Certainly, foods from other groups contain calcium, but foods outside this group generally contain less, and the body may not absorb it as well. In this article, we will discuss the health benefits of dairy. Eating the right amount of dairy can make your body stronger and be part of an alternative treatment against illnesses. Let's begin by taking a look at calcium and vitamin D, which are both provided by dairy products.
Calcium for Health
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If your body doesn't get enough calcium from food, it steals calcium from your bones to help keep a steady amount in your blood. Fortunately, it can be fairly easy to meet your daily calcium needs if you regularly enjoy milk, yogurt, and cheese.
The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. It is a unique vitamin -- your body can make its own vitamin D when sunlight makes contact with your skin. To get enough, it only takes a few minutes of sun exposure, three times a week, on your hands, arms, or face (without sunscreen). However, if you live in Northern climates or don't get outdoors much, especially in the winter, you should not rely on sunshine. Also, as you age, your body may not be as efficient at making vitamin D, so food sources become even more important.
Your most reliable source of vitamin D is milk. Although milk is fortified with the vitamin, dairy products made from milk such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream are generally not fortified with vitamin D. Only a few foods, including fatty fish and fish oils, naturally contain significant amounts of vitamin D. Other foods that contain smaller amounts of vitamin D include eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, and margarine.
Serving Up Dairy
To meet your calcium requirements, most people should have about three cups of dairy foods each day. Teens have the highest calcium requirements and should get about four cups daily. Each of the following equals one cup of dairy:
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1 1/2 ounces natural cheese (cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack, etc.)
- 2 ounces processed cheese (American)
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1 cup pudding
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup frozen yogurt
- 2 cups cottage cheese
- 1 1/2 cups ice cream
Milk is perhaps the most prominent member of the dairy group. In the next section, we will discuss milk's health benefits, including how much to consume each day.
| CALCIUM AT EVERY AGE AND STAGE|
| Age (years) ||Daily Calcium Needs (milligrams) |
| 1 to 3 ||500 |
| 4 to 8 ||800 |
| 9 to 18 ||1,300 |
| 19 to 50 ||1,000 |
| 51 and older ||1,200 |
| Pregnant/breast-feeding woman ||1,000 |
| Pregnant/breast-feeding teen (less than 18) ||1,300 |
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