• By Julie Stefanski
  • In Uncategorized
  • June 26, 2019

Don’t Disregard Dairy

By: Lyndi Wieand, RDN, LDN

National Dairy Month was first introduced as National Milk Month back in 1937. Milk products have been a part of American culture since 1611, when cows were brought to America with our first settlers in Jamestown, VA. National Milk Month was first used to promote the importance of drinking milk due to it often being characterized as “nature’s most nearly perfect food” due to its versatility and nutritional qualities (1).

What are these nutritional qualities?

Milk contains nine essential nutrients that our bodies need to function well. If milk is not consumed, these nutrients may be difficult to obtain in the proper amounts from other foods. The typical American diet is typically lacking in 3 out of 4 nutrients that are found in milk, such as Calcium, Vitamin D, and Potassium. Milk’s nutritional benefits aid with weight management, decreases your risk for high blood pressure, development of osteoporosis, preventing Type 2 Diabetes, building strong bones and teeth, protecting against certain cancers, build and repair muscle tissue and maintain healthy skin.

In just one 8-ounce glasses of milk, you will receive (2):
• 16% Daily Value (DV) protein
• 30% DV of Calcium
• 25% DV Phosphorous

• 20% DV Vitamin B12
• 25% DV Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
• 10% DV Vitamin A
• 30% DV Vitamin D

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
recommend three servings of low-fat or fat free
dairy products per day. Dairy foods such as whole milk, many cheeses, and ice cream may be high in
saturated fats and cholesterol and can lead to elevated
levels “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood. High LDL cholesterol levels may increase one’s risk for coronary heart disease. In order to keep blood cholesterol levels at a healthy level, it is best to limit the amount of these foods you eat and exercise for at least 150 minutes per week.

Commercial milk production was introduced in 1895 in New York, and has continued to improve and become more efficient to this day (1). However, due the demand to maintain this higher efficiency level, cows used for commercial production are being fed corn and soy containing antibiotics to prevent illness, which in turn may be passed on through the milk product we drink. To prevent this risk, it is recommended to buy “grass-fed” or “Organic” cow’s milk which have not been fed antibiotic containing foods (3).

Today’s milk is used to produce fluid milk, cheese, yogurt, frozen desserts, and butter. Nationwide, 217,575 million pounds of milk were produced in 2018 (4). Pennsylvania accounted for 10,665 million pounds (4.9% of total U.S. supply) of milk produced by about 519,000 cows in 2018 (4). This averaged to be about 20,549 pounds of milk per cow last year (4).

How does milk compare to milk alternatives?

Regular dairy products have slightly dropped in popularity in recent years due to the growth of alternative milk products such as Soy, Almond, Cashew, Rice, Coconut and Oat “milk-beverages.” Many consumers have chosen to stray away from Cow’s milk due to a preference for vegetarianism or veganism, or an issue with digesting certain proteins in milk or lactose, also known as the natural sugar found in milk products. Lactase is the enzyme in our bodies that digests lactose, and for those that may lack this enzyme, they may feel symptoms such as nausea, flatulence, diarrhea and abdominal pain or bloating.

The nutritional quality between cow’s milk and alternatives is comparable in some ways, but also vastly different in others. Click here for a comparison chart : https://www.newenglanddairycouncil.org/media/NDC_MilkComparisonChart_FINAL.pdf 

Cow’s milk is the least expensive per serving, as well as provides the highest amount of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals compared to the milk alternatives. Additionally, cow’s milk offers the highest amount of protein per serving, in addition to Soymilk.

Whether you make a tasty fruit smoothie, yogurt parfait, cheese and charcuterie tray, or go out on a warm summer night for ice cream, National Dairy Month is a great way to start off the summer. Consuming dairy products provides your body with naturally powerful nutrients that will keep your body energized not only in June, but all year long.

Lyndi Wieand, RDN, LDN is the Lehigh Valley Regional In-Store Dietitian at Weis Markets, a family-owned and -operated supermarket chain with 200 stores in the mid-Atlantic region. She serves as the Secretary for the Lehigh Valley Dietetics Association, and is a Certified Group Lifestyle Balance Coach for the National Diabetes Prevention Program. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

1. https://www.americandairymen.com/articles/june-national-dairy-month
2. https://www.nationaldairycouncil.org/content/2018/three-servings-of-milk-deliver-a-unique-nutrient-package
3. https://www.eatthis.com/best-worst-milk-alternatives/
4. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/dairy-data/dairy-data/
5. https://www.nationaldairycouncil.org/content/2015/whats-in-your-glass-infographic