Dairy Nutrition

From fermented foods like yogurt and cheese to milk and lactose-free milk, dairy foods can help give you the nutrients you need to keep your body going strong. See what experts are saying about dairy foods’ contributions when it comes to a healthy gut and immune function, reduced inflammation, reduced risk of chronic diseases and optimizing wellness.

The variety of nutrient-rich dairy foods available offers something for almost everyone’s wellness and taste needs throughout their lives. Milk packs in 13 essential nutrients in every serving, including, protein, zinc, selenium, vitamin A and vitamin D, which contribute to healthy immune function. And dairy foods like cheese and yogurt also provide high-quality protein, calcium, vitamin A, B vitamins and more!

Dairy foods provide about 52% of the calcium, 51% of the vitamin D and 17% of the protein consumed by Americans. Research shows that healthy eating styles, which include low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, are linked to a reduced risk of some of the most prevalent chronic diseases in the U.S.—type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults—as well as improved bone health.

Nutritional Benefits

Did you know that real cow’s milk contains a powerful punch of nutrients? Milk contains essential nutrients like high-quality protein, calcium, vitamins A and D and more. These key nutrients help our bodies thrive. And eating a balanced diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, dairy, lean meats and whole grains, can help keep you healthy, including your immune system. Here are some nutrients in dairy foods your body needs:

  • Protein, which is found in milk, cheese and yogurt, helps build and repair muscle tissue and is the building block of all cells in the body—including immune cells and immune-signaling molecules.
  • Milk and yogurt are good sources of zinc, known to be important for normal immune function.
  • Milk is a good source of vitamin A, which helps support healthy immune cells and keep skin and eyes healthy.
  • Calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D help build and maintain strong bones and teeth.

Dairy foods also contain B vitamins, which can help your body convert food into fuel:

  • Vitamin B12 — milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2) — milk and yogurt
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) — milk and yogurt
  • Niacin (vitamin B3) — milk and cheese

Health Benefits of Dairy

The body of research supports eating dairy as part of an overall healthy diet to help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. A growing number of studies indicate that eating dairy foods is associated with:

Is Dairy Good For Your Bones?

Yes, dairy foods contain nutrients to grow and develop bones—these include calcium, Vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. Research demonstrates dairy foods help build and maintain healthy bones for life; eating recommended servings of dairy food each day helps ensure kids and teens build bone mass, which is linked to reduced risk for osteoporosis in their later years. Already in adulthood, and even late adulthood? It’s not too late! Consuming dairy can still help you maintain healthy bones to reduce risk of fractures.

Dietary Guidance

Dairy nourishes life, helping people thrive throughout their lives. Dairy foods are included in all of the healthy eating patterns recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), which are linked to reduced risk of chronic diseases. Dairy foods also are included in recommendations for pre-natal and maternal health, and yogurt and cheese are recommended as complementary foods to human milk or iron-fortified formula starting at age 6 months, with whole milk, plain reduced-fat yogurt and reduced-fat cheese at age appropriate servings from 12 to 23 months. There are options in the dairy case for almost everyone—including lactose-free or low-lactose varieties for those with lactose intolerance.

Dairy Gut Health

Did you know that what you eat can impact your gut health? Eating an overall balanced diet that includes fiber (whole grains, veggies and fruits) and fermented foods can help. They keep things moving in your digestive system. Fermented dairy foods, including yogurt and kefir, provide beneficial bacteria to promote digestion.

Dairy and Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance can be a barrier to dairy consumption and can put people at risk of not getting the nutrition their bodies need. The good news is that living with lactose intolerance doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite dairy foods. Did you know that each person with lactose intolerance is likely able to tolerate varying degrees of lactose? It is all about understanding how much lactose is in the foods you love and how much you can handle at once. For example, there is lactose-free milk, which is real milk with milk’s nutrients, just without the lactose.

No matter how you enjoy it, eating dairy as part of a healthy meal plan can help you keep your gut and immune function healthy with a powerful package of nutrients that are hard to replace.