There are several challenges for the dairy industry when it comes to getting consumers to understand how dairy can be a healthy part of their balanced diet.
“Dairy does contain some saturated fat, and this has been a concern in the past,” said Rosemary Rodibaugh, professor of nutrition for the University of Arkansas’ Division of Agriculture. “But not all saturated fats have the same effect on health. We need to continue to research the effect of dairy fat on health.”
Rodibaugh said that some people are concerned about fat and calories in dairy products and may choose to consume less dairy because of that concern. Research is conflicting on the effect of dairy intake on body weight. The general recommendation is to choose fat-free or lowfat dairy foods most of the time. Fat-free and lowfat dairy products have all of the same nutrients that full fat products do, just less fat and calories.
“There has been a lot of research conducted on the relationship of dairy food to health in the last 20 years or so,” Rodibaugh said. “And we know that dairy products provide a number of nutrients beneficial to our health.”
Dairy foods contribute half of the calcium and vitamin D and about a fifth of the protein to our diets, all of which are important for bone health. Dairy products are also important contributors of several minerals essential for health. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, consuming milk and milk products is positively linked to bone health. It is also associated with lower risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes and with lower blood pressure in adults.
“There are also concerns about the hormones and antibiotics that are given to cows affecting humans,” said Teresa DeFord Petefish, FNEP project manager for Greene County and the Southwest Region Extension areas for the University of Missouri. “The types of hormones used are deconstructed by stomach acid so they don’t cause a problem when you are eating or drinking dairy products. Research hasn’t confirmed that the antibiotics are dangerous. There are hormone and antibiotic-free milk products available for those who want to avoid these substances.”
The recommended daily dairy intake as part of a “balanced/healthy” diet is as follows:
• Children 2-3 years old need 2 cups
• Children 4-8 years old need 2 ½ cups
• Children age 9 and older, and adults need 3 cups
The types of dairy products can be a part of this recommended diet includes low-fat and non-fat milk, cheese and yogurt.
“Lactose intolerance is also an issue for many people, however it has been shown that yogurt with live active cultures can be consumed without too much discomfort,” Rodibaugh said. The live active cultures in the yogurt will help the digestive balance. There are also lactose-free dairy products.”
“Moderation and balance are the keys to making healthful food choices,” DeFord Petefish said. “Low-fat and non-fat dairy foods in recommended amounts are a part of a balanced diet. Including vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats along with dairy everyday provides the nutrients needed for health.”


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