National Dairy Month: Milk and cheese provide essential calcium

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By: Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

Benjamin Horn/Flickr

June is National Dairy Month. There is nothing like a glass of cold milk and a fresh, soft cookie.

You need to consume dairy products throughout your life. A calcium-rich diet offers many benefits from the beginning of our lives through our senior years.

Our calcium requirements change as we live through the different stages of life, but milk and other foods from the dairy group are the best sources of calcium in your healthy eating plan.

When you are young you need to have calcium for bone growth, and when you are maturing you need it to keep bones strong. Your body also needs dietary calcium to help protect against high blood pressure, colon cancer and osteoporosis.

Give children at least three servings from the dairy group. Anyone 2 years and older should have low-fat dairy foods. People between ages 11 and 24 are the ones most lacking when it comes to calcium consumption.

Teenagers need at least four low-fat servings from the dairy group a day. In middle age, bones start losing calcium slowly, so adults should eat at least two servings each day.

If pregnant and nursing women don’t consume calcium-rich foods, their bodies will pull the calcium their babies need out of the mother’s bones. Pregnant and nursing women need at least four servings, and teenagers in this group need five or more servings.

One serving from the dairy group equals one cup of milk, or one cup of yogurt. To get the same amount of calcium from other sources you have to eat 1½ oz. of cheese, 1¾ cups of ice cream, one cup of pudding or two cups of cottage cheese.

There is a great “Dairy Delicious” contest at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair. The two categories are party foods and main dishes. For a copy of the rules visit our website

Here is a tasty dairy recipe from our Dining with Diabetes series.

Gooey Pizza Dip
Serving size: ⅓ cup

  • 1 cup (8 oz.) reduced fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fat free mayonnaise
  • 1½ cups (6 oz.) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 can (2½ oz.) sliced ripe olives, drained, divided
  • ¾ cup diced seeded plum tomatoes, divided (OK to use canned diced tomatoes, well drained)
  • ¼ cup sliced turkey pepperoni
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • ⅛ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Assorted whole grain crackers
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  1. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, mayonnaise, 1 cup of mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, ½ cup tomatoes, six tablespoons olives, pepperoni, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and pepper flakes.
  2. Spread into a 9-inch pie plate coated with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until edges are bubbly and top is golden brown.
  5. Sprinkle with remaining tomatoes and olives. Serve with crackers.
     
For more recipes and tips from Purdue Extension Educator Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, subscribe to the Food & Nutrition email newsletter.
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