While nutrition is something we think about every month, March is National Nutrition Month and a perfect time to highlight the importance of making informed choices about healthy eating habits. With so much conflicting and competing information, it can be confusing and overwhelming. For this reason, it’s often recommended to stick to the basics like eating a balanced diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, non-processed foods, and your favorite dairy products.
Consuming dairy is an important part of obtaining the recommended daily nutrition our bodies need. To celebrate National Nutrition month, here are 7 nutritional benefits of dairy that you may not know:
1. Lucky Number 13.
Milk has been called “nature’s perfect food” because one 8 oz. glass is packed with essential nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy. Thirteen, in fact, including high quality protein, Vitamin D – which is associated with a healthy immune system – and calcium for strong bones and teeth. Milk is an excellent option to help keep your family healthy as it is accessible, affordable, and sustainably produced. It is also fresh – milk gets from Connecticut dairy farms to your table in about 48 hours.
2. Helps Our Immune System.
We all understand the importance of having a healthy immune system and studies show dairy can be an ally to help our bodies fight off illnesses, viruses, and bacteria. Milk contains vitamins and nutrients that the Harvard University School of Medicine has recommended to strengthen the immune system. This includes Vitamin D, Vitamin A, zinc, selenium, potassium, and protein. Similarly, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) encourages consuming fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir to promote the growth of “good bacteria” in the gut and thus promoting a healthy immune system.
3. Reduces Risk of Diabetes.
Milk is also an ally in preventing diabetes. Studies have found a link between consuming dairy and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, milk, cheese, and yogurt – regardless of fat content – are recommended as part of healthy dietary patterns for those at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, as well as obese and overweight adults who have it.
4. A Healthy Heart.
Dairy foods are associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and reduced risk for stroke. Harvard Medical School explains, “people who eat more dairy fat — which is plentiful in whole milk, yogurt, and cheese — may be less likely to develop heart disease than people who eat smaller amounts of dairy.” The study found that “people with the highest levels of the fatty acid had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Consuming the daily recommended portions of dairy can be a key to keeping your heart strong and healthy.
5. Strong Bones.
Dairy is an excellent source of calcium and Vitamin D; the two nutrients are associated with having strong, healthy bones. The American Dairy Association recommends consuming three low-fat or fat-free dairy foods for children and adolescents to help achieve peak bone mass. “Even after you’ve reached peak bone mass, you should continue to consume dairy products regularly through adulthood. This will help maintain healthy bones and lower your risk of fracture and other bone diseases.”
6. Work Out Partner.
Drinking milk prior, during and after a workout can have positive impact. Unlike water, milk has high quality protein that can help repair and rebuild muscles, and electrolytes to replenish your body after a workout. Milk, including chocolate milk, has lower levels of sugar than commercial sports drinks, and it is more affordable.
7. Digestive Health.
Yogurt is not only an excellent breakfast or mid-day snack; it is also a great source of probiotics (live microorganisms that deliver a health benefit when consumed in adequate amounts). Probiotics are our best allies in maintaining a healthy digestive system.
This National Nutrition Month let’s remember the importance of a healthy and balanced diet, and how milk and dairy are an ally to help reach your nutritional goals. It’s also a great time to remember that milk is responsibly produced with a focus on taking care of cows and the environment.