The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a daily intake of 2-3 servings of dairy for individuals nine years and older, 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, pantothenic acid, selenium, iodine, and zinc. 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/Gender Calcium Needs/Day Vitamin D Needs/Day
1–3 700 milligrams 15 mcg (600 IU)
4–8 1,000 milligrams 15 mcg (600 IU)
9–18 1,300 milligrams 15 mcg (600 IU)
19–50 1,000 milligrams 15 mcg (600 IU)
51–70 (men) 1,000 milligrams 15 mcg (600 IU)
51–70 (women) 1,200 milligrams 15 mcg (600 IU)
71 + 1,200 milligrams 20 mcg (800 IU)
Pregnant and breastfeeding adults 1,000 milligrams 15 mcg (600 IU)

Benefits of Calcium and Vitamin D

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

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 cheese 1 ¼ cup
Milk 1 cup
Yogurt 1 cup
Ricotta cheese ½ cup
Shredded cheese 1/3 cup
Hard cheese 1½ ounces

What About Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements?

While it may seem easier (and require less planning) to take daily calcium and vitamin D supplements, 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 supplementation and determine if they are right for you or your child.

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