The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a daily intake of 3 servings of milk or milk products for individuals over age 9, 2½ servings for children ages 4 to 8 years old, and 2 servings for children ages 2 to 3 years old.

Dairy foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt deliver a powerful nutrient package that contributes to a healthy body, providing high-quality protein plus nutrients such as vitamins A and B12, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and pantothenic acid. Dairy products are also a good source of calcium and vitamin D, which are considered “nutrients of concern” because many U.S. adults don’t get enough of them on a daily basis.

Take a look at the chart below…how does your intake of these important nutrients stack up?

Age/GenderCalcium Needs/DayVitamin D Needs/Day
1–3700 milligrams15 mcg (600 IU)
4–81,000 milligrams15 mcg (600 IU)
9–181,300 milligrams15 mcg (600 IU)
19–501,000 milligrams15 mcg (600 IU)
51–70 (men)1,000 milligrams15 mcg (600 IU)
51–70 (women)1,200 milligrams15 mcg (600 IU)
71 +1,200 milligrams20 mcg (800 IU)
Pregnant and breastfeeding adults1,000 milligrams15 mcg (600 IU)

Some of the key health benefits connected with an adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D include:

  • Strong bones and teeth
  • Lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures
  • Optimal bone growth and development in children and teens
  • Lower risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes

If you are currently falling short of these vital nutrients, strive to enjoy at least the daily recommendation for dairy products to fill the gaps in your diet. Not sure what one serving looks like? This simple guide makes it easy to plan milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese into everyday meals and snacks to meet your body’s needs.

Cottage cheese1 ¼ cup
Milk1 cup
Yogurt1 cup
Ricotta cheese½ cup
Shredded cheese1/3 cup
Hard cheese1½ ounces

Here are easy ideas to give your diet a dairy boost.

What about supplements?

While it may seem easier (and require less planning) to take a daily calcium supplement, it means you could miss essential vitamins not found in a pill, such as minerals and protein supplied by nutritious milk, yogurt, and cheese.

The best nutrition depends on an overall healthy eating pattern, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, National Institutes of Health, and American Academy of Pediatrics encourage a “food first” approach to meet nutrient needs.

Connect with an expert Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to discuss supplements and determine if they are right for you or your child.

References:

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/

https://www.americandairy.com/dairy-farms/dairy-facts/faqs.stml

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