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Don’t forget the dairy!

By Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN Registered Dietitian, K-VA-T Food Stores • May 30, 2018 at 6:15 AM

Did you know that June is National Dairy Month? Most of us should be getting two to three servings of dairy each day to meet our calcium and vitamin D needs for bone health and, in the case of vitamin D, mental health as well. Dairy foods are found in large supply at the grocery store, so it’s easy to find lots of delicious ways to enjoy dairy as a part of a healthy lifestyle.

Milk: Milk is an excellent source of calcium, but also contains protein, riboflavin, vitamins A and D, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. Low-fat or fat-free versions are recommended since the type of fat found in dairy is saturated fat, which is more likely to clog your arteries and increase your risk for heart disease. If you are sensitive to lactose, pick a lactose-free version. Milk alternatives such as soy milk and almond milk are typically fortified with calcium and vitamin D, but just remember that the protein content is often lower than dairy milk, and added sugars are common.

Yogurt and kefir: Yogurt is high in calcium and protein, and often contains probiotics or live, active cultures, which can help to populate the gut with beneficial bacteria. Kefir is a fermented, drinkable yogurt that is also packed with probiotics. Remember to choose low-fat or fat-free versions and opt for plain varieties when possible to avoid added sugar. Yogurt also contains less lactose than milk. Plus, the presence of live cultures can help a person with lactose intolerance enjoy these products with less symptoms.

Cheese: Cheese contains nutrients similar to those found in milk, such as protein, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A, riboflavin and vitamin B12. Certain types of cheeses can also be high in sodium and saturated fat, so make sure to check the nutrition facts panel and eat cheese in moderation. One ounce is typically a serving, which is about the size of four dice. Cream cheeses and cheese spreads are often higher in calories and fat, while delivering little calcium. Try to choose low-fat versions of these foods when possible and watch portion sizes.

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