June is National Dairy Month

Richard Bogren, Reames, Elizabeth S.  |  5/27/2011 9:31:51 PM

News Release Distributed 05/27/11

June is National Dairy Month, a time to promote and enjoy milk and other dairy products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines recommend that Americans increase their intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese.

The USDA diet recommendations for the dairy group are 3 cups daily of milk and milk products for those 9 years and older and 2 cups daily for ages 2-8, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. In general, 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese can be considered as 1 cup from the dairy group.

“Foods in the dairy group provide nutrients, such as calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein that are vital for health and maintenance of your body,” Reames says. “Milk is an excellent source of calcium, which the body needs to build strong bones and teeth. Diets rich in milk and milk products help build and maintain bone mass throughout the life cycle. This may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.”

Calcium is especially important for young people between 11 and 15 when bones are growing their fastest, she says. Boys and girls in this age group have calcium needs that they can’t make up for later in life.

“Starting around age nine, young people need almost twice as much calcium as younger kids,” Reames says. “According to the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, fewer than one in 10 girls and only one in four boys ages 9 to 13 are at or above their adequate intake of calcium.”

Young people can get most of their daily calcium from 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk, but they also need additional servings of calcium-rich foods to get the amount of calcium necessary to build strong bones for life.

Dairy products also have other important nutrients. One especially important nutrient is vitamin D, which helps the body absorb more calcium and promotes bone mineralization.

“Vitamin D functions in the body to maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorous, thereby helping to build and maintain bones,” Reames says. “Milk that is fortified with vitamin D is a good source of this nutrient.”

Milk products, especially yogurt and fluid milk, provide potassium. Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure

Chocolate and other flavored milks have just as much calcium as plain milk, and young people may prefer the taste of these options, Reames says. “Remember to choose low-fat or fat-free.”

Because young people make many food choices by watching their parents, it’s important for parents to drink milk, too, and provide calcium-rich meals and snacks.

“Putting calcium-rich foods on your family’s menu at each meal is a great way to make sure that everyone gets the calcium they need,” Reames says. “When milk is the main beverage in the home, everyone will choose it more often.”

Reames offers the following suggestions for using milk more often:

– Make a smoothie with fruit, ice, and low-fat or fat-free milk.

– Have a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk instead of soda.

– Mix low fat or fat free yogurt, fruit and low fat granola for a crunchy treat.

– Pour low-fat or fat-free milk over breakfast cereal.

– Choose cereal, milk and fruit as a snack, not just for breakfast.

– Try flavored milk drinks.

For those who are lactose intolerant, lactose-free and lower-lactose products are available, Reames says. These include hard cheeses and yogurt. Also, enzyme preparations can be added to milk to lower the lactose content.

Rick Bogren

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