A glass of milk is one of the best bargains in today’s cash-strapped world. For the price of a quarter – according to the Midwest Dairy Association (MDA), that’s how much it costs to pour yourself a tumbler – a Laborer can down a refreshing mix of calcium, vitamins and other nutrients that is tasty, healthy and economical.  Making milk and other dairy products staples in your diet makes sense physically and financially.

Enjoying Dairy

For some people, the pluses of dairy consumption are accompanied with some big minuses. One cup of milk contains significant amounts of calories and fat. Children under 2 years of age and people who have trouble maintaining weight are the only ones who should drink whole milk. For other adults, skim milk or milk that has a fat content of one percent is the appropriate choice. Some people might also have problems with lactose intolerance. These concerns don’t have to prevent you from reaping dairy’s benefits. Low-fat, fat free and lactose-free products provide all of dairy’s bounty without any of the negatives.

Dairy products are a great way to stretch your household budget, not only for today, but also down the road. Getting more bang for your buck now means more money in your bank account later. Snack aisle foods tend to be full of empty calories, and they are expensive. When you forego chips and sodas for dairy products, you are eating better for less. That means you’ll have more money for relaxation and enjoyment or to set aside for a healthier retirement.

Nutrients in Dairy

Dairy nutrients and their roles in a healthy diet include:
Potassium: Helps regulate your body’s fluid balance. Vitamin B12: Helps build red blood cells. Vitamin A: Helps maintain normal vision and skin. It also regulates cell growth and helps maintain the immune system. Riboflavin: Helps convert food into energy. Niacin: Supports the normal function of enzymes in the body and is involved in the metabolism of sugar and fatty acids. Phosphorus: Helps strengthen bones and generates energy in a body’s cells. Calcium: Builds strong bones and regulates muscle contractions. Protein: Maintains and repairs muscles. Vitamin D: Promotes the absorption of calcium and optimizes bone mineralization.

This information comes from the MDA.

Nutrients found in dairy food include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, protein and vitamin D. The National Dairy Council (NDC) developed its 3-A-Day of Dairy program to promote the idea of eating three servings a day of dairy products. Combining this regimen with exercise, the NDC says, may reduce the probability of bone fractures and, later in life, the brittle bones and loss of bone mass that are the hallmarks of osteoporosis. Women are twice as likely as men to develop osteoporosis as menopause tends to accelerate bone mass loss, but men can and do develop the condition. A diet rich in dairy products is essential for all.

Tips for incorporating dairy in your diet include yogurt smoothies and hot cereal mixed with milk at breakfast, cheese toppings for dressing up lunch and dinner and frozen cubes of chocolate or strawberry milk – you can do this with your ice tray – served in glasses of milk for a delicious snack.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]