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Are you getting enough dairy in your diet?

June is National Dairy Month, and you should celebrate by enjoying dairy in your daily diet.

glassofmilkThe United States first celebrated National Milk Month in 1937, when the holiday was created to help stabilize dairy demand during peak production periods. In 1939, it was renamed National Dairy Month to offer a greater focus on the entire category of dairy products.

The month also highlights some special dairy product days, with June 1 being National Milk Day, June 4 being National Cheese Day and June 7 being Chocolate Ice Cream Day.

Why eat dairy? We need to consume dairy to help us get adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, and protein. We also get the key nutrients phosphorous and vitamin B12 when we consume cow’s milk. According to a report from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee, most Americans are not consuming the recommended level of dairy in their diet. The dietary guidelines say that, as part of a healthy eating pattern, adults should have the equivalent of 2 cups of dairy for a 1,000-calorie diet, 2 1/2 cups for a 1,200- to 1,400-calorie diet, or 3 cups for a 1,600- to 3,200-calorie diet.

Children 9 and older should have three servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy, 4-to 8-year-olds should have 2 1/2 servings, and 2- to 3-year-olds should have two servings per day.

When eating dairy, be sure to choose low-fat and fat-free dairy options such as yogurt, frozen yogurt, dairy desserts, and cheeses. Also included in this group in the dietary guidelines are lactose-free, lactose-reduced, and fortified soy beverages. Dairy products with low calcium content are not included in this group, which means heavy cream, sour cream, and cream cheese are excluded.

It is best to receive the key nutrients our body needs from dairy foods instead of supplements. For example, calcium supplements alone are not enough for healthy bones and strong teeth. The mineral calcium works in synergy with vitamin D, vitamin K, potassium, fluoride and magnesium.

Although calcium helps with vital bodily functions, including nerve signals, muscle contractions and blood clotting, our bodies are unable to produce calcium, making it important that we get enough in what we eat. Women 19 to 50 and men 19 to 70 need to consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Women older than 51 and men older than 71 need to consume 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. Children 9 to 18 need 1,300 milligrams of calcium per day. Children 4 to 8 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, while children 1 to 3 need 700 mg.

Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because our body makes it when we are exposed to the sun. Vitamin D works synergistically by helping our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorus, and it also helps our immune system, muscle contractions, brain and nerve signals. For individuals under age 50, 400 to 800 international units of vitamin D per day is recommended, and 800 to 1,000 international units per day is recommended for those older than 50.

We also can consume vitamin D by eating foods fortified with it. If you’re still unable to consume enough vitamin D, a supplement could be recommended by a doctor or a registered dietitian.

Research has shown that eating low-fat and fat-free dairy items as a part of a healthy lifestyle can help with weight maintenance and strong bones and teeth, as well as reduce our risk of some cancers, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, tooth decay, and Type 2 diabetes. When calcium and vitamin D are not consumed at recommended levels, an increased risk of adverse bone health will occur. Low consumption levels of potassium has been linked to cardiovascular disease and blood pressure issues.

Individuals who have dairy sensitivities or who have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance still have many options to get enough calcium and beneficial nutrients from dairy and other foods into their diets.

Lactose intolerance occurs when someone is unable to digest the sugar lactose that is found in nearly all dairy products, resulting in gastrointestinal discomfort. Fortunately, lactose-free milk and lactose-free dairy products are excellent alternatives for individuals who have difficulty digesting lactose. Lactose-free milk is simply milk that has been treated with the enzyme “lactase” to predigest the milk’s lactose before consumption.

Now that you are more knowledgeable about dairy and all of its benefits, take the time this month to treat yourself to some dairy foods.

 

Source: Lancaster Online


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