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Nothing beats the heat like a cold glass of milk. It isn’t just full of flavor. It’s also full of 13 essential nutrients including calcium, vitamin D and protein. June is National Dairy Month, but luckily, dairy is in season all year long!

Dairy products include milk, cheese and yogurt. They can be used in almost any recipe to bulk up protein and enhance flavor. Try using low-fat plain Greek yogurt as a base for your smoothie or mix seasonings like cinnamon or allspice into yogurt for a delicious dip. When baking, if a recipe calls for water, try substituting milk instead. Your baked goods will taste rich and moist.

If lactose intolerance is an issue, opt for lactose-free milk. It’s real milk without the lactose, so you still get the same nutrition. Try natural cheeses, like cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Parmesan, which contain minimal amounts of lactose. Or choose yogurt with live, active cultures, which help break down lactose during digestion.

Dairy alternatives, like nut, soy, rice or oat beverages, are commonly chosen as lactose-free options.

While they are usually fortified with calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D, they usually have less protein and contain added sugar.

Real milk provides 8 grams of protein per cup, whereas some alternatives provide 0-2 grams of protein per cup.

Fortified soy beverage is nutritionally the closest to real milk, with 7 grams of protein per cup, earning it a place in the dairy group. Other alternatives (i.e. almond, rice, coconut, oat) are not nutritionally similar to real milk, so choosing them does not contribute to the recommended three servings of dairy per day.

If you’re worried about the treatment of cows on dairy farms, never fear! Dairy farmers want to keep their cows happy and healthy. Many dairy farms follow guidelines set by the National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) Program, which sets high standards for cow care and environmental stewardship.

The National Dairy Council is a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing science-based information with the public. For more information about dairy farming, sustainability and nutrition, visit their website at www.usdairy.com.

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