June is National Dairy Month, so we decided to highlight the benefits of adding naturally nutrient-rich dairy foods to your diet. Dairy foods—milk, yogurt and cheese—are an important source of high-quality protein and essential nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins A and D. In fact, studies show that including dairy foods as part of a healthy diet can improve the overall quality of your diet and help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure in adults. Dairy foods are also recognized by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association for contributing calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D that likely play a role in dental health.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recognize the importance of dairy foods as part of a healthy diet, recommending three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods every day for people nine years and older. So, whether you’re looking for protein to help build and repair muscle tissue, calcium to build and maintain strong bones and teeth, or vitamin A to help maintain healthy skin, dairy foods deliver a powerhouse of nutrients. Here are three lifehacks for getting those three servings a day.
Milk: Milk is the building block of all dairy foods—yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and butter. Milk provides protein and eight other essential nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D, which are underconsumed by many Americans. Milk is also a convenient, affordable and versatile addition to any meal—whether pouring over breakfast cereal to start the day, grabbing a single-serve container on the run, or making soup or a casserole for dinner. And if you’re looking for a beverage that can help you refuel, recover and rehydrate from exercise, low-fat chocolate milk makes a great post-workout recovery drink.
Yogurt: In addition to containing calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein, yogurt also contains live and active cultures (good bacteria). Adding yogurt to your diet can help with the balance and diversity of bacteria in your gut, which is associated with better health. And as a fermented dairy product, yogurt often contains less lactose than some dairy foods, making it an easier-to-digest dairy choice. Yogurt also makes a tasty and convenient morning or afternoon snack. And with many varieties to choose from—full, low-fat and fat-free yogurt; drinkable yogurt; Greek yogurt; Icelandic style; Australian style—there’s one that’s right for you. Be sure to check and compare labels for sugar content when choosing a flavored variety.
Cheese: A natural source of high-quality protein and the #2 source of calcium in the American diet, cheese is a nutritious dairy food that can be part of a healthy eating plan. Many cheeses are an excellent source of calcium and a good source of high-quality protein and phosphorus—nutrients shown to support bone health. Because many cheeses—particularly natural cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss, Colby and Parmesan–contain minimal amounts of lactose, cheese can be an important source of calcium for people who are lactose intolerant. And let’s not forget that cheese tastes great—whether as a snack, on pizza or paired with fruit and nuts—the possibilities are endless and enjoyable!
So whether it’s a cold glass of milk on a summer day, a slice of cheese melted over a grilled hamburger, a protein-packed yogurt smoothie, or a dish of ice cream for the perfect summer dessert, there are plenty of delicious ways to celebrate dairy this month—and all year long.
How do you enjoy dairy foods?