May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month. Research shows that dairy foods are integral for building and maintaining a lifetime of healthy bones because they contain nutrients like calcium, protein, vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium.
Getting these key nutrients in with three servings a day of dairy is important at every stage in life.
1-2-3 Age Groups
It is crucial for children and adolescents to consume enough dairy. Up to 90% of bone mass is accumulated by the age of 18.
Children who achieve peak bone mass reduce their risk for developing osteoporosis, a bone-crippling disease, later in life.
Adults also need to focus on dairy consumption throughout their lives. Bone loss and a reduced ability to replace bone tissue begin around the age of 40.
Adults who consume a bone-healthy diet engage in exercise and eliminate bad habits like smoking can avoid premature bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures.
Seniors with strong bones have a decreased risk of falls and fractures, which can affect mobility and independence.
Seniors actually require more calcium, dietary protein and vitamin D to maintain healthy bones than younger people do.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend everyone age 9 and above get three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy to support bone health. One serving of dairy is one cup of milk, one cup of yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of cheese.
There are so many ways to work more dairy into your diet to achieve the three servings per day recommendation.
Some examples include making oatmeal with milk instead of water, preparing a veggie-packed salad with shredded cheese, blending a yogurt and fruit smoothie, layering a lunchtime sandwich with cheese, or simply enjoying a glass of cold milk.
1-2-3 Key Nutrients
Calcium is a major building block of the skeleton. In fact, 99% of the calcium found in the body resides in the bones. When the body is not supplied with enough calcium, it takes it from the bones, which weakens them.
Dairy foods are the most readily available source of calcium. One serving of dairy provides one-third of the total daily needs.
Protein is essential for building and preserving bone mass. Dairy foods are a good source of high-quality protein.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and ensures the correct renewal and mineralization of bones. Many dairy foods are fortified with vitamin D to support calcium absorption.
Monica Nyman is a senior educator and registered dietitian with St Louis District Dairy Council. For more information on the health benefits of dairy, visit www.stldairycouncil.org.
Berry Overnight Oats
Start your day the bone-healthy way with this simple and easy overnight oat recipe. Preparing ahead of time will ensure a quick dose of dairy during busy mornings.
1/4 cup low-fat strawberry yogurt
1/4 cup 1% milk or fat-free milk
1/2 cup frozen unsweetened berries
1/3 cup cooking oats, dry
Combine all ingredients in a cup or jar. Stir to mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Top with vanilla yogurt and your favorite fresh berries.