The Best Diet: Milk and Cheese Department

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Join me on my "I Fit and Healthy" journey! Maria is an Upstate New Yorker interested in all things healthy-living related! She started the "I Fit and Healthy" Blog to document life and her pursuit of healthy living. By day she work in digital media and advertising. By night she’s a first-rate wife and mom of two crazy little girls! She is self-proclaimed addicted to her iPhone/iPad and always on the hunt for the latest health tools and fitness gadgets.

Should dairy products be part of your diet? There are many opinions on this controversial subject. Loren Cordain, Ph.D., author of The Paleo Diet, thinks dairy products should be avoided:

“If you, like most Americans, have been swayed by those milk mustache ads, you probably are part of the mass hysteria, largely generated by the dairy industry, suggesting there is a nationwide calcium shortage that underlies osteoporosis. Not true!

Calcium intake from dairy, or any other food, is only part of the story behind bone mineral health. More important is calcium balance, the difference between how much calcium goes into your body from diet and how much leaves in urine.

You will be out of balance if more calcium leaves than what comes in, no matter how much milk you drink. What we really need to pay attention to is the other side of the equation-the calcium leaving our bodies.

Dietary acid/base balance is the single most important factor influencing calcium loss in the urine,” says Cordain.

I include dairy in my diet not because I think it is a necessary food group, but simply because I like the taste of it.

Personally, I have a glass of raw whole milk (which is not available in all states) from time to time.

My main sources of dairy are yogurt and kefir. I have several servings of Redwood Hill Farm’s plain goat milk yogurt and Helios Nutrition’s organic plain kefir with FOS/inulin, on a weekly basis.

According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, milk and milk products are an important part of your daily diet plan, since these foods are the main sources of calcium.

They also contribute riboflavin, protein, vitamin B12, and vitamins A and D (whole milk and fortified lowfat and skim milks).

When compared with whole milk products, fortified lowfat and skim milks provide the same nutrients but less fat and cholesterol and fewer calories.

Suggested daily servings from this group are two to three for children under 9 years of age, three for those 9 to 12 years, four for teens, and two for adults. An 8-ounce cup of milk is counted as a serving.

A quick trip down the dairy aisle in your neighborhood grocery store will reveal a variety of milk products. What type should you choose?

The below dairy chart (Calcium Equivalents ) shows how other milk products stack up for calcium to lowfat (1 and 2 percent fat) and skim milk with added nonfat milk solids.

Calcium Equivalents

One 8-ounce glass of skim or lowfat milk* contains approximately the same amount of calcium as:

  • 3/4 of an 8-ounce carton plain lowfat yogurt (110 calories)
  • 7/8 of an 8-ounce carton lowfat fruit-flavored yogurt (200)
  • 1-1/2 ounces natural Cheddar cheese (170)
  • 1-1/8 ounces natural Swiss cheese (120)
  • 1-3/4 ounces pasteurized process American cheese (185)
  • 1-7/8 ounces pasteurized process cheese food (175)
  • 2 ounces pasteurized process lowfat cheese product (110)
  • 2-1/4 cups lowfat (1 percent fat) cottage cheese (370)
  • 1-3/4 cups vanilla ice milk (320)

*Skim milk (90 calories); lowfat milk, 1 percent fat (105 calories); lowfat milk, 2 percent fat (125 calories).

If you choose to get calcium from dairy, you’ll want to keep watch of the calories when you’re making your selections.

As you can see, the amounts of milk and milk products shown may be equivalent in calcium, but they vary widely in the number of calories they contain.

Some of the foods listed on the chart, especially process cheeses and cheese foods, are higher in sodium than is milk. [sources: The Paleo Diet and Dietary Guidelines for Americans]

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