Bodies change over time due to time and life experiences. Though different nutrition needs arise to ensure quantity AND quality of life with aging, the recommendation for three servings of dairy per day remains the same whether you’re 9 years old or 99. Take inventory of your eating and consider the following reasons to dial up your dairy.
Dairy Meals to Boost Your Bone Health
As a Registered Dietitian with at least 2 generations of osteoporosis in my family history, I’ve had a front-row seat to the importance of promoting and preserving bone health. Peak bone mass is typically achieved as early as the upper teenage years. Keep your bones strong and healthy as you age with two of the most important nutrients for bone health: calcium and vitamin D.
Keys to consuming enough calcium:
- Find a food-first approach that works for you. Though calcium can be found in fortified beverages, juices and cereals, dark leafy greens, sardines, and salmon, dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are natural sources of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D.
- For optimal absorption, spread your intake of calcium-rich foods throughout the day. Try making your morning oatmeal with milk, snacking on fruit and yogurt, and adding a slice of cheese to your sandwich at lunch to reach your 3 servings.
- Navigate lactose intolerance like a pro by choosing lactose-free dairy products (they’re still real milk!), enjoying hard cheeses that are low in lactose, or savoring dairy in smaller amounts throughout the day based on your individual tolerance.
There are three ways to get vitamin D: the sun, through food and drinks, or with supplements. Very few foods naturally have vitamin D; therefore, fortified foods and drinks including dairy provide most of the vitamin D in our diets.
Drink Up and Dig In For a Nutrient-Dense Diet
Studies show that vitamin and mineral deficiencies tend to worsen with age due to malabsorption, poor nutrient utilization, medications, decreased appetite, and inability to perform activities of daily living such as meal preparation. While eating a variety of food groups is key and there are no “magic foods,” dairy packs a powerful nutritional punch of high-quality protein and other essential nutrients to support disease prevention, muscle maintenance, and overall health.
Increasing dairy food consumption to recommended levels is a safe, effective, and inexpensive remedy for protein and calcium deficiencies often associated with falls and fractures. Try adding a sprinkle of cheese to your eggs at breakfast and a glass of cold, hydrating chocolate milk alongside that mid-afternoon handful of nuts for added satiety and sarcopenia prevention.
Bolster your Brain Health with Dairy Meals
From sipping a carton of milk on the school lunch tray to savoring a latte with a Sudoku puzzle, dairy is a foundational food throughout the lifespan. A source of choline (an essential nutrient that supports liver function, brain health, muscle movement, the nervous system, and metabolism), vitamin B12, and antioxidants, dairy contains nutrition that protects the brain from some of the damage that accompanies aging and aging-related diseases.
Dairy foods are way too tasty, convenient, and beneficial to miss out on enjoying your 3 servings per day! How will you dial up your dairy?
Blair Mize, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN, CEDS-S is a Nutrition Therapist, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, and co-owner of Memphis Nutrition Group, a nutrition and lifestyle counseling practice specializing in non-diet nutrition counseling, nutrition therapy for eating disorders, and sports nutrition. The Registered Dietitians at Memphis Nutrition Group help individuals reconnect with their bodies, find confidence and clarity in their everyday choices, and create a peaceful, balanced approach to food that tastes good and feels even better. Connect with Blair on Instagram, Facebook, or through MemphisNutritionGroup.com.