Part 1: Reasons to Include More Dairy In Your Diet
A healthy diet can improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of developing negative health conditions. While the benefits of including fruits and vegetables in your diet are widely known, the medical benefits of dairy are often overlooked. The following are a handful of ways that dairy products like low-fat milk, milk substitutes, cottage cheese and yogurt can make a nutritious and beneficial addition to your diet.
- Dairy packs a protein – and calcium – laden punch
One cup of nonfat yogurt can provide as much as one-third of your daily recommended calcium intake and nearly 20 percent of your daily recommended protein intake.
Though dairy products like ice cream don’t pack the same nutritious punch as yogurt, healthier fare like reduced-fat cheese (e.g. mozzarella) and skim milk can go a long way toward meeting your daily intake of protein and calcium.
- Dairy is a great source of vitamin D
In addition to providing sufficient calcium and protein, dairy also helps men, women, and children boost their vitamin D. That’s especially important in the winter months when people tend to get less exposure to the sun.
Exposure to the sun is a natural way to boost your vitamin D, but the shorter days and colder weather of winter can make it hard to get sufficient vitamin D during that time of year. Dairy products like low-fat milk can boost your vitamin D, which can improve your bone health, by increasing the absorption of the calcium you ingest.
- Dairy may help lower your blood pressure
Men and women with high blood pressure might benefit from including more dairy in their diet. In a study of 5,000 diets, Spanish researchers found that those who reported consuming the most low-fat dairy products were more than 50 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who consumed less low-fat dairy.
- Dairy benefits your bones
Dairy has long been known to improve bone density. But it’s not just seniors who benefit from the bone strengthening impact of dairy. Youngsters who consume dairy can also expect an increase in bone mass, which can make them less susceptible to injuries.
At age 35, our bodies reach their peak bone mass. Thus, it is important to strengthen our bones with sufficient calcium intake up to that point to decrease the potential for osteoporosis in later years. After age 35, it is necessary to continue calcium intake to help the regeneration of new bone cells for optimum bone health.
- Not all dairy products are alike
While milk and yogurt were linked to higher bone mineral density, dairy products like ice cream and cream contain less protein, calcium and vitamin D and more fat and sugar than yogurt or milk. These products may actually be associated with lower bone mineral density.
Next article Part 2: How Much Daily Calcium Do I Need? From What Food Sources? Milk Alternatives?
Author: Michelle Hanson
Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. She will look forward to meeting you!