Dairy Makes Sense

March 21, 2010 9:41:58 AM PDT
When it comes to dairy nutrition, research shows that most consumers don't know the whole story. March is National Nutrition Month®, the perfect time to learn the rest of the story about dairy's unique package of 8 essential nutrients (beyond calcium for strong bones) that deliver superior nutrition and value. Registered Dietitian Melissa Joy Dobbins of the Midwest Dairy Council and the Illinois Dietetic Association shares the reasons that dairy makes sense, and tips for enjoying three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods every day.
  • Three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese or yogurt deliver exceptional nutrition and value, but, on average, Americans are only getting about half of the dairy servings they should consume daily.
  • There is no substitute for dairy in the diet because of its unique package of 9 essential nutrients. It's more than calcium for strong bones, dairy delivers significant amounts of 8 other key nutrients.
  • Beyond calcium, three of the other important nutrients that dairy foods deliver include Vitamin D, protein and potassium:
  • Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is one of the nutrients Americans lack the most. Vitamin D helps promote the absorption of calcium and aids in the development of healthy teeth and bones. There is much research underway studying the role vitamin D plays in conditions other than bone health including heart heath, immune function, cancer and diabetes. One 8-ounce glass of milk provides 25% of your daily requirement and is one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D.
  • The high quality protein in milk, cheese and yogurt supports the growth and repair of muscles and other body tissues. Protein also helps build and maintain bone. Are you getting the right amount and the right type of protein in your diet? Cheese and yogurt are excellent sources and milk is a good source of high quality protein.
  • Potassium helps regulate the body's fluid balance and is very important for healthy blood pressure. It's also one of the essential nutrients the USDA says Americans lack the most. Milk and yogurt both contain as much potassium as a banana.

To get the whole story on dairy's unique nutrient package, and to find delicious, nutritious recipes, visit dairymakessense.com

To read Melissa's blog, visit thedairyreport.com

Cucumber Leek Soup: dairymakessense.com/recipes/cucumber_leek_soup.aspx

Roasted Asparagus with Chive Yogurt Ranch Dressing: dairymakessense.com/recipes/roasted_asparagus.aspx

Pulled Pork Soft Tacos: dairymakessense.com/recipes/pulled_pork_taco.aspx

Why should you get 3 servings of dairy every day? Most Americans are eating only about half of the recommended 3 servings of dairy foods each day. That means they are coming up short on the recommended amounts of calcium and other essential nutrients dairy foods provide. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recognize that people who consume more dairy foods have better overall diets, consume more nutrients and have improved bone health.

What about people who are lactose intolerant? While lactose intolerance is a very individual condition, many people with lactose intolerance can still enjoy dairy foods in varying amounts or forms. And it's important that people with lactose intolerance do not miss out on the enjoyment and important health benefits of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods. Some tips for tolerance include:

  • drink milk with meals
  • enjoy lactose-free milk
  • aged cheeses (like Cheddar) contain very little lactose
  • cultured dairy products like yogurt contain live and active cultures that help digest lactose.

What are the key nutrients Americans are missing most in their diets? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified seven "nutrients of concern" for which adults have inadequate intake ? fiber, vitamins E, C and A, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Together, dairy foods supply four of the seven "nutrients of concern": calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin A.

Don't we eat too much protein? Current protein recommendations are based on the minimum amount needed to prevent a deficiency which is approximately 10-15% of daily calorie intake. However, current research suggests that a range up to 35% of total calories may be beneficial for optimal health. What's important is making sure we choose high quality protein. Cheese for example is an excellent source of high quality protein. It contains all the essential amino acids necessary for proper muscle repair.

What is an essential nutrient? The USDA defines an 'essential nutrient' as a dietary substance required for healthy body functioning. Essential nutrients must come from the foods you eat because the human body can't manufacture them in sufficient quantities to meet daily needs.

What does "good source" and "excellent source" of a nutrient mean? A "good source" contributes at least 10 percent up to 19 percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) in a selected serving size. An "excellent source" contributes 20 percent or more per serving size. For example, milk is an excellent source of calcium, contributing 30% per 8 oz serving. Milk is also an excellent source of Vitamin D, contributing 25% per 8 oz serving. Milk is a good source of potassium, contributing 11% per 8 oz serving.

We have been hearing a lot about Vitamin D why is it so important? We know Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and preventing rickets in children, but what many people may not know is that every cell in our body needs vitamin D. There is a lot of research underway on the role Vitamin D plays in conditions other than bone health such as heart health, immune function, cancer and diabetes. We know milk is one of the best food sources of vitamin D providing 25% of the daily recommendation per 8 oz glass.

National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the American Dietetic Association. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. Registered Dietitian Day, also celebrated in March, increases awareness of registered dietitians as the indispensable providers of food and nutrition services and recognizes RDs for their commitment to helping people enjoy healthy lives. For more information, visit eatright.org