June is National Dairy Month. To honor our hard-working Wisconsin Farmers, today’s blog will highlight some of the important nutrients found within dairy products. If you are looking for ways to incorporate dairy into your meal plan, check out the ideas below.
Protein:
Dairy products are an excellent source of casein and whey protein. Most dairy products contain ~8 grams of protein per serving. Milk is made of ~80% casein and ~20% whey protein. Casein protein is a slow-digesting protein. Casein protein appears to be beneficial for exercise recovery when consumed as a snack closer to bedtime. Milk, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt are excellent sources of casein protein. In comparison, whey protein is a fast-digesting protein often better suited for before or after workouts. Whey protein powders and ricotta cheese are popular choices.
Vitamin D:
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that aids in calcium absorption and maintaining our bone health. Vitamin D may also play a role in reducing inflammation and enhancing our immune system.
Calcium:
Calcium plays a vital role in muscle contractions and blood vessel dilation. Additionally, calcium works with vitamin D and vitamin K2 to enhance our bone and dental health.
Potassium:
Potassium is essential for muscle function and maintaining healthy blood pressure. Each day, individuals should strive to consume 3500-4700 mg of potassium. However, the standard American diet is often low in potassium. Thankfully, dairy products are an excellent source of potassium. One cup of milk or yogurt contains roughly 350 mg of potassium. Fruits, vegetables and beans are also rich in potassium.
Probiotics:
Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that live inside our digestive tract. Probiotics aid in maintaining our gut pH, improving our immune system function, reducing inflammatory molecules and may improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Fermented dairy products such as Kefir (drinkable yogurt), plain yogurt, plain Greek yogurt, Yakult®, cottage cheese are your best bets for increasing your probiotic consumption.
Vitamin B12:
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin essential for red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis and neurological functions. Further, adequate B12 consumption appears to improve cardiovascular health by lowering homocysteine levels. A single serving of milk or yogurt provides us with ~18% of our daily B12 needs.