There seems to be a lot of buzz about the dairy group lately. You may be asking yourself, "How much should I be eating?" "Is it good for me or should I avoid it?" "What if I am allergic or intolerant?" Dairy is considered one of the 5 food groups, but not everyone can tolerate it. Below you will find the answers to some of your questions!
What is dairy?
Dairy is defined as milk or products made from milk. Milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, pudding made with milk, frozen yogurt, and ice cream are included, as well as calcium-fortified soymilk. Cream, sour cream, butter, and cream cheese are all milk products but do not count towards a daily serving of dairy.
Soymilk (soy beverage) fortified, or strengthened, with calcium and vitamin D is included in this group because, while not made from milk and milk products, it still provides key nutrients also found in milk, such as protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and potassium. Other common milk alternatives, like almond, coconut, and rice milks, also offer nutritional benefits but do not contain enough protein to be considered a serving of dairy.
Why should I choose dairy?
The dairy group is widely known for its calcium and vitamin D content, but it is also a source of protein and many vitamins and minerals. Protein can help build and repair muscles. Calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus help build strong bones. Various B vitamins in dairy products help the body turn food into fuel and assist with other bodily functions, and Vitamin A is great for keeping the skin and eyes healthy. Research shows that eating low-fat dairy has been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and improved bone health.
How much should I eat per day?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that a healthy eating pattern includes three daily servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy and/or fortified soy beverages. One serving of dairy can be 1 cup, or 8 fluid ounces, of milk, yogurt, or fortified soymilk; 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese; or 2 ounces of processed cheese.
Lactose Intolerance: What does it mean?
Some people may find they have unpleasant reactions to dairy. Most often this is because of lactose intolerance. Lactose is the natural sugar in milk. For most people, the body breaks down lactose with an enzyme called lactase. In people with lactose intolerance, the body does not make enough lactase to break down the lactose. If you think you are lactose intolerant, talk to your doctor. You may be able to continue eating certain dairy items or lactose-free dairy in order to make sure that you are still consuming key nutrients.
Want to read more about this topic? Here are some helpful resources.
Eat 3 servings of dairy every day this week. Substitute with soy ingredients if needed.
Very Blueberry Cottage Cheese Pancakes
- "USDA Dietary Guidelines." Dietary Guidelines, U.S. Department of Agriculture, www.dietaryguidelines.gov/.
- "All about the Dairy Group." Choose MyPlate, 3 Nov. 2017, www.choosemyplate.gov/dairy.
- "National Dairy Council: Home." NDC, www.nationaldairycouncil.org/.