Dairy foods are packed with nutrients needed by everyone. But, lately, I hear a lot of dairy bashing. Almond milk is trendy and whey protein powder is hot but neither of these offer the same benefits as consuming naturally nutrient rich dairy foods. For the record, almond milk has only a couple of grams of protein compared to 8 grams in an 8-ounce glass of milk. As for whey protein, milk has both whey and casein proteins and research shows that both of these proteins are important stimulators of muscle protein building. When I worked with athletes at a university we used low-fat chocolate milk as our recovery beverage. Some athletes thought it wasn’t as exciting as a whey protein shake. It might not be as exciting in the eyes of a young football player, but low-fat chocolate milk is a great recovery drink. We “deconstructed” chocolate milk (attached handout) to show them how good it was to help them recover after practice and games
For those of us over 50, we have even more reasons to eat dairy foods. Women between the ages of 51-70 and men over the age of 70 are at high risk for poor intakes of calcium, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements (http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/) and dairy food are excellent sources of calcium. Dairy foods also contain Vitamins D, B12, A, B-vitamins riboflavin and niacin, and the minerals potassium, and magnesium. As we age, we need more of some nutrients yet we need fewer calories. That is why I recommend dairy foods (I have no affiliation with the dairy industry and serve on no advisory boards or speaker’s bureaus….I just like dairy foods!)
One of the hottest research areas is protein intake and muscle building and maintenance. As we age we lose muscle mass and that is one reason so many of us lift weights to preserve precious muscle. But, weight training needs nutritional support and consuming protein throughout the day is more beneficial than eating one protein heavy meal a day (usually dinner is the protein-heavy meal). By adding dairy foods to breakfast and lunch protein gets spaced out to provide the maximal muscle protein stimulus. Aim for 20-30 grams of protein a each meal. Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, and reduced fat mozzarella cheese are my favorite protein-rich “go to” foods.
Another “complaint” I hear from some folks is that milk has sugar, so it is best to avoid it. Milk contains lactose, a naturally occurring sugar but the food label doesn’t separate natural sugars from added sugars. And, if you are lactose-intolerant, it doesn’t mean you are dairy-intolerant. Yogurt, cottage cheese and most cheeses are low in lactose and can be consumed by many people who can’t drink milk.
So, celebrate June, National Dairy Month, by trying dairy foods for needed nutrients, quality protein and great taste.