OK, so as a dietitian I don’t exactly believe in “THE magic bullet,” but I do believe there are a lot of excellent foods in the arsenal available to us, and that arming ourselves with them will protect our health. And dairy is definitely one of them.
Calorie-for-calorie it’s hard to find a foodstuff that’s better than milk. It has nine essential nutrients – calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, riboflavin, protein, vitamin B12, potassium, vitamin A and niacin – with relatively few calories, particularly if fat-free and low-fat varieties are chosen. Some of the many benefits that may be derived from milk include:
- Strong bones and teeth, especially for growing children
- High-quality protein for older adults to maintain muscle and stay active
- Improved performance in athletics and exercise
- Weight loss and maintenance
- Healthy immune system (fermented milk products such as yogurt and kefir)
- Improved digestion (fermented milk products such as yogurt and kefir)
Lactose intolerant? No problem! In my nutrition practice, I frequently see people who have given up on milk because they say they can’t tolerate it. Many of the people that have problems with milk products are lactose intolerant – they are unable to digest milk sugar. To find out for sure, you should see your doctor and get a test, such as a hydrogen breath test, to determine if you are just intolerant or have an allergy. If you have lactose intolerance, this does not mean dairy is out. I’ve been lactose intolerant for the past 30 years, but enjoy dairy every day. There are several approaches that will allow you to enjoy dairy despite this condition:
- Experiment by gradually progressing from small to larger amounts until you determine how much you can consume before you have symptoms. There are varying degrees of lactose intolerance, so you may be able to tolerate a certain amount.
- Consume dairy with other foods, particularly solid foods that slow the digestive process, so that your body has more time to digest the lactose sugar.
- Try low-lactose cheeses such as Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and Swiss.
- Consume fermented milk products like cottage cheese, yogurt and kefir. They have most of the lactose pre-digested by friendly bacteria and can usually be enjoyed without problem.
- Try lactose-free milk and milk products that are real milk products with all the nutrients but no lactose.
- Go to your pharmacy and get lactase enzyme pills. Just take one whenever you decide to partake of dairy. The pill is over-the-counter and is not medication, only the natural enzyme that your body should make anyway. (I’m never without my lactase pills!)
Dairy makes sense both economically and nutritionally. Not many foods offer the nutrients of an 8-ounce glass of milk for about 25 cents. At that price, you can’t go wrong! And since dairy is one of those magic bullets, let’s make sure we’re “armed to the teeth!”
DairyPower Sports Drink (1 serving)
4 fluid ounces non-fat milk
6 ounces vanilla Greek yogurt, non-fat
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add ingredients into a blender and blend on medium speed for 10 seconds. Pour into a drink container and enjoy!
Nutrients per serving
Protein 22 grams
Carbohydrate 18 grams
Fat 1 gram
Cholesterol 11 milligrams
Sodium 114 milligrams
Calcium 349 milligrams
Fiber 1.4 grams