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What Milk Can Do for You

People who have a diet rich in milk and milk products can reduce the risk of low bone mass throughout the life cycle. Foods in the milk group provide vital nutrients, including calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein.

Build Stronger Bones

  • Diets rich in milk and milk products help build and maintain bone mass. This may reduce the risk of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.
  • Milk products are especially important to bone health during childhood and adolescence, when bone mass is being built.
  • Diets that include milk products tend to have a higher overall nutritional quality.
  • Calcium-fortified foods and drinks such as soy beverages or orange juice are other sources of calcium but may not provide other necessary nutrients.

Vitamins and Minerals

  • Calcium helps build stronger bones and teeth. Milk products are the primary source of calcium in American diets. Diets that provide 3 cups or the equivalent of milk products per day can improve bone mass. Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Milk products, especially yogurt and milk, provide potassium.
  • Vitamin D functions in the body to maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorous, thereby helping to build and maintain bones. Milk that is fortified with vitamin D is a good source of this nutrient. Other sources include vitamin D-fortified yogurt and vitamin D-fortified ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.
  • Low-fat or fat-free milk products provide little or no fat.

Lean Towards Fat-Free or Low-Fat

Choosing foods from the milk group that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol can affect heart disease risk.

Diets high in saturated fats raise LDL "bad" cholesterol levels in the blood. High LDL cholesterol, in turn, increases the risk for heart disease. Many cheeses, whole milk, and products made from them are high in saturated fat. To help keep blood cholesterol levels healthy, limit the amount of these foods you eat. In addition, eating a lot of fats makes it difficult to avoid getting more calories than you need.

WebMD Public Information from the United States Department of Agriculture

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