Dairy Product Health Benefits: Yogurt, Milk, Cheese, and More

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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 blood-pressure risk. The researchers suggested that this could have something to do with the proteins found in low-fat dairy (caseins and whey), which may have actions similar to those of blood pressure-lowering drugs.

Metabolic syndrome

After studying data from 827 men and women, Iranian researchers concluded that those who consumed the most dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese) were less likely to have enlarged waists and metabolic syndrome, a group of symptoms that has been shown to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Weight

In a recent review article, a researcher from the University of Alabama at Birmingham noted that although an analysis of overall calcium consumption has not linked calcium to greater weight loss, there is increasing evidence that calcium from dairy products may play a role in body-weight regulation.

For any or all of the above reasons, aim to work in some low-fat dairy each day, whether it’s from skim or 1% low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, reduced-fat cheese, or a combination.

Published January 2006.