A recent report indicated that for adults age 19 to 50, only 16 percent consumed the recommended number of servings. For younger and older folks, the numbers were even worse - as low as 10 percent!
"Men's dairy intake is important for their health and for their family too," says Mike McNamara, secondary prevention specialist with the Cardiovascular Health Program for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) in Helena. "Enjoying low-fat dairy products is a smart nutrition move for the health of your bones and your heart. It is also the best way to model the eating habits you want your children and grandchildren to have as they grow up."
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk - or equivalent milk products - per day. Since the recommendations were published in 2005, dozens of additional studies have provided evidence for the health benefits of nutrient-rich dairy foods. Calcium and vitamin D are now emerging as key nutrients in the prevention of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer - in addition to their better-known role in building strong bones and teeth.
As a health professional and father of two, McNamara is convinced about the value of dairy foods. "We always serve low-fat milk with meals at our home." DPHHS dietitians point to these four important reasons to get into a dairy habit.
* You care about children's health and future well-being: Whether you're talking nutrition, physical activity, or any other health habit, children and teens look to family members as role models. Celebrate Father's Day (and every day) with a tall glass of refreshing low-fat milk (plain or your favorite flavor) - or a summertime fruit smoothie.
* You're trying to build muscle mass: Here's some fitness news that's easy to swallow. Whey protein (a high quality protein from cow's milk and yogurt) in combination with resistance exercise can boost the rate at which your body makes lean muscle. Research suggests that fat-free milk may be one of the most effective sports drinks on the planet.
* You want to lower your high blood pressure: Low-fat dairy is an essential component of the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). A delicious combo of low-fat dairy and 8 to 10 produce servings (fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits/veggies) has repeatedly been confirmed as effective in preventing and treating high blood pressure.
* You'd like to avoid osteoporosis: Men are at risk for this bone-thinning disease too, especially if they smoke, have more than three alcoholic drinks daily, have a family history of fractures, and are thin. The path to prevention: Get plenty of calcium, vitamin D, and weight-bearing activity - plus stop smoking and limit alcohol to two drinks or less per day.
"When you want to cool off in summer's heat, rethink your usual drinks," McNamara said. "Remember that children are watching and enjoy at least three ice-cold glasses of milk every day. It'll be good for them and good for you."
Four Delicious Ways to Balance Your Beverages
Whether you are young or old, it's time to rethink what you are drinking. Overall, we drink too many high-calorie, nutrient-poor beverages, such as soft drinks, sweetened teas and fruit drinks, sports drinks, and so called "energy" drinks. Over-consumption of these sugary beverages may contribute to our weight problems, since liquid calories don't seem to register very well in our brains. At the same time, we are not drinking enough nutrient-rich, low-fat milk - packed with protein, calcium, and other body building nutrients (vitamins A and D, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, etc.). Here are four smart tips to support strong bodies and smart brains at all ages.
* Drink plenty of refreshing, calorie-free water. Water does the body good. Without any unnecessary calories, it helps your muscles and brain stay hydrated - for optimal physical and mental performance. It also keeps your stomach, intestines, and kidneys functioning smoothly - so you can digest your food efficiently and get rid of waste effectively. How much water you need depends on your size and activity level; larger, more active folks need more. Drink enough for your urine to be mostly colorless and odor-free.
* Drink nutrient-rich, lower fat milk three times a day. Milk isn't just for kids; it's just as essential for moms and dads. Nutrient-rich dairy foods help build and maintain healthy bones and teeth for a lifetime; they may also help build muscle mass, maintain a healthy weight, and lower high blood pressure risk. For the most nutrients with the least fat and calories, go for fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%). An 8-oz. glass at each meal is an easy way to 3-a-day. Like chocolate milk? Stick with low-fat and enjoy all the same nutrients as plain.
* Drink 4 to 6 ounces of 100 percent fruit or veggie juice a day. While 100% juice can be a great source of several nutrients, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Fruits and veggies are much better ways to get vitamins, minerals, and fluids. Whole produce tends to be more satisfying, plus you get the added value of fiber and phytonutrients from the skin and pulp. Want an easy way to extend the flavor of juice? Mix pure fruit juice with sparkling water or herbal tea; add a zesty lemon or lime wedge - and maybe a sprig of mint.
* Drink other beverages with care. Notice that we've left a long list of other, expensive high-calorie beverages for last? That's because most other drinks are loaded with things we don't need, while offering very little of what our bodies actually crave. Soft drinks, sweetened teas and fruit drinks (as well as many sports and "energy" drinks) are loaded with calories and sometimes caffeine. Fancy coffee drinks are often surprisingly high in calories, fat, and sugar. Here are some ways to manage the "other" category: