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A glass of milk with a green straw sits in front of a small jug of milk, in an outdoor setting.. [CREDIT: pixabay.com, Imo Flow]

January 11 is National Milk Day

Did you know Tuesday (Jan. 11) is National Milk Day in the United States? More importantly, do you know what is a dairy food, and why we need them?

Dairy foods are, of course, a key part of the MyPlate dietary guide from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Dairy foods include milk, yogurt and cheese. All are calcium-rich and needed for healthy bones. Over a lifetime, we need to be sure that we are consuming enough foods from this group to reduce the risk of low bone mass and osteoporosis. But calcium also helps with your heartbeat, muscle contractions, nerve functions, and much more.

A glass of milk with a green straw sits in front of a small jug of milk, in an outdoor setting.. [CREDIT: pixabay.com, Imo Flow]So, what exactly is in a glass of cow milk?

Well, depending on whether you choose low-fat, skim, no-fat, whole, or some other type of mlik, the fat and calorie contents will vary, but the nutrients found in the glass of milk remains about the same. Those nutrients include calcium, of course, but also vitamins D and A, protein, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and phosphorus. And, plain milk has no added sugars.

There also is a range of cultured milk products. These include buttermilk, drinkable yogurt and kefir, which can be made with milk from cows, goats or sheep. These products are fermented by adding “friendly” bacteria to the item. They contain calcium and vitamin D. But, make sure to still check the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Nutrition Facts” label to make a good nutrient comparison.

However or whatever you choose to eat or drink from the dairy group, try to enjoy it for all three of your daily meals. Keep portion control in mind, of course, and keep it to just a serving. For more information on how much dairy you should be eating daily, visit MyPlate.

Remember, milk and other dairy products have a “use by” date. If you’re nearing that expiration date, consider freezing your milk to use it later. Freezing milk is a great option and a good way to save money rather than just throwing it down the drain. Milk expands when it freezes, so make sure you have enough room in the carton.

When you are ready to thaw your frozen milk, just place the container in your refrigerator or, if you’re in a hurry, in cold water. Once thawed, you might notice a difference in both the flavor and texture of the milk. If so, you might want to use the milk in a recipe for pancakes, waffles, etc., or just enjoy it in a smoothie.

For some, eating from the dairy group is not an option, given dietary or other issues. Soy milk provides an alternative, though it is lower in protein, riboflavin, and vitamins A and D, compared to cow milk. But, some soy milks are fortified with riboflavin, as well as vitamins A and D. Soy milk also provides a good alternative to low-fat cow milk for those watching cholesteral levels, since it is cholesterol-free.

Almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, oat milk and other plant-based milks are not part of the dairy group, per USDA. While some of these alternative drinks are fortified with calcium and vitamins, some also contain added sugars and sodium. So, be sure to read nutrition label on the container to make the best choice for you and your family.

You have a lot of good reasons to enjoy a cold glass of milk, and a lot of choices when selecting the type of milk to enjoy. So, find what you like, what gives you best nutritional bang for the buck, and celebrate National Milk Day… Tuesday and all year ’round.

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