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Lynn Little: Dairy products help with calcium intake

June 09, 2010|By LYNN LITTLE / Special to The Herald-Mail

A person never outgrows their need for calcium. In the early years, calcium helps build strong bones and teeth. However, adults need calcium, too. Bone is living tissue that is constantly being rebuilt with the aid of calcium.

Calcium plays a key role in:

o Preventing osteoporosis. One out of two women and one out of eight men will develop this bone-thinning disease. A diet high in calcium can help preserve bone mass and slow bone loss.

o Preventing hypertension. Millions of Americans have high blood pressure (hypertension), which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Dairy products provide extra calcium and potassium, two nutrients shown to help reduce blood pressure.

o Preventing colon cancer. Boosting calcium intake might help reduce the risk of developing this life-threatening disease.

o Pregnancy and lactation. Calcium needs increase to support fetal and infant growth. If pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers do not consume enough calcium, the growing baby will take the calcium he or she needs from the mother's skeleton. Ultimately, this increases the mother's chances of developing osteoporosis later in life.

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Experts agree that the best way to meet daily calcium requirement is with dairy foods because they are the richest sources of calcium in the American diet.

Milk also contains vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.

Milk tastes best when it is ice cold, so store it in the coldest part of your refrigerator.

First thing in the morning have a cold glass of milk. In addition to giving your body a dose of nutrients to start your day, milk is soothing and tastes great on an empty stomach.

Try a low-fat, between- meal pick-me-up.

Mix 1 percent or skim milk with chocolate, strawberry, blueberry or banana flavor. It is delicious and will help get you through to your next meal.

Low-fat brownies, reduced-fat crackers, fat-free cookies, and many other low-fat snacks have little nutritional value. Add a glass of skim or 1 percent milk and you have a low-fat snack that is filled with important vitamins and minerals.

Add a big glass of milk, hot or cold, with a piece of fruit for a relaxing, and comforting bedtime snack.

Remember that milk cuts the heat in spicy foods, like jalapenos and chilis. It's a delicious way to cool the palate.

Add whole or low-fat milk instead of water to creamy soups, sauces, gravies and hot cocoa mix for a richer flavor.

Blend any flavor of yogurt into a glass of milk; add fruit or berries and you have a tasty, nutrient-filled snack.

Served hot, cold, in your coffee, flavored or by itself, milk is one of the most versatile foods around.

Whether you choose whole, skim, 1 percent or 2 percent milk all are packed with the same amount of calcium and vital nutrients, the only difference is the fat and calorie content.

Visit the National Dairy council http://www.nationaldairy council.org/Pages/Home.aspx and the Dairy Spot Dairyspot.com/everyone/everyone.html for recipes to help increase your use of dairy products in your diet.

-- Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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