Milk and dairy foods are healthy foods and considered nutrient-rich because they serve as good sources of calcium and vitamin D as well as protein and other essential nutrients. They provide phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, B12, and riboflavin1.
The calcium in milk, yogurt, and cheese is significant yet most people don't get enough calcium or vitamin D each day2. Getting the recommended three servings of dairy per day can help build bone mass, leading to improved bone health throughout the life cycle.
To meet daily calcium requirements, most people should have two to three cups of milk or servings of dairy foods each day. There are many ways to ensure you are eating healthy and getting enough milk and milk products each day. Start with a healthy breakfast of cereal, milk and fruit or a yogurt parfait, include cheese in your lunch or afternoon snack and consider pudding or hot chocolate made with milk as an evening dessert. To learn more about the amounts of food to eat each day, use the Healthy Eating Planner.
Some Key Benefits of Dairy Foods
The calcium in milk is easily absorbed and used in the body, which is why milk and milk products are reliable as well as economical sources of calcium3.
A diet rich in protein and vitamin D contributes to bone health. Due to their high protein, vitamin D, and calcium content, dairy foods are a good choice for maintaining strong bones.
A diet rich in fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods, with reduced saturated fat, is as effective as some medications in reducing blood pressure in people with increased blood pressure. It has also been shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes1.
Cultured dairy products like yogurt contain probiotics which provide a wide array of health benefits. Probiotics in the diet can enhance the good bacteria in the gut, improve health and reduce the risk of certain diseases4.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate.gov Website. Washington, DC. Dairy. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/dairy.html. Accessed March 9, 2015.
2. Moshfegh A, Goldman J, Ahuja J, Rhodes D, LaComb R. What we eat in America, NHANES 2005-2006: Usual intakes from food and water compared to 1997 Dietary Reference Intakes for vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
3. Gueguen L, Pointillart A. The bioavailability of dietary calcium. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Apr;19(2 Suppl):119S-136S.
4. Tolo R, Suarez A, Clemente MG, et al. Intestinal microbiota in health and disease: Role of bifidobacteria in gut homeostasis. World J Gastroenterol.2014; 20(41):15163-15176.