Few mornings go by that I don’t wake up and have a bowl of cereal with milk (the exception being when I visit Montreal – I can’t resist those bagels!).
Dairy products are a big part of my diet; I eat a lot of yogurt and cheese, and drink milk every day.
Milk and alternatives is an important food group for many reasons, including that it provides vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, potassium, protein and fat. Calcium is important for building and maintaining strong bones — for kids but also for adults!
Even though we have stopped growing, calcium helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis (the thinning of bone tissue which can lead to a greater risk of bone fracture).
Which to choose?
Milk products come in all different shapes and sizes, but it is important to choose lower fat options, like skim, 1 % or 2 % milk, reduced fat cheese (20% or less milk fat), and lower fat yogurt (2% or less milk fat). I know what you are thinking: that’s a lot of numbers to remember! But these numbers usually appear in big font on the front of the package. You can also keep your eye out for the Health Check logo for some healthy options!
How much dairy do we need every day?
Canada’s Food Guide recommends two servings per day for men and women between the ages of 19 to 50, and three servings if you are 51 and older.
Some examples of a serving include:
• 1 cup (250mL) milk or fortified soy beverage
• ¾ cup (175g) yogurt
• 1½ oz (50g) cheese
• 1 cup (250 mL) cottage cheese
If you don’t think you are getting these servings, try adding some in throughout the day as snacks. Yogurt is very versatile- it makes an excellent breakfast, mid morning or afternoon snack, and even works as a dessert! If you don’t already, add milk or fortified soy beverage to your smoothie — it makes it creamy and delicious!
Many people have milk sensitivities, allergies, or are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the sugar found in milk, and some people lack the enzyme needed to break it down, which causes stomach upset. This is quite different from a milk allergy, where the protein found in milk causes an immune reaction. These symptoms are usually respiratory rather than digestive. Either way, people with allergies or intolerances need to find a way to get the calcium they need. Hard cheeses and yogurt have less lactose, so some people with lactose intolerance find these easier on their stomach.
But there are plenty of other calcium-rich foods to enjoy: fortified soy beverages (key word being fortified– it means the nutrients have been added in), veggies like broccoli, kale and bok choy, fish, firm tofu and beans. And of course there is always lactose-free products, such as milk.