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What we eat is dairy, dairy good

June 12, 2007|by JEFF SEMLER

Many might know June is Dairy Month, but few acknowledge it, at least here in the U.S., mostly because we take food for granted.

It has been generations since food was in short supply here and thus, food and by extension, agriculture, are relegated to the distant recesses of our minds.

Did you know that World Milk Day was celebrated on June 1 in such countries as Chile, Ethiopia and Malawi?

That is right, in Ethiopia. Activities included providing milk drinks to children, competitions, nutrition seminars, publicity leaflets and speeches by local political figures.

In Chile, the farmer's federation (FEDELECHE) organized a puppet show - on the theme "The Milky Way" - for 400 children, invited government officials, including the president of the Republic and industry representatives. There will also be games and prizes.

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And, this year in Malawi, they are planning for another Milk Day Race, but shifting the route from Michiru Mt. to Thyolo, which is more central for the farmers.

One of the local smallholder milk collection centers has just started processing, so it will be a good chance to draw attention to their products. As usual, there will be a few cows in attendance and milk for the thirsty runners.

Notice a pattern here?

These are all countries in what many call the developing world. A place where food is more precious and less likely to be taken for granted.

Back here at home, could you imagine a world without milk?

No latt, no cappuccino, no croissants. No fresh milk, yogurt, crme fraiche or butter. No cheese - no mozzarella, brie, pecorino or Stilton, no feta, chvre, cheddar or Bavarian bleu. No ice cream, no pizza.

The National Dairy Council reminds us that milk is our first food and provides the basic building blocks for good health with lifelong benefits.

People know that the calcium in milk helps to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Milk and dairy products are the richest source of calcium.

But milk is a natural nutrient powerhouse, providing not just calcium but many vitamins and minerals essential for healthy bodies. It is an excellent source of high-quality protein, vital for brain development and the growth and repair of muscle tissue.

Milk provides vitamin B12 to build red blood cells and transport oxygen from lungs to working muscles, and vitamin B2, which facilitates the conversion of food into energy, and is essential in the development of the nervous system.

Milk delivers vitamin A to help maintain normal vision and skin. Milk provides phosphorus for our bones and for body cell energy, potassium to help regulate fluid balance and blood pressure, niacin to keep enzymes functioning normally, and carbohydrate for energy. Plus vitamin B1, vitamin B6, folate, iodine, magnesium, zinc and more.

Research has identified more than 100 different components in milk. Evidence is mounting that consumption of milk and dairy products might reduce blood pressure, dental cavities and the risk of cancer, while enhancing bone strength and immunity.

"So whether you are 6, 16 or 60, the nutrients found in milk and other dairy products are critical to good health and the prevention of chronic disease," said Ann Marie Krautheim, a registered dietitian for the National Dairy Council. "For a powerful nutrient punch - dash to the dairy aisle."

My suggestion is, try this great smoothie recipe in honor of June Dairy Month:

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 pint lowfat vanilla yogurt
2 ripe bananas, peeled, sliced
1 1/4 cups sliced strawberries (they are in season locally now)
2 tablespoons honey
12-14 ice cubes

In a blender jar, combine milk, yogurt, bananas, strawberries and honey; add enough ice to measure 6 cups in blender. Process until smooth, scraping sides as necessary. Garnish each serving with strawberry slice and fresh mint if desired. Makes 5 servings (8 ounces each).

Nutrition facts per 8-ounce serving: calories 196; total fat, 2.38 g; saturated fat, 1.37 g; cholesterol, 7.73 mg; calcium, 268 mg; potassium, 589 mg; protein, 8 g; carbohydrates, 37.96 g; Vitamin A, 252.42 IU; Vitamin C, 29.31 mg; Vitamin D, 30.84 IU; Iron, 0.45 mg; sodium, 104.21 mg; 25% DV calcium; 15% DV Vitamin D; 16% DV potassium; 6% DV Vitamin A.

Remember, you live in the No. 2 dairy county in Maryland, so support your neighbors during June and every month by enjoying healthy and tasty dairy products.

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