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Dairy Month is a good time to toast the dairy industry with a cold glass of milk.

Dairy Month, milk, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, diet

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Dairy Month is a good time to toast the dairy industry with a cold glass of milk.

Nutrition experts recommend that people ages 9 and older enjoy three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free milk or milk products. The recommendation for children ages 4 to 8 is 2 to 2 1/2 servings. Children ages 2 to 3 should have 2 servings per day.

Unfortunately, many people shortchange themselves on some of the nine key nutrients dairy foods provide by not having three servings per day. On average, people have two servings of dairy foods daily.

Milk is the No. 1 source of calcium, vitamin D and potassium in our diet. In fact, research has shown that dairy foods may reduce our risk for the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. The DASH diet, which features ample fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy foods, may help lower blood pressure.

A recently published study reported that calcium intake is particularly of concern among the elderly, even if they consume calcium supplements. The researchers compared the calcium intake of people ages 19 to 30 with that of people who were ages 81 and older. They found that calcium intake was 23 percent lower in older men and 14 percent lower among older women compared with their younger counterparts.

Milk, yogurt and cheese are nutrient-rich foods and are notable protein sources, too. Eating protein-rich foods helps curb hunger and may help with weight management.

Milk is an excellent “sports drink” with its unique combination of carbohydrates, protein, fluid and electrolytes. Instead of reaching for a typical sports beverage after a workout, consider grabbing some cold, refreshing milk. The fluid rehydrates the body, while the other nutrients energize and replace minerals lost in sweat.

According to recent research, people with lactose intolerance may tolerate a cup of milk per day (or about 12 grams of lactose). Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk, which some people have difficulty digesting. Hard cheeses and yogurt often are tolerated well.

Milk is a nutritional bargain at just 25 cents or so per cup. Try adding some more dairy to your diet with these tips:

  • Enjoy milk with meals instead of soda pop or other sweetened beverages. At just 90 calories per cup, fat-free milk packs a lot of nutrition in each refreshing glass.
  • Use milk instead of water when making oatmeal or other hot breakfast cereals to boost your calcium and vitamin D intake.
  • Use low fat or fat-free plain yogurt in place of sour cream on baked potatoes or in vegetable dips.
  • Keep yogurt on hand for a quick snack or breakfast to grab on the go. Try fortifying a fruit smoothie with yogurt to add calcium and protein to your beverage.
  • Buy cheese in block form, and shred it into recipes or cut it into kid-friendly pieces to pair with whole-grain crackers for a quick snack.

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist

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