Dairy not only provides a bone-strengthening foundation, but is also key in maintaining a healthy immune system. Impressed yet? Our immune system helps us stay healthy, protecting us from bacteria, viruses, and colds, which is all the more reason to continue to add dairy to your meals. Boost your day-to-day meals with some of the following additions: 1 cup milk, 1 1/2  ounces hard cheese (such as Cheddar, Swiss, or Parmesan), 1-ounce processed cheese (such as American), 1/2 cup ricotta, an 8-ounce yogurt, or 1/3 cup shredded cheese.

These are many delicious ways to get creative with your meals while keeping in mind that doing it with dairy leads to a healthy life overall! Let’s dive into three ways in which dairy can improve your immune health.

Promotes Good Gut Health

It’s estimated that 70% of your immune cells live in your gut. Probiotics, commonly known as “good bacteria” are key to boosting immunity. Fermented dairy foods such as yogurt, kefir, and cottage cheese, are excellent sources of probiotics. Researchers also recommend that individuals consume probiotics from foods, rather than supplements, because food contains the live bacteria which provide probiotic benefits.

Increases Zinc Absorption

Zinc is an essential mineral, especially when it comes to the immune system, as it helps in the growth and development of immune cells. Not only does dairy provide zinc in a form your body can readily use, but it also helps increase zinc absorption because of the vitamin D that it has. There are a limited number of food sources with vitamin D, and dairy hits the mark as a good one. One study found that dairy products combined with foods that contain high amounts of phytic acids, like rice, corn, beans, nuts, and seeds increased zinc absorption. Zinc and vitamin D have a synergistic relationship, and the fact that dairy products contain both of these nutrients tells you that they can boost not only your immune health but also your overall health.

Fights Off infection

Protein can help fight off infection. When you eat foods with protein, the protein sends a signal to the immune cells telling it to release chemicals that destroy or reduce harmful bacteria. Dairy is considered a high-quality protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids. Some great dairy sources of protein are: 1 cup milk (8 grams protein), 1/2 cup cottage cheese (12 grams protein), and 6 ounces Greek yogurt (17 grams protein!). Whether you prefer full, reduced, or low-fat dairy products, the protein content will be the same.

Now that you have learned three reasons to include dairy in your diet, try out these easy, protein-packed shakes to strengthen your immune system in the tastiest way possible!

Creamy Papaya Protein Shake