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Dairy: A Great Nutrient Source

Por Lic. Nina Nazor Robles* -

Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and certain vitamins and minerals. Some of these foods do have a high-fat and high-cholesterol content, so it is important to be aware of what those are.

How many servings should you eat a day?

Based on the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) food pyramid, the daily recommended intake of dairy products is 2 to 3 servings. The amount needed depends on your age and gender. Examples of what actual serving sizes are for certain foods are: 1 cup (8 ounces) of milk or yogurt, 1.5 to 2 ounces of cheese, and 1 cup of pudding.

Milk fat

Since regular or “whole” milk has a high-fat and cholesterol content, it is best to choose skim milk (non-fat) or low-fat milk (lower fat content than whole milk) when you have the option.

Skim milk and non-fat natural yogurt contain the lowest amount of fat and cholesterol. They contain no added sugar and are the healthiest options. You can also find partially skim or low-fat cheese and desserts made with low-fat milk.


A person’s daily requirement for calcium, which is one of the important minerals that milk contains, varies with age. Children and adolescents require more calcium because their bodies need it to meet the demands of their rapid growth. Pregnant women and nursing mothers also require greater amounts of calcium. Menopausal women need large amounts of calcium in order to prevent bone loss.
The best sources of calcium include dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Other sources include dark green, leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach), sardines and salmon with bones, and calcium-enriched foods, like fruit juice, soymilk, breakfast cereals, and soy cheese (tofu).
The following list of foods provides the calcium content in a variety of different dairy products. These foods provide the same amount of calcium as 1 cup (8 ounces) of skim milk, but may contain more fat and calories:

• 1 cup (8 ounces) of 2% milk
• 1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk
• 1 cup (8 ounces) 2% chocolate milk
• 8 ounces of natural non-fat yogurt
• 8 ounces of low-fat natural yogurt
• 8 ounces of non-fat vanilla yogurt
• 8 ounces of low-fat fruit yogurt
• 1.5 ounces of fresh cheese
• 2 ounces of American cheese

Lactose intolerance

Some people get gas, nausea, or diarrhea when drinking milk or eating dairy products. This is called lactose intolerance, a problem that results from the body’s inability to digest lactose (sugar from milk). Lactose is commonly found in dairy products and is digested in the intestines by the lactase enzyme. Lactase is the enzyme that is needed to break down the lactose so the blood stream can absorb it.

A lactose-intolerant person may not be able to drink milk, but can perhaps eat yogurt or cheese. If yogurt and cheese are not good options, he/she can possibly drink milk, eat yogurt or eat cheese made from soymilk or drink lactose-free milk (milk without lactose). It may also be possible that someone who is lactose-intolerant can indeed tolerate milk products if they are eaten in smaller quantities. It is best, for someone with lactose intolerance, to work with a dietitian to try different items and quantities to best assess the degree of intolerance the individual suffers from.

Allergic to milk

Some people are allergic to milk. They have an immune response to a substance, usually a protein, found in milk. Milk belongs to the list of foods that commonly cause people to have allergic reactions. Other foods that commonly causing allergies are; eggs, legumes, nuts, crustaceans, fish and mollusks. However, fewer people are allergic to milk than are lactose intolerant.

How should dairy products be stored?

Keep dairy products refrigerated, and always check their expiration date. When grocery shopping, always purchase dairy products last so they are at room temperature for the least amount of time possible.

Keep all fresh cheeses refrigerated. In order to keep cheese for a long period of time, wrap it well in plastic wrap so it’s not exposed to air or humidity.

Take advantage of the nutrition content that dairy products have to offer. Remember that those with the lower fat varieties should be chosen  when you have the option.

*Dietitian with the MyDiet™ Team


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