More than Delicious: How Milk, Cheese + Yogurt Benefit Your Health

More than Delicious: How Milk, Cheese + Yogurt Benefit Your Health
What's so great about milk anyway? A lot

Think you know about milk? It may not seem very exciting, that carton of white stuff always in your refrigerator, ready to be poured into cereal for a quick breakfast, standing by to make soups and creamy smoothies, always useful as a quick, satisfying drink.

But there’s a lot more than calcium in your milk. It contains nine essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin D, a bunch of B vitamins and vitamin A. It’s also a unique food because it contains a complete package of natural carbohydrates (lactose), high quality protein (casein and whey) and fat (both mono and saturated kinds).

Calcium in Milk

Milk is easy calcium. Do you know how much you’d have to eat to get as much bone building calcium found naturally in an 8-ounce cup of milk? 12 servings of whole grains, 10 cups of raw spinach or 6 servings of beans. While those foods are all great and offer important nutrients of their own, if it’s calcium you’re craving, milk has got your back. Make sure to get three cups of milk, cheese or yogurt every day, the amount the USDA recommends for people over age 9. Not sure you are eating enough? Take this Calcium Quiz that will assess the amount of calcium you get from all types of foods.

Milk is More Than Just Calcium

You say you don't need milk because you take a calcium supplement? It’s always better to get your nutrition from whole foods, and in the case of calcium supplements versus milk, this is especially true. Milk is more than just calcium. Take a look at the chart on the right for what three cups per day offers, for only about 10 percent of daily calories!

Nutrients like calcium and potassium are lacking in many Americans’ diets, and those who drink milk have been shown to have better levels of these important vitamins and minerals. Adequate levels of essential nutrients can prevent chronic diseases, leading to a longer, healthier life.

It's Affordable

So now you know that milk offers a lot of nutrition for a small part of your daily calories. But did you know it’s also easy on the wallet? Three cups of milk costs about 75 cents. Looking just at calcium again, you would spend a lot more money getting the same amount of calcium from 30 cups of raw spinach per day – and you’d really have to make an effort to eat that much spinach! And that’s just your calcium. To get the same amount of all the nutrients milk offers, well, you’d be planning your meals, eating huge amounts and spending lots of money on food all day long!

Make it You

But with so many brands and types of milk on the market, which is right for you? Read up on the facts by checking out our types of milk page. Once you’ve chosen the right milk for you, the amount of creative ways you can include milk, cheese and yogurt in your day is immense. Here are just a few delicious ideas to incorporate milk more often in your daily routine, ensuring that you get nutrients and high-quality protein all day. 

  • Use milk in place of water when making hot cereals such as oatmeal.
  • Mix milk or cheese into your scrambled eggs before cooking for extra fluffy, creamy eggs.
  • Round out your day and boost your overall nutrition by having a glass of low-fat milk at dinner.
  • Make an instant smoothie by blending 1 cup of low-fat milk or yogurt with fruit and ice cubes.
  • Have a crunchy, nutritious snack of cheese, fruit and veggies.
  • Add a dash of vanilla and cinnamon to low-fat milk and warm it up for a relaxing evening drink.

Not much of a milk drinker? Don’t worry, milk has cousins. Yogurt and cheese are great sources of the nutrients milk provides. Yogurt and cheese are also delicious and easy to add to any meal. Opt for low-fat versions to get the same nutrition for fewer calories.

What About the Alternatives?

 

While milk alternatives (e.g. almond, soy, rice beverages) may be wholesome and nutritious, their nutritional profile differs from the nutrition of traditional dairy milk. Soy milk provides as much protein as dairy milk, but other milk replacements don't. Alternative milks are fortified to offer the same nutrients as dairy milk.

Milk and dairy foods have a package of nutrients that cannot be found in any other single food or beverage. This downloadable handout provides more information why milk and dairy foods are essential to a healthy diet. 

Do you want more scientific references? Check out the Scientific Research page or this 2013 White Paper titled: Milk + Dairy: The Forgotten Food Group

 


References:

1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate.gov Website. Washington, DC. Dairy. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/dairy.html. Accessed March 9, 2015. 

2. Moshfegh A, Goldman J, Ahuja J, Rhodes D, LaComb R. What we eat in America, NHANES 2005-2006: Usual intakes from food and water compared to 1997 Dietary Reference Intakes for vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.  

3. Gueguen L, Pointillart A. The bioavailability of dietary calcium. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Apr;19(2 Suppl):119S-136S. 

4. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Health.gov Website. Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Website. http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/ Accessed March 31, 2015.