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Milk, it's what's for breakfast, or should be

June 29, 2010|By JEFF SEMLER

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

Hmmm, you may be thinking, "Dairy month? Big deal!" Alright, I will admit that it isn't as huge as Christmas or Thanksgiving, but think about it, where would we be without milk?

That entire aisle in the grocery store with the huge selection of cereal would not be there. Chocolate cake and cookies would just not be the same. We would not have the saying, "Don't cry over spilt milk." What would you give to the kids to drink with their supper? Dairy products are a daily part of our lives, so come on and let's celebrate.

First, we must 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.

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As I write this article, I was once again reminded this morning of the great chasm between the average American, his food supply and the folks who produce it.

I say that because of the recent complaining about the cost of milk. At the same time, those same people will pay more than $2 per gallon for carbonated water and sugar or will pay even more for fermented beverages and never complain.

Neither of those drinks contain the nutritional benefit of one glass of milk. You say well they are not being consumed for their nutritional value. While I agree with that, the distressing part is they are replacing nutritious drinks.

Fear not, the dairy farmer is not getting rich from the current price of milk. Based on the percentage of the retail cost of milk, the farmer's share has increased little.

Once again I have strayed. Let's get back to celebrate Dairy Month. Did you know, 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.

Therefore, 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 70 and older 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:

o 73 percent of the calcium

o 33 percent of the phosphorus

o 31 percent of the riboflavin

o 19 percent of the protein

o 16 percent of the magnesium

o 21 percent of vitamin B12

o 17 percent of vitamin A

o 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.

The dairy farmers of this valley and their cows are serving you the freshest most wholesome products known to man. So let's 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 if you get a chance thank your neighbors for the dairy products they produce and enjoy ice cream.

I know I will.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at jsemler@umd.edu">jsemler@umd.edu

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