Dairy: Benefits Beyond Bone Health

When we hear the words dairy foods or milk, we often think of calcium and strong bones. It’s well established that dairy foods are an excellent source of calcium. In fact, milk is the number one food source of calcium, while cheese is the number two food source of this bone-building nutrient.

As we celebrate National Dairy Month, we recognize dairy’s bone-building benefits. However, this month and every month, we also celebrate the fact that milk is a good or excellent source of thirteen essential nutrients – nutrients that help nourish your body, not just your bones. In fact, milk, cheese and yogurt are an important part of a healthy diet, and studies have shown dairy foods even play a role in promoting health and reducing your risk of certain diseases.

  • Dairy foods, as part of a balanced diet, have been associated with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes – Researchers analyzing a variety of studies found that people who ate dairy, especially yogurt, had a 6 to 20% lower risk of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Dairy has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease – Several studies have shown that people who eat dairy, especially low-fat dairy, had a lower risk of both heart disease and stroke.
  • Dairy’s nutrients can help lower blood pressure – dairy provides a trio of nutrients – calcium, potassium and magnesium – that can help lower blood pressure in combination with a DASH-style Eating Plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).
  • Adequate dairy intake has been associated with a lower risk of osteoporosis – The essential nutrients in dairy foods, especially calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, are important for achieving peak bone mass and reducing risk for osteoporosis later in life. Research has linked eating dairy foods to improved bone health, especially in children and teenagers.
  • Milk is a simple source of immune-boosting nutrients – such as vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, selenium and protein. Additionally, fermented dairy foods like yogurt and kefir help support digestive health and a healthy immune system and have been associated with reduced inflammation.

Together, milk, cheese and yogurt provide many important nutrients not easily obtained from other foods. Additionally, dairy foods are an important source of calcium, vitamin D and potassium, three of the four nutrients Americans are falling short on, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Enjoying three daily servings of dairy foods, as part of a balanced diet, can help us meet nutrient needs, assist with achieving optimal health and help lower our risk of certain chronic diseases.

13 nutrients, seemingly endless benefits. Make every sip count with milk. Need inspiration for enjoying more nutritious dairy foods? Visit DairyDiscoveryZone.com/recipes.

By Jenna Allen, M.S., RDN

Jenna is a registered dietitian with a passion for communicating science in an approachable way. She has been part of the Dairy MAX team since 2008. When she isn't working, Jenna is trying out new recipes with her three kids and working on her food photography. Learn more about Jenna.

Get Content Like This in Your Inbox.