Information taken from the US Department of Agriculture
All fluid milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Most Dairy Group choices should be fat-free or low-fat. Foods made from milk that retain their calcium content are part of the group. Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, are not. Calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage) is also part of the Dairy Group.
Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
COMMONLY EATEN DAIRY PRODUCTS
all fluid milk:
low fat (1%)
reduced fat (2%)
hard natural cheeses:
whole milk yogurt
Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. If you choose milk or yogurt that is not fat-free, or cheese that is not low-fat, the fat in the product counts against your maximum limit for "empty calories" (calories from solid fats and added sugars). If sweetened milk products are chosen (flavored milk, yogurt, drinkable yogurt, desserts), the added sugars also count against your maximum limit for "empty calories" (calories from solid fats and added sugars).
For those who are lactose intolerant, smaller portions (such as 4 fluid ounces of milk) may be well tolerated. Lactose-free and lower-lactose products are available. These include lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk, yogurt, and cheese, and calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage). Also, enzyme preparations can be added to milk to lower the lactose content. Calcium-fortified foods and beverages such as cereals, orange juice, or rice or almond beverages may provide calcium, but may not provide the other nutrients found in dairy products.
HEALTH BENEFITS & NUTRIENTS
Consuming dairy products provides health benefits especially improved bone health. Foods in the Dairy Group provide nutrients that are vital for health and maintenance of your body. These nutrients include calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein.
Intake of dairy products is linked to improved bone health, and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The intake of dairy products is especially important to bone health during childhood and adolescence, when bone mass is being built. Intake of dairy products is also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and with lower blood pressure in adults.
Calcium is used for building bones and teeth and in maintaining bone mass. Dairy products are the primary source of calcium in American diets. Diets that provide 3 cups or the equivalent of dairy products per day can improve bone mass. Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Dairy products, especially yogurt, fluid milk, and soymilk (soy beverage), provide potassium. Vitamin D functions in the body to maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorous, thereby helping to build and maintain bones. Milk and soymilk (soy beverage) that are fortified with vitamin D are good sources of this nutrient.Other sources include vitamin D-fortified yogurt and vitamin D-fortified ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. Milk products that are consumed in their low-fat or fatfree forms provide little or no solid fat.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO MAKE FAT-FREE OR LOW-FAT CHOICES FROM THE DAIRY GROUP?
Choosing foods from the Dairy Group that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol can have health implications. Diets high in saturated fats raise "bad" cholesterol levels in the blood. The "bad" cholesterol is called LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol, in turn, increases the risk for coronary heart disease. Many cheeses, whole milk, and products made from them are high in saturated fat. To help keep blood cholesterol levels healthy, limit the amount of these foods you eat. In addition, a high intake of fats makes it difficult to avoid consuming more calories than are needed.
TIPS FOR MAKING WISE CHOICES IN THE DAIRY GROUP
Include milk or calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage) as a beverage at meals.
Choose fat-free or low-fat milk. If you usually drink whole milk, switch gradually to fat-free milk, to lower saturated fat and calories.
Try reduced fat (2%), then low-fat (1%), and finally fat-free (skim).
If you drink cappuccinos or lattes ask for them with fat-free (skim) milk.
Add fat-free or low-fat milk instead of water to oatmeal and hot cereals.
Use fat-free or low-fat milk when making condensed cream soups (such as cream of tomato).
Have fat-free or low-fat yogurt as a snack.
Make a dip for fruits or vegetables from yogurt.
Make fruit-yogurt smoothies in the blender.
For dessert, make chocolate or butterscotch pudding with fat-free or low-fat milk.
Top cut-up fruit with flavored yogurt for a quick dessert.
Top casseroles, soups, stews, or vegetables with shredded reduced-fat or low-fat cheese.
Top a baked potato with fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
KEEP IT SAFE
Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk or any products made from unpasteurized milk.
Chill (refrigerate) perishable food promptly and defrost foods properly.
Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers as soon as possible. If food has been left at temperatures between 40° and 140° F for more than two hours, discard it, even though it may look and smell good.
Separate raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods.
FOR THOSE WHO CHOOSE NOT TO CONSUME MILK PRODUCTS
If you avoid milk because of lactose intolerance, the most reliable way to get the health benefits of dairy products is to choose lactose-free alternatives within the Dairy Group, such as cheese, yogurt, lactose-free milk, or calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage) or to consume the enzyme lactase before consuming milk. Calcium choices for those who do not consume dairy products include:
Calcium-fortified juices, cereals, breads, rice milk, or almond milk. Canned fish (sardines, salmon with bones) soybeans and other soy products (tofu made with calcium sulfate, soy yogurt, tempeh), some other beans, and some leafy greens (collard and turnip greens, kale, bok choy). The amount of calcium that can be absorbed from these foods varies.
HOW MUCH IS MY ALLOWANCE FOR DAIRY PRODUCTS?
A person’s allowance for dairy products depends on age, sex, and level of physical activity.
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