June is National Dairy Month and a great time to think about the many health benefits of dairy. Milk and dairy products are a primary souce of calcium in our diet and provide many health benefits for people of all ages. We most often associate milk with improved bone health. While milk certainly is important to bone health, the benefits of milk go well beyond our bones. Calcium is also needed for heart muscles to contract, nerves to work properly, and for blood to clot. Consider the following benefits of dairy foods:
Bone Health: Calcium and vitamin D are essential to bone health. Adequate calcium helps build bone mass in children and adolescents, and it helps slow bone loss associated with aging. Vitamin D is necessary for calcium to be absorbed in the gut. Both calcium and vitamin D are considered “nutrients of concern” by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans because they are frequently under consumed in the American diet. Milk naturally contains calcium, is fortified with vitamin D, and is a convenient and economical source for both nutrients.
Chronic Disease: Scientific studies link consumption of dairy foods to a lower risk of several chronic health problems. Consumption of dairy products, especially milk, is associated with a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions including abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, elevated blood glucose, abnormal blood lipids such as triglycerides and cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Metabolic syndrome increases a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes, heart