This is the perfect time to brush up on why dairy is an important part of a balanced eating plan. On average, most people don’t meet their daily recommended intake of dairy. The recommendation is two to three servings each day to meet vitamin D and calcium needs.
While these nutrients are essential for bone health, there are many roles they play in the body, including promoting mental health. Dairy foods can be found in abundance in the grocery store, so it’s easy to find lots of different and delicious ways to enjoy dairy.
Milk is an excellent source of calcium, but also protein, riboflavin, vitamins A and D, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. Since the type of fat in dairy is saturated fat, low-fat milk, which is 1%, or fat-free versions, such as skim milk, are recommended.
If you are sensitive to lactose, there are many lactose-free versions, as well. Just remember that while milk alternatives such as soy milk and almond milk are typically fortified with calcium and vitamin D, they may not have as much protein as cow’s milk. Enjoy low-fat or skim milk in cereal, a smoothie or oatmeal, or add to soups to boost nutrition.
YOGURT AND KEFIR
Yogurt is high in calcium and protein as well, and also contains probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that promote gut health. Kefir is a fermented drinkable yogurt that is also packed with probiotics.
Similar to milk, try to choose low-fat or fat-free versions most of the time, and opt for plain varieties when possible to avoid added sugar. Yogurt also contains less lactose than milk, and the presence of live cultures can help a person with lactose intolerance enjoy these products with less gastrointestinal symptoms.
Cheese contains similar nutrients to those found in milk, such as protein, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A, riboflavin and vitamin B12. Some cheeses may also be high in sodium and saturated fat, so make sure to check the nutrition facts panel and monitor your portion sizes.