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Dairy Does A Body Good

Article and Audio Introduction by Samantha Kennedy

There are no bones about it:  osteoporosis is no joke. Over time, this condition can lead to brittle bones that break easily and cause debilitating pain. Taking steps early to support bone health can go a long way toward decreasing the risk of developing osteoporosis later.

One excellent way to promote bone strength is through the consumption of calcium and vitamin D. These two nutrients work together to build and strengthen bone tissue. The best way to boost calcium intake is by having a diet filled with calcium-rich foods.

Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium. These foods – but most especially cow’s milk – are also rich in other minerals, such as phosphorus and potassium, as well as two of the B vitamins, B12 and riboflavin.

Phosphorus is important for cell maintenance and repair throughout the body and is especially important for healthy bones and teeth. Potassium is an important electrolyte that helps regulate both water balance and acid-base balance in the blood and tissues.

As for vitamin D, the body produces it naturally through exposure to the sun. Just 10 minutes of sun exposure a day is enough to help the body produce the vitamin D needed to aid in calcium absorption. Foods fortified with vitamin D, such as milk, orange juice, and soy or almond milk, also can provide adequate vitamin D to the body.

One thing to watch out for when choosing dairy foods is the fat content. While these foods are rich in beneficial nutrients, they also can be high in fat. However, there are a wide array of dairy choices that are lower in total fat.

Milk, yogurt, sour cream, and cheese are all available in low-fat or fat free varieties. In fact, fat free (i.e., skim) milk actually contains more calcium per 8 oz. than whole milk! Those unable to consume dairy products due to an allergy or lactose intolerance can still get calcium, vitamin D, and other minerals from products such as soy, almond, coconut, or rice milk which are fortified.  (See the infographic, “What’s in your glass?” from the National Dairy Council.)

Dairy foods are part of a healthy and balanced diet. They are rich in a variety of important vitamins and minerals that play a vital role in overall health. For more information about the benefits of dairy or for recipe ideas, please call your local Extension office.

Here is one quick and tasty idea for a cool summer treat:  Fruity Yogurt Popsicles!

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