The Wonders of Dairy: Essential Nutrition in Many Forms

Milk is the most versatile food we eat. Dairy, which can come from several different animals, takes many different shapes, flavors, and textures, all while being an important source of essential nutrients. Quick, think about the foods you have in your house right now. How many different forms of dairy are there? I’m willing to bet you have quite a few: milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, ice cream, whipped cream, buttermilk, kefir, etc.

Despite dairy being such a popular and versatile food, many of us are not getting the recommended 3 servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy each day.

Nutrients found in milk

Thanks to the Midwest Dairy Association for this helpful chart. Found at 

Why Is Dairy So Important?

When we think of the nutrients found in dairy, calcium is probably the first thing to pop into your mind. In fact, milk and cheese are the top two sources of calcium in our diets. Calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth, as well as helping our cells send messages to each other and telling muscles to flex.

But calcium isn’t the only important nutrient found in dairy. Dairy is also an important source of Vitamin D, protein and 6 other essential nutrients.

Vitamins and Minerals found in milk

A word of caution, however. Along with those 9 essential nutrients, dairy can also have a lot of unhealthy saturated fat. Saturated fat is bad for your cholesterol levels and raises the risk of heart disease. Full fat dairy products, like butter, ice cream, whole milk, whipped cream and certain cheeses have too much saturated to eat regularly. Low-fat (1%) and fat-free (skim) dairy products have less saturated fat (and calories!), so we should focus on adding more of these types of dairy.

Add More Dairy To Your Day

Getting more low-fat and fat-free dairy is easy. Here are some tasty tips:

  • Drink milk instead of sugary drinks.
  • Make a tasty smoothie and get more dairy, as well as fruits and veggies.
  • Treat yourself to a Yogurt Parfait instead of ice cream.
  • Shave some low-fat cheese on top of your meal for a flavor boost.
  • Use low-fat (1%) milk in your coffee instead of creamer.
  • Flavor yogurt to make a creamy dip for fruit or veggies.
  • Or check out these ideas from the National Dairy Council.

What’s your favorite way to get your essential nutrition from dairy?

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