The final version of the 2015 federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) affirms the vital, unrivaled contribution made by dairy foods, and reminds Americans that they will continue to benefit from three daily servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy. In fact, the DGA notes that current intakes of dairy foods for most Americans “are far below recommendations of the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern,” and they call for a shift to consume more dairy products. Milk, cheese and yogurt are important answers to the question of how Americans should change their diets for the better.
As America strives to create a culture of wellness, the 2015 DGA embraces flexibility to help people build and enjoy healthy eating patterns that will nourish them physically, while also nourishing cultural and personal connections. Regardless of one’s path to a healthy diet, three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods like milk, cheese or yogurt can play an important role in healthy eating and well-being, from childhood through adulthood.
While people eat foods, not nutrients, the nutrients in food do matter. Low-fat or fat-free dairy foods are fundamental to all of the patterns recommended by the DGA: Healthy US-style Pattern, Healthy Vegetarian-Style Pattern and Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern.1 That’s because low-fat and fat-free dairy foods offer a unique set of nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium, which most people do not get enough of in their diets.1
In fact, because of dairy foods’ nutrient-rich package, it can be challenging for most Americans, mainly those aged nine and older, to meet nutrient recommendations without eating three servings of dairy a day.2 When foods from the dairy group are removed from daily eating patterns, or replaced with sugar-sweetened beverages, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin A and riboflavin dropped below 100% of goals. What’s more, levels of vitamin D and potassium, as well as choline, dropped substantially.1
The new Guidelines note “strong evidence shows that healthy eating patterns are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Moderate evidence indicates that healthy eating patterns also are associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer… overweight, and obesity.” In addition, “research also has linked dairy intake to improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents.”
The good news for people across the country is that dairy foods taste great, are accessible almost anywhere, contain essential nutrients and come in a variety of options from lactose-free to low-fat, fat-free or lower sodium — all at a reasonable cost. In fact, you can get three servings of milk for less than $1 a day (with each serving at about 25 cents).3 And with 8 grams of protein in every 8 ounces, milk is a natural source of high-quality protein, meaning it provides the full mix of essential amino acids our body needs.1,4 The dairy community is committed to doing its part to ensure healthy products are available to enhance the health of people and communities, now and for future generations.