Celebrating National Dairy Month

June 10, 2008|By JEFF SEMLER

June is Dairy Month, time once again for us to salute our neighbors, the dairy farmer, and yet another excuse to eat ice cream.

While we tip our hat to those folks who rise before the sun every morning to milk the cows so we can enjoy it on our cereal, it has come to my attention that many Americans have traded in their milk for other drinks such as soda.

How can a drink made of sugar, water and fizz compete with nature's near perfect drink?

Whole milk, while only 3.25 percent fat, is crammed full of protein, vitamins and minerals like calcium and phosphorus.

The more disturbing news is the rise of rickets in children. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported a surprising comeback of the childhood aliment. Rickets, a deficiency of vitamin D and calcium that causes soft bones and poor growth, was virtually eradicated by the 1960s. In their report they found cases where children were suffering from under-nutrition simply because their parents fed them soy- or rice-based beverages that did not contain vitamin D, instead of cow's milk.


Additionally, America's population as a whole is not consuming calcium at recommended levels. This fact makes the risk of poor bone development and osteoporosis a major health issue in this country. In fact, for many families, breakfast is a meal from the past so milk consumption as a breakfast drink has declined. The cheese on pizza may be the only calcium that some people get.

So what can we do to stem this tide? Let us remember that dairy foods have been recognized as important foods since 4000 BC. Today, as a result of continued innovations in the dairy industry, a wide variety of milks and other dairy foods is available to meet the varied tastes, usage, nutrient needs and health concerns of individuals.

The importance of milk and other dairy foods has long been recognized by their inclusion in official dietary recommendations and child nutrition programs. USDA's Food Guide Pyramid recommends two to three servings per day from the Milk, Yogurt and Cheese Group. National Dairy Council's Guide to Good Eating recommends two to four servings from the Milk Group. An American Academy of Pediatrics publication includes a modified Food Guide Pyramid that recommends five daily servings from the Milk Group for adolescents. And a modified Food Guide Pyramid for adults older than 70 years of age recommends three servings per day from the Milk Group.

Milk and milk products make an important contribution to the American diet. According to the latest government estimates, dairy foods (excluding butter) provide the following percentages of nutrients available in the nation's food supply:

· 73 percent of the calcium

· 33 percent of the phosphorus

· 31 percent of the riboflavin

· 19 percent of the protein

· 16 percent of the magnesium

· 21 percent of vitamin B12

· 17 percent of vitamin A

· 10 percent of vitamin B6

While milk and other dairy foods contributed only 9 percent of the total calories available. These foods are nutrient-dense foods, providing a high concentration of many nutrients in relation to their calories.

It sounds like it is time to return milk and other dairy products to their proper place at the table.

Stop and eat breakfast. Yogurt is an excellent breakfast food. Or put cream cheese on your bagel. Use real cream in your coffee, no powder please.

And yes, one more reason to enjoy two of America's favorite foods - pizza and ice cream.

So, invite your neighbor over, even if he isn't a dairy farmer, for a delicious bowl of ice cream and celebrate National Dairy Month in style.

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