Eat right, live well: Milk's nutritional benefits too important to ignore

  • Milk and cheese give dinner a boost of protein and carbohydrates; cauliflower ups the nutritional ante with added vitamins.

    Milk and cheese give dinner a boost of protein and carbohydrates; cauliflower ups the nutritional ante with added vitamins. Courtesy of Marla Heller

Posted6/3/2014 5:30 AM

Wondering where you can get high quality protein, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, vitamin A, essential vitamin B12 and riboflavin along with calcium and added vitamin D? Got milk?

OK, that tagline from the California Milk Processor Board may be overplayed, and eliminating dairy products might be the new trendy "diet," yet the nutritional benefits of milk and dairy products are impressive and too important to ignore.


Calcium is essential not only for building strong bones but it also aids our metabolism and helps manage our nervous system, muscle function (including the heart muscle) and blood clotting. Yet, a sizable percentage of Americans, especially adults older than 50, do not get enough calcium or vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption. Milk and dairy products are our best and most practical source of dietary calcium, and in the U.S. most milk is fortified with vitamin D.

Milk contains all three "macronutrients" -- protein, carbohydrates and fat -- but commercial dairy products vary in nutritional content. Sour cream, cottage cheese and yogurt are available with no fat, but even nonfat milk retains the same protein, calcium and vitamin D as whole milk. Greek yogurt is most notable for concentrating high quality dairy protein, and hard cheeses are very low in carbohydrates. Low fat cheese, with most of its carbohydrate lactose removed, can be an important option for those who are lactose intolerant. Some cheeses are high in sodium, but many reduced sodium options are available.

This month's recipe includes cheese and milk, the stars of the dairy family. Shredded reduced-sodium mild Cheddar cheese and shredded Swiss cheese, which contains less than one third the sodium of other common cheeses, make this healthier twist on classic macaroni rich and creamy. Calcium never tasted so good.

Toby Smithson, a registered dietitian, is the author of "Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies" and is a national spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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