Top Questions About Milk & Dairy Foods

You asked, and we listened! Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions about dairy foods.

Which type of milk is the healthiest to drink — fat free, low fat, reduced fat or whole milk?

The primary difference between these milks is the amount of fat they contain, which is reflected in the calorie amounts you see on the label.  What doesn’t change  — from whole to fat free, organic or lactose-free — is the package of nine essential nutrients they all provide.

While the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) continues to recommend low fat and fat free dairy foods, they also allow for up to 10% of calories coming from saturated fat. So, whole milk dairy foods can be a part of a healthy eating pattern, you will want to be mindful of other food choices to balance saturated fat and calorie intake.

Why does milk have sugar?

No sugar is added to regular white milk, regardless of fat content. The 13g of total sugars in an 8 oz. serving of milk you see listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel comes from a naturally occurring carbohydrate called lactose. Milk has just three simple ingredients:  milk, vitamin A and vitamin D, making it one of the most naturally nutrient-dense beverages you can drink.

How is cow’s milk different from milk alternatives?

Although cow’s milk and plant-based alternatives sit side-by-side in the dairy case, non-dairy alternatives often do not provide the same nutrient profile as cow’s milk. For example, an 8 oz. glass of cow’s milk provides eight times more naturally occurring protein (8g) than a glass of almond beverage (1g).

The DGA does not include alternative beverages (other than soy beverages fortified with calcium, vitamin A and D) in the dairy group because their overall nutritional content is not similar to dairy milk and fortified soy beverages. The DGA recommends three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods per day for people nine years and older.

National health organizations do not recommend plant-based, non-dairy milks for children ages 1-5 years old because they are not an adequate nutritional substitute for dairy milk (except for fortified soy beverages).  The nutrient content of plant-based beverages varies widely, while cow’s milk contains many nutrients essential for healthy growth and development.

Be sure to read food labels, non-dairy alternatives may contain added ingredients such as sugar, salt, syrups and thickeners.

How many servings of dairy do adults and kids need each day?

Dairy foods can play an important role in every stage of life. The DGA recommends 3 servings of low fat or fat free milk, cheese or yogurt daily for those nine years or older, 2 1/2 servings for those four to eight years old, and 2 servings for those two to three years old.  USDA recommends that 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.

Is Greek yogurt healthier than regular yogurt?

Just like traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt contains a powerful nutrient package that includes essential nutrients like calcium and protein, plus some contain live and active cultures.

Some people choose Greek yogurt because of the thicker and more tart taste. Greek yogurt also contains about twice the protein and 14% less lactose (naturally occurring sugar) than regular yogurt, although this can vary depending on the brand. While regular yogurt has about 15% more calcium than Greek yogurt. So, choose whichever yogurt you prefer — they’re both healthy options!

What dairy products have probiotics?

Both fermented and probiotic foods are made with microorganisms. However, not all fermented foods are considered probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts may deliver health benefits.

Yogurt can be a probiotic food because the traditional cultures, or good bacteria, in yogurt have been studied for their ability to help with lactose digestion. These live cultures can help digest lactose, the naturally occurring sugar in milk. You may see a “live and active culture” seal on the package of some brands of yogurt. This indicates that the good bacteria remained alive after the fermentation process is complete. The use of this seal is voluntary, so yogurt brands that do not list this seal may still contain an adequate amount of live cultures.

What is A2 milk?

A2 milk is a type of milk from certain dairy cows that produce milk highly concentrated in A2 beta casein. All milk contains beta casein, a protein that has two common forms: A1 and A2. A2 milk only contains the A2 beta casein, which is thought to be easier to digest, however, there is only preliminary science to support the theory that A2 milk has additional health benefits to regular cow’s milk. The A2 milk concept will remain a theory until there is more science to support it. When it comes to the dairy case, you have many options to choose from, but rest assured, all cow’s milk contains the same nine essential nutrients in an 8oz serving: protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin.

Do you have more questions about dairy foods? Comment below or ask an expert!

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