Dairy products, like milk, yogurt, and cheese contain several nutrients that benefit our overall health and wellness. Cow’s milk is an excellent source of the 13 essential nutrients; protein, calcium, vitamins A, D, and B12, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, iodine, potassium, and pantothenic acid.
Whether you’re a busy college student or are simply trying to juggle the responsibilities of daily life, a balanced diet can positively impact your health and well-being, mood, cognitive function, stress levels, risk of chronic disease, and more. Dairy foods can help reduce the risk of type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease and stroke, as well as play an integral role in our bone health.
While low-fat and fat-free dairy foods are recommended within the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans as part of an overall healthy dietary pattern, dairy foods also play an important role in your mental health and wellness. This can be associated with stress relief, calmness, and mindfulness.
Here are some of the ways in which dairy can improve your physical health, overall well-being, and mental health.
Stable Moods and Sustained Energy
Ample research supports that the consumption of a balanced meal or snack consisting of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and fiber promote stable blood sugar responses and energy levels. Dairy foods offer carbohydrates, protein, and fat packaged into one unit that can easily be paired with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes to add fiber that will provide sustained energy.
Eating balanced meals and snacks help avoid chaotic blood sugar swings, which can impact (affecting) mood, cognition, and hormonal responses (1). Therefore, eating dairy regularly as part of an overall healthy and balanced diet may improve your mood and ability to concentrate. Dairy foods can also provide longer-lasting energy, more calmness, and less extreme energy drops.
Stress Relief and Cognitive Enhancements
A 2016 study published in Preventive Nutrition and Food Science found that fermented foods, such as cultured dairy products, demonstrated positive effects on stress relief and memory enhancement, potentially via gut microbiota improvements (1). A diverse gut microbiota, which can be enhanced through probiotic-rich foods, like kefir, yogurt, and cultured cottage cheese, can positively impact the function of the central nervous system and may help mitigate the stress response. Research also shows that certain probiotics, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus, can produce GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps with calmness and relaxation (2).
Dairy foods also bring back heart-warming memories from childhood and offer ways to create new memories. For example, consider enjoying a warm bedtime treat of a frothed Cherry Milk Steamer as you wind down for the day. Or imagine starting your evening routine with a snack, like a bowl of Mini Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Cereal, paired with a book, movie, meditation, alone time, or connecting with your partner. Memories are to be made and doing it the right way starts with a dairy by your side.
The next time you’re reaching for a snack, choose dairy and enjoy the deliciously calming, mindful, and nutritious experience.
- Gannon, M. C., Nuttall, F. Q., Saeed, A., Jordan, K., & Hoover, H. (2003). An increase in dietary protein improves the blood glucose response in persons with type 2 diabetes. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 78(4), 734–741. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/78.4.734
- Kim, B., Hong, V. M., Yang, J., Hyun, H., Im, J. J., Hwang, J., Yoon, S., & Kim, J. E. (2016). A Review of Fermented Foods with Beneficial Effects on Brain and Cognitive Function. Preventive nutrition and food science, 21(4), 297–309. https://doi.org/10.3746/pnf.2016.21.4.297