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 or fat 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 and fat free milk and dairy foods as a part of an overall healthy diet, 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 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 or fat 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.
Leading organizations continue to recognize the importance of cow’s milk for the growth and development of young children. From birth to age five, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Heart Association have provided beverage recommendations recommending cow’s milk and water as “go-to” beverages for children.
Growing kids need the vital nutrients found in dairy foods to help them develop strong bodies. By age 6, consumption of dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt falls below the DGA recommendations throughout childhood and the trend continues into adulthood. It can be hard to meet nutrient recommendations without eating three daily servings of dairy foods.
Packed with Essential Nutrients
Milk, cheese and yogurt are nutrient powerhouses! Three daily servings of dairy contribute 3 of the 4 underconsumed 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! Vitamin A, Vitamin D and protein are also essential for a healthy immune function and are all found in dairy.
Every 8 ounce glass of milk delivers the following 13 essential nutrients:
- Calcium (25% Daily Value, or DV): Calcium helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth.
- Protein (16% DV): Protein helps build and repair muscle tissue.
- Vitamin D (15% DV): Vitamin D helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth.
- Phosphorus (20% DV): Phosphorus helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth, and support tissue growth.
- Vitamin A (15% DV): Vitamin A helps keep skin and eyes healthy, and helps promote growth.
- Riboflavin (35% DV): Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, helps your body use carbohydrates, fats and protein for fuel.
- Vitamin B12 (50% DV): Vitamin B12 helps with normal blood function and keeping the nervous system healthy.
- Pantothenic Acid (20% DV): Pantothenic Acid, also known as vitamin B5, helps your body use carbohydrates, fats and protein for fuel.
- Niacin (10% DV): Niacin is used in energy metabolism in the body.
- Zinc (10%): Zinc helps to maintain a healthy immune system, support normal growth and development, and maintain healthy skin.
- Selenium (10%): Selenium helps to maintain a healthy immune system, regulate metabolism and protect healthy cells from damage.
- Iodine (60%): Iodine is necessary for proper bone and brain development during pregnancy and infancy, and is linked to cognitive function in childhood.
- *Potassium (10%): Potassium supports heart health and helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure, regulate body fluid balance and maintain normal muscle function.
*Source: USDA FoodData Central. FDA’s Daily Value (DV) for potassium of 4700 mg is based on a 2005 DRI recommendation. In 2019, NASEM updated the DRI to 3400 mg. Based on the 2019 DRI, a serving of milk provides 10% of the DRI. FDA rule-making is needed to update this value for the purpose of food labeling.
Yogurt is packed with seven essential nutrients: protein, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and vitamin B12, and cheese delivers six essential nutrients: protein, phosphorus, calcium, niacin, vitamin A and vitamin B12.