Health benefits and nutrients
Consuming milk and milk products provides health benefits—people who have a diet rich in milk and milk products can reduce the risk of low bone mass throughout the life cycle. Foods in the milk group provide nutrients that are vital for health and maintenance of your body. These nutrients include calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein.
- Diets rich in milk and milk products help build and maintain bone mass throughout the lifecycle. This may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- The intake of milk products is especially important to bone health during childhood and adolescence, when bone mass is being built.
- Diets that include milk products tend to have a higher overall nutritional quality.
Food sources of the nutrients in bold can be found in the Dietary Guidelines. Click on the nutrient name to link to the food sources table.
- Calcium is used for building bones and teeth and in maintaining bone mass. Milk products are the primary source of calcium in American diets. Diets that provide 3 cups or the equivalent of milk products per day can improve bone mass.
- Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Milk products, especially yogurt and fluid milk, provide potassium.
- Vitamin D functions in the body to maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorous, thereby helping to build and maintain bones. Milk that is fortified with vitamin D is a good source of this nutrient. Other sources include vitamin D-fortified yogurt and vitamin D-fortified ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.
- Milk products that are consumed in their low-fat or fat-free forms provide little or no solid fat.
Why is it important to make fat-free or low-fat choices from the milk group?
Choosing foods from the milk group that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol can have health implications. Diets high in saturated fats raise “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood. The “bad” cholesterol is called LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol, in turn, increases the risk for coronary heart disease. Many cheeses, whole milk, and products made from them are high in saturated fat. To help keep blood cholesterol levels healthy, limit the amount of these foods you eat. In addition, a high intake of fats makes it difficult to avoid consuming more calories than are needed.
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