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Low-fat dairy offers many health benefits

I'll admit to being part of the Baby Boomer generation, albeit one of the younger members. If you're a Boomer, too, you probably recall that many of us grew up drinking milk at every meal. Unlike today, soda was reserved for parties and the occasional trip to the Golden Arches or a downtown diner.

You may no longer have a glass of cold milk with each meal, but mom was right about one thing: dairy foods offer a bounty of health benefits (just make sure to choose low-fat this time around).

And we do love our dairy. Statistics show that while Americans' consumption of whole milk and butter has been going down, cheese and premium ice cream are on the rise (does that mean we're trading one type of high-fat dairy food for another?).

The good news is that while we baby boomers have been climbing toward (and past) 50, the yogurt aisle has exploded with choices beyond our wildest imaginings. Reduced-fat cheeses have taken their permanent place on the dairy shelf as well. Never has it been easier to work in a few servings of healthy dairy every day.

Low-Fat Is the Answer

A recent study showed that the more servings of dairy foods that adults consumed, the greater the percentage of their total calories that came from saturated fat (definitely not a good thing).

But the other side to the story is that their intake of many key nutrients -- like protein, calcium, magnesium, folate, B1, B2, B6, B12, and vitamins A, D, and E -- also increased along with the number of dairy servings.

So how do you get all those great nutrients from dairy without the drawbacks? Low-fat dairy is the answer! As you decrease the fat in dairy products, you cut calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol, while protein, calcium, and most other vitamins and minerals remain high.

6 Reasons to Get More Dairy

Here are six reasons you should include low-fat dairy foods in your diet:

Calcium and Protein

Some dairy items have impressive levels of two things many of us need more of: calcium and protein. I'm sorry to say that ice cream falls a bit short on these two nutrients, but low-fat milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and reduced-fat cheese pack a protein and calcium punch in every serving. Just a cup of lite nonfat yogurt, for example, gives you a third of your daily recommended calcium intake, along with 17% of your estimated daily protein intake.

Calcium (mgs)
Protein (grams)
Kraft 2% sharp cheddar cheese, 1 ounce
Part-skim mozzarella cheese, 1 ounce
Skim milk, 1 cup
Low-fat milk (1%), vitamins A & D added, 1 cup
Low-fat (2%) cottage cheese, 1 cup
Low-fat plain yogurt, 1 cup
Nonfat lite raspberry yogurt, 1 cup

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