amount of calcium in the supplement that is available for your body to absorb. Also, labels that contain the abbreviations “USP” (United States Pharmacopeia) or “CL” (ConsumerLab) meet voluntary industry standards of purity, tablet dissolution, and overall quality. Many calcium supplements will also include vitamin D, which will be stated on the label or on the Nutrition Facts.
Although these supplements can be very helpful, they are not as effective as consuming calcium from the foods you eat.
Other calcium supplements include Calcium Phosphate, Calcium Lactate, and Calcium Gluconate. These supplements have lower percent- ages of elemental calcium in each tablet, so it may be necessary to consume more tablets to equal the recommended daily amount of calcium. This in- formation should be provided on the container.
References: The National Dairy Council, MyPyramid.gov, Dairy Council of California, The University of Arizona Coopera- tive Extension. Nutrition Education for May 2011. Produced by Meals On Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County by Rebecca Heller, a nutrition intern for Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D. For questions regarding nutritional information, please contact Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D., Director of Nutrition Services for Meals On Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County at (817) 336-0912 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.mealsonwheels.org