10 Reasons to Include Milk and Milk Products in Your Diet
One of the things I really enjoy about summer are the celebrations around National Dairy Month in June and National Ice Cream Month in July. I recently had the most delicious grocery shopping experience! My local grocery store held an “ice cream tasting” event featuring ice cream and gelato from several different Michigan companies. Of course, I had to try samples from each vendor! Another summer favorite is the “Breakfast on the Farm” events at different dairy farms around the state. These events help Michigan children and adults learn about where food comes from and provides them with a first-hand look at modern food production and farm families who work hard to produce the safe, wholesome dairy foods we enjoy.
Although summer is a great time to recognize and celebrate dairy foods, the goodness of milk and milk products can be appreciated year-round. Here are 10 reasons to include milk and other dairy foods in your diet throughout the year.
1. Taste. Let’s face it – dairy foods are delicious! Many of us enjoy the taste of milk including flavored milks such as chocolate, tangy yogurts, mellow to sharp cheeses, and countless flavors of ice cream. In addition to traditional flavors (e.g., vanilla, chocolate, strawberry), dairy products such as yogurts and ice creams with bold, savory, seasonal, and unique new flavors are grabbing consumers’ interest. Taste is the number one factor determining consumers’ food choices.
2. Nutrition. Dairy foods are a nutritional powerhouse. With nine essential nutrients including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, high-quality protein, vitamins A, D, and B12, riboflavin, and niacin (niacin equivalents), milk, cheese, and yogurt together pack a powerful nutrient punch. Milk is the #1 dietary source of calcium, potassium, and vitamin D in the American diet. These are three of the four nutrients of concern identified by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).
3. Health Benefits. Dairy foods have multiple health benefits. Milk and milk products (cheese, yogurt) are associated with improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and lower blood pressure in adults, according to the 2010 DGA. Most recently, the scientific report issued by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee acknowledges dairy’s health benefits including lower risks of diabetes, metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes), cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
4. Sustainability. The dairy industry, including that in Michigan, is committed to food sustainability. This means providing consumers with the nutritious dairy products that positively affect our communities economically, environmentally, and socially now and for future generations. For example, Michigan dairy farmers strive every day to conserve and optimally manage natural resources such as land, air, and water for future generations.
5. Fighting Hunger. Nutrient-rich gallons of milk are donated by Michigan dairy farm families, dairy processors, and consumers to food banks throughout Michigan to help hungry families get the milk and nutrition they need. One in six Michigan residents are food insecure, making hunger a serious issue in the state, and milk, with its nine essential nutrients, is the ideal food to help close nutrient gaps.
6. Affordable. Dairy foods are one of the most affordable sources of nutrition in the grocery store. At about 25 cents per 8-ounce glass, on a gallon basis, milk is an economical source of nutrients, especially calcium, potassium, and vitamin D, which are low in most people’s diets. Few foods deliver dairy’s nutrients in such an affordable, appealing, and accessible way.
7. Safe. Pasteurized milk and milk products are among the safest and highest quality foods in the U.S., in large part because of the strict food safety controls and vigilance at every stage of dairy production, processing, and distribution – from farm to table.
8. Local. Michigan milk is local, obtained from Michigan’s 1,900 Grade A dairy farms. Buying Michigan milk, cheese, and yogurt not only supports the local economy, but it also means that you’re buying high-quality dairy products.
9. Variety. The dairy case has something for everyone – skim (0% fat) milk, 1% milk, 2% milk, whole milk, flavored milk, lactose-free milk, cultured milk (buttermilk, kefir), natural and processed cheeses as well as reduced-fat and lower sodium cheeses, yogurts including Greek yogurt and reduced-sugar yogurts, and ice creams, gelatos, etc.
10. Versatile. Dairy foods can be consumed at meals and snacks throughout the day, paired with other foods (e.g., cheese and vegetable kabobs, yogurt and fruit smoothies, etc.), and used as ingredients in a countless number of recipes. A new cookbook, The Dairy Good Cookbook: Everyday Comfort Food from America’s Dairy Farm Families features 115 recipes from dairy farmers throughout the country, and highlights dairy’s unique concentration of nutrients and versatility in the kitchen.