A cold glass of milk on a hot summer day offers more than just cool refreshment. Who knew one eight-ounce glass of milk provides:
- Calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus for strong bones and teeth.
- Riboflavin and vitamin B-12 for a healthy nervous system.
- Niacin for normal enzyme functioning.
- High-quality protein for lean muscle.
- Potassium for maintaining normal blood pressure and nerve and muscle functions.
- Vitamin A for good vision, healthy skin, and a strong immune system.
Dairy foods offer a lot of nutrition in a small package. The Dairy Group includes all liquid milk and products made with milk that retain their calcium after processing; this includes yogurt and cheese. Cream cheese, cream, and butter are not included since processing causes them to lose or reduce their calcium content, and they are high in fat and low in nutrients.
MyPlate (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/) recommends consuming two to three cups of milk or milk products every day depending on age, sex, and level of physical activity. What counts as “one cup” of dairy foods? One cup of milk, one cup of yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces ( two slices) of hard cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, parmesan), two ounces (three slices) processed cheese (American), one cup of pudding made with milk, or 1 1/2 cups of ice cream.
Fat-free (skim) or low-fat (one percent) milk has the same nutritional value as whole or reduced-fat milk but without the saturated fat. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
- Infants should drink breast milk or iron-fortified formula during their first year of life.
- Children between 1 and 2 years should drink whole milk. They do not need to limit fat, as it is needed for growth and energy.
- Children older than 2 years should drink fat-free or low-fat milk.
To add dairy foods to your meals:
- Use milk to prepare cream soups.
- Add cheese in salads, pizza, casseroles, soups, and stews.
- Use milk to prepare hot cereals.
- Use milk in your hot beverages such as lattes, cappuccinos, and teas.
- Have yogurt or cheese sticks for a calcium-rich snack.
- Use yogurt as a dressing for salads, as a topping for a baked potato, or try it mixed with fruit.
- As desserts, try low-fat ice cream, frozen yogurt, and pudding made with milk.
Lactose-intolerant individuals lack the enzyme, lactase, to digest lactose, or milk sugar. To get the necessary calcium, choose cheese, yogurt, or lactose-free alternatives. These foods also are good sources of calcium: calcium-fortified beverages, such as orange juice; canned fish (sardines, salmon with bones); soybeans and soy products; and leafy greens such as collard, turnip greens, kale, and bok choy.
Sources: Claudia Penuela, Healthy Dairy Choices for MyPlate, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY118100.pdf.
Author: Judy Corbus, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, UF/IFAS Extension – Washington and Holmes Counties