What's in Moo for You?

What comes to mind when you think of the health benefits of milk and alternatives? You may immediately think of bone health, but there are other benefits that you may not have considered.

What has your moo done for you lately?

Milk and alternatives include milk, yogurt, cheese, kefir and, for those who are unable to consume dairy products, fortified soy beverage. These foods are grouped together because they all contain protein and bone-building nutrients such as calcium. You may be surprised to learn that it is not only your bones that benefit from the recommended two to three servings of milk and alternatives. Including these may assist in weight loss and may also help you meet your daily vitamin D requirements.

Bone health

Healthy bones are built in childhood and maintained in later years by eating calcium-rich foods and engaging in weight-bearing activities. The calcium and other nutrients in milk and alternatives build bones effectively. Try to improve your calcium intake through foods before choosing to take a supplement.

Consuming milk and alternatives as part of a balanced diet helps you get the bone-building nutrients you need. Yet, many Canadians are simply not getting enough of these important foods. Use this calcium calculator to determine whether you are getting enough calcium for optimal bone heatlh.

Weight loss

Studies show that including at least three daily servings of dairy products may help reduce body fat even if calories are not reduced, and may increase weight and fat loss when calories are reduced. These effects are thought to be the result of improved calcium intake. This is good news for milk lovers. Milk and alternatives contain the calcium you need, along with protein which may increase feelings of satiety and help reduce overeating. Registered dietitian, Jaclyn Chute, says, “For weight loss, you need to consume fewer calories that you use throughout the day. Make sure you are still eating healthfully by including a variety of nutrient-rich foods. As part of a lower calorie intake, dairy products may help manage weight and promote healthy body composition.”

Adequate vitamin D intake

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, has received much recent attention in the media for its reported benefits. Although your body makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun, in northern climates we do not get enough sunshine throughout the majority of the year to meet our requirements. So, we need to ensure we have a good source of this vitamin in our diet. Vitamin D, along with calcium, is necessary for bone health. Adults, aged 19 – 70, should aim for 600 IU per day.
Good food sources of vitamin D include:

Milk is our most common food source of vitamin D. All fluid milk in Canada is fortified with vitamin D and contains 100 IU per 1 cup (250 ml).

Keeping track of your milk and alternatives servings is easy with Dietitians of Canada’s EaTracker, Dairy Farmers of Canada’s Get Enough Helper App or Alberta Milk’s Plate Mate.

Article revised March 2015

Lee Finell

Registered Dietitian

Lee (MHSA, RD) is a registered dietitian and nutrition educator at Alberta Milk. She writes articles and develops programs and resources that help Albertans translate the science of nutrition into healthy food choices.

Article posted on April 18, 2011

Active Tip

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