From Greek yogurt to lactose-free milk, dairy foods can help give you the nutrients you need to keep your body going strong. Eating three daily servings of low fat, fat free or lactose-free milk, yogurt or cheese can help people meet their dairy food group recommendations, close key nutrient gaps and contribute to nutritious and healthy eating patterns.
Recommended for All Ages
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommends low fat, fat free and lactose-free milk and dairy foods as a part of an overall healthy diet for children and adults, along with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. In fact, studies show nutrient-rich dairy foods, when consumed as part of a healthy diet, may help to reduce the risk for several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Research has also linked dairy intake with fewer fractures in older adults and is important for children and adolescents to build strong bones.
The amount of dairy foods you need depends on your age. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate, an easy to understand version of the DGA, recommends 3 cups of low fat, fat free or lactose-free milk and dairy foods daily for those 9 years or older, 2 1/2 servings for those 4-8 years old, and 2 servings for those 2-3 years old. One serving of dairy is equal to an 8-ounce glass of milk, a 6- or 8-ounce container of yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese.
Packed with Essential Nutrients
Milk, cheese and yogurt are nutrient powerhouses! Every 8 ounce glass of milk delivers 13 essential nutrients. Yogurt is packed with nine essential nutrients and cheese delivers eight essential nutrients.
Three daily servings of dairy contribute 3 of the 4 under consumed nutrients of public concern ― calcium, vitamin D and potassium. The fourth is fiber, which can be found in foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans ― all foods that pair well with dairy! Eating dairy foods as part of an overall healthy diet is one way to get the nutrients you need for normal immune function. For instance, milk contains vitamins A and D, protein, selenium and zinc, which are important to support immune function. Cheese and yogurt also contain protein, and yogurt is a good source of zinc as well.
Improve Bone Health
Dairy foods are a good or excellent source of nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, protein and vitamin D, that work together to build and help protect bones. By enjoying three servings of low fat, fat free or lactose free milk, yogurt or cheese every day, families, especially children and teens in their peak bone-building years, can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure
A flexible, balanced eating plan called The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) recommends more fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy foods, whole grains, nuts and legumes. These all-star foods create a nutrient synergy that can help lower your blood pressure. DASH is recognized in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a healthy eating plan similar to the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern and is good for people concerned about heart health.
Reduce Risk of Chronic Diseases
Not only are dairy foods, including milk, cheese and yogurt, filled with essential nutrients our bodies need, but they also may help reduce inflammation. Studies also show that, for those ages 9 and older, enjoying three servings of low fat, fat free or lactose-free milk, cheese or yogurt every day, as part of a balanced eating plan, may reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease and stroke.