Why Consume Milk and Other Calcium Rich Dairy Foods

For healthy bones, consume milk and milk products! Over a lifetime, an adequate amount from the Milk Group reduces the risk of low bone mass. However, any time is a good time to start consuming enough. Milk's other nutrients also keep your body in good working order.

reduced-fat varieties with considerably less fat are sold. Dairy foods with less fat usually have less cholesterol, too. Regardless of their fat content, the amounts of other nutrients—calcium, protein, phosphorus, and vitamin D—remain about the same.

Dairy foods may contain two types of sugars: naturally occurring lactose and added sugars. Any added sugars in dairy foods come from flavorings added to ice cream, flavored yogurt, milk, and other dairy foods.

Important health benefits: The bone-healthy benefits—from childhood through adulthood—of milk and milk products are well known. Several nutrients in milk build and maintain bone mass and build healthy teeth, including calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. Consuming three cups or an equivalent from the Milk Group daily can improve or help retain bone mass.

Milk products, especially yogurt and milk, provide

Key nutrients: Milk Group foods are the body's best sources of calcium and riboflavin. Without dairy foods, getting enough calcium for bone health isn't as easy. Many dairy foods are also fortified with vitamins A and D, and they're good sources of protein, phosphorus, and potassium.

The fat and cholesterol content of dairy foods varies. Fat-free (skim) milk contains 0.5 percent fat or less. Low-fat or light (1 percent) milk has 50 percent less fat than whole milk. Reduced-fat (2 percent) milk has 25 percent less fat than whole milk. And whole milk contains 3.25 percent fat. These percentages refer to the amount of fat by weight, not calories. For the calcium, fat, and cholesterol in various types of milk, refer to "Milk: A Great Calcium Source " on this page.

Cheese varieties vary in their total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol content. That said, fat-free and

Milk: A Great Calcium Source*

Saturated

Calcium

Fat

Fat

Cholesterol

Milk

Calories

(mg)

(g)

(g)

(mg)

8 ounces...

buttermilk, low-fat

100

285

2

1.5

10

unflavored milk

fat-free

85

300

<0.5

<0.5

5

1% low-fat

100

290

2

1.5

10

2% reduced fat

120

285

5

3

20

whole

150

275

8

4.5

25

chocolate milk

1% low-fat

160

290

2

1.5

10

2% reduced fat

190

270

5

3

20

whole

210

280

8

5

30

4 ounces...

eggnog

170

165

10

5.5

75

evaporated milk

fat-free

100

370

<1

<0.5

5

whole

170

330

10

5.5

35

sweetened

condensed milk

490

435

13

8.5

50

  • Figures are rounded.
  • Figures are rounded.

potassium, too, which helps maintain healthy blood pressure. These foods provide cell-building protein.

More health advice: most Milk Group choices should be fat-free or low-fat since they have little or no solid fat. To compare, cheese, whole milk, and products made from them are higher in saturated fats and cholesterol. High intake of saturated fats in particular raises LDL ("bad") cholesterol in blood, increasing heart disease risk. Using lower-fat dairy foods also helps you cut calories.

Milk: How Much?

How much from the Milk Group for you? And how do your choices stack up? The daily amount advised depends on your age. From age nine years on, the advice is 3 cups or its equivalent daily; for children ages two to eight years, the advice is 2 cups a day. Many people, teens and adult women especially, neglect the Milk Group.

One Cup of Milk or Its Equivalent Equals. Figure 1 cup of milk or yogurt, or 1/2 ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of process cheese as 1 cup from the Milk Group. To help keep your blood cholesterol levels healthy, make most of your choices fat-free or low-fat.

  • 1 cup milk (flavored or unflavored) or buttermilk
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) yogurt
  • V2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1V2 ounces hard cheese (Cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, parmesan)
  • V2 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 ounces process cheese (American)
  • V2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 cup pudding made with milk
  • 1 cup frozen yogurt
  • 1V2 cups ice cream

MyPyramid Pointers

Fit Milk Group foods in. Choose mostly fat-free or low-fat versions!

  • Fit calcium-rich foods into everyday meals and snacks: milk on cereal, cheese on a sandwich, yogurt dip with veggies, coffee "au lait" or "con leche" (with milk) or caffe latte, shredded cheese on soup or salad, or cottage cheese as a side dish. Try flavored milk (chocolate, strawberry, other flavors) if you prefer.
  • Snack on calcium-rich dairy foods: perhaps yogurt, milk, or cheese cubes. For dessert try frozen yogurt or pudding. Or carry single portions of pudding in a packed lunch or snack.
  • Use evaporated fat-free milk instead of cream in coffee, on cereals, whipped as a topping, and in recipes calling for cream. Although it's light yellow in color, evaporated fat-free milk has a creamy texture and less fat than cream.
  • Use plain, low-fat, or fat-free yogurt or cottage cheese (pureed in a blender) as a sour cream substitute.
  • Drink thick, creamy buttermilk, or use it in smoothies. Even with its "buttery" name, buttermilk is usually made from fat-free or low-fat milk.
  • Start your day with dairy: yogurt or a yogurt-fruit smoothie with breakfast.
  • Buy a milk jug or carton with deli or fast food.
  • Make oatmeal, other instant cereal, and creamy soups with low-fat or fat-free milk, rather than water.
  • If you're lactose intolerant, look for lactose-free and lower-lactose alternatives, such as hard cheese and yogurt, or take lactase enzyme capsules or tablets before eating milk products. Or add a few drops of it (available in stores) in liquid form.
  • If you avoid dairy foods, choose calcium-fortified foods (soy beverages, juice, cereal, breads, and rice drinks); some are vitamin D-fortified, too. Choose other nondairy foods that contain more calcium: canned salmon or sardines with edible bones, some leafy greens (collard and turnip greens, kale, bok choy), some dried beans, and tempeh or soy yogurt.
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