The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that all Americans over the age of nine should consume three cups/servings of milk or milk products each day (1 cup of milk, 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese equals one serving); two and a half cups per day are recommended for children aged four-eight years; and two cups per day for children aged two-three years.

Click to read more about The Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Enjoying three servings of dairy foods including milk, cheese or yogurt, is a deliciously easy way to help build stronger bones and healthier bodies because together, these foods provide a powerful package of nutrients. Cow’s milk is a good or excellent source of 13 essential nutrients including protein, calcium, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, iodine, potassium, and pantothenic acid. Studies show that dairy foods, when eaten as part of a healthy diet, improve overall diet quality and may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Dairy foods provide a unique mix of nutrients including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein and vitamin D that work together to help protect bones, by maximizing bone density and slowing age-related bone loss.

The positive link between calcium in dairy products and bone health has been established for decades through dozens of clinical studies. Research shows dairy foods, when consumed as part of a healthy diet, improve overall diet quality and may help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Chocolate milk is an excellent exercise recovery drink due to its powerful nutrient package that supplies the nutrition the body needs after a workout. Milk has carbohydrates to help refuel the body, protein to help reduce muscle breakdown and stimulate growth, and fluid and electrolytes to aid in rehydration.

The National Academy of Sciences recommends American adults consume 1,000-1,300 mg of calcium per day, depending on age and gender. Eating three servings daily of milk, cheese or yogurt can help you meet these recommendations. Teens and those over age 50 have higher calcium needs, thus eating four servings of dairy foods can help them meet these recommendations. To find out how much calcium you need — and how many Americans aren’t getting enough — see Calcium Fact Sheet from NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.

More than just calcium, milk, yogurt and cheese also contain other essential nutrients needed for health and wellbeing. While a calcium supplement may help you meet your daily calcium needs, you likely miss out on these other important nutrients that dairy foods provide. Good nutrition depends on overall healthful eating and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics believe that individuals should attempt to meet their nutrient needs through food first.

Yes, low-fat and fat free milk have the same calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals and naturally occurring sugar as whole milk. The only difference in these milks are their fat and calorie content. Whole milk is 3.25% fat, fat-free or skim milk has nearly all the fat removed.

Lactose intolerance doesn’t have to mean dairy food avoidance. In fact, research shows that many individuals who are lactose intolerant can enjoy the recommended three servings of dairy foods daily.

Lactose intolerance is not an allergy, but an intolerance to the naturally occurring sugar lactose in milk. Most people who have it can enjoy dairy foods by drinking lactose-free milk, small amounts of regular milk, or including natural cheeses and yogurt in their diet. Lactose-free milk is real milk, just without the lactose. Yogurt, with live and active cultures, contains friendly bacteria and enzymes which help digest lactose. Aged cheeses are naturally low in lactose.

French doctor and scientist Louis Pasteur invented the process of pasteurization more than a century ago. Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to at least 161° Fahrenheit for 15 seconds to remove milk-borne pathogens. This simple process destroys harmful bacteria while maintaining milk’s quality, taste and nutritional value. Since its discovery, pasteurization has safeguarded much of our food supply, including milk and dairy products. By heating raw milk in specially designed equipment, pasteurization ensures the safety and wholesomeness of milk.

Cow’s milk, a quality protein source, is made up of primarily whey and casein proteins. Whey protein is a high-quality protein. Compared to many other proteins, on a gram-to-gram basis, whey protein delivers more essential amino acids to the body and is absorbed quickly and efficiently.

For more information, visit The Power of Whey Protein.

According to the United Nations Food Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, probiotics are “live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Traditionally, these “friendly bacteria” were found in fermented foods such as yogurt and cultured milk but can now be found as an added ingredient in milk and cheese as well. Some strains of probiotics have been associated with digestive health, while others may benefit the immune system. The science on probiotics is new and evolving, so no definitive conclusions about their benefits can be determined yet.

Milk

  •       Refrigerate milk at 40°F or less as soon as possible after purchase and store in the original container.
  •         Return milk to the refrigerator immediately after pouring.
  •         Store milk in the coldest part of the refrigerator, which tends to be toward the back.
  •         Never return unused milk to the original container.
  •         Protect milk from exposure to strong light since light can reduce its riboflavin content and cause off-flavors.

Cheese

  •         Keep cheese at a temperature at or below 40° F.
  •         Wrap hard cheeses, such as cheddar, Gouda, Edam, and Swiss, in an inner layer of wax or parchment paper and an outer layer of plastic wrap to help maintain freshness.
  •         Generally, harder (low-moisture) cheeses keep longer in the refrigerator than softer (higher-moisture) cheeses.

Yogurt

  •         Yogurt should be stored in closed containers in the refrigerator at 40° F to maintain its quality.
  •         Store yogurt for one to two weeks after buying it. Prolonged refrigeration of yogurt should be avoided as yogurt bacteria tend to decrease in viability and numbers over time.

Butter

  •         To preserve butter’s flavor and freshness, refrigerate opened butter in a covered dish in the butter compartment.
  •         Unopened, wrapped butter may be stored in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Cream

  •         Keep it refrigerated in its closed container at 40° F or lower.  Heavy cream should be used within 10 days, while half and half should be consumed within 4 days.

·         Ultrapasteurized cream keeps up to 1 month, but once opened, it should be used within 1 week.

Every carton of milk sold in the United States is clearly labeled with a “sell by,” “pull,” “use by” or “best if used by” date. Each of these dates means something different. The “sell by” and “pull” dates refer to how long a grocery store can keep the product in the dairy case. The product must be sold by the date labeled on the package. This date considers time for the food to be used at home, so you should buy the product before the “sell by” or “pull” date, but you don’t have to use it by then.

Learn more 

Yes and no, each dairy product is a bit different:

Milk: Milk can be frozen, but it is not preferred. Freezing changes the texture and appearance of milk. Freezing milk does not harm the milk but disturbs the quality in taste and consistency.

Cheese: Cheese can be frozen, but it may become mealy and crumbly when thawed. Thawed cheese is best used crumbled or shredded in salads, as toppings or in cooked dishes. Some cheeses are better frozen than others. Because blue cheese varieties like Roquefort and Gorgonzola are generally used crumbled, further change in their texture is of little consequence. Because other cheeses like Parmesan and Romano can be stored in the refrigerator for prolonged periods, freezing is unnecessary.

When freezing cheese, freeze quickly and store at 0º F or lower. Thaw in the refrigerator and use as soon as possible after thawing.

Find more instructions on freezing dairy foods here.

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