Monday, June 15, 2015


Have you hugged a cow today?

June is known for many things; the start of summer picnics, graduation parties, Father’s Day celebrations, weddings.  But what’s a picnic without a freshly-grilled, juicy burger covered with melted cheddar?  Or a graduation party without a colorful array of fresh fruit alongside a tangy-sweet yogurt dip?  Or a slice of wedding cake without a scoop of cool, luscious ice cream?

As a Wisconsin native, Dairy Month holds a very special place in my heart.  Everyone knows that dairy foods are a great source of calcium, but there’s so much more to love about milk!
Yes, calcium is important, and dairy products are undoubtedly the most abundant sources of naturally-occurring calcium in the modern diet.  But did you know about all the other nutrients in milk that strengthen your bones, maintain muscle tissue and promote overall health?
Milk is one of the most nutrient-rich beverages you can drink.  In addition to all that bone-building calcium, it is a good source of phosphorus, another mineral necessary for bone health.  It definitely packs a powerful punch with eight grams of muscle-building protein per serving.  Milk also provides essential B vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin and B12, which are needed for healthy red blood cells and the metabolism of carbohydrates and fat.  It is fortified with vitamins A and D, which serve many important functions to support eye, skin and bone health.  Many may be surprised to learn that dairy is a good source of potassium as well.  In fact, it is actually higher in electrolytes than most sports drinks.  Moooo-ve over Gatorade! 
And what’s more, this unique combination of nutrients all come together perfectly to maximize the absorption of calcium and bone mineralization in the body.  Because let’s face it—no matter how much calcium a food has, it does you no good if your body doesn’t absorb and use it.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three servings of dairy daily for most children and adults.  Because whole milk is naturally quite high in saturated fat, it is best to choose low-fat (1%) milk and dairy products. 
If you are lactose-intolerant, don’t despair!  Most can tolerate small amounts of milk with meals as well as cheese and yogurt since the lactose is either removed or broken down prior to consumption.  You could also choose to take enzymes or buy lactose-free milk, which is available at most grocers. 
There are so many ways to enjoy dairy foods.  So show a hard-working cow your gratitude and get your three servings today!
Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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