The National Dairy Council wants us to think about calcium. We need to find calcium in our foods first before we pop a pill. How do we do that?

Most of us aren’t making enough time for the foods from the milk/dairy group, including milk, cheese and yogurt. Without them, it’s tough to meet calcium needs. In fact, according to the National Dairy Council (NDC) 75 percent of Americans are shortchanging themselves of this key bone-building mineral. Plus, health experts are finding overall nutrient intake suffers when diets lack foods from the milk/dairy group.

Meeting calcium needs with milk, cheese and yogurt helps to ensure you are meeting your needs for at least six other key nutrients too.

Here’s a snapshot of what is in milk, cheese and yogurt:

  • Vitamin A: helps with maintaining normal vision and skin. It also helps regulate cell growth and the immune system.
  • Vitamin D: in fortified milk promotes the utilization of calcium and helps optimize bone mineralization-strengthening of bones.
  • Calcium: helps build strong bones and teeth. It is also needed so muscles, like your heart, contract and relax normally.
  • Riboflavin: helps convert food into energy.
  • Vitamin B12: Helps build red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to working muscles.
  • Phosphorus: strengthens bones and generates energy in your body’s cells.

“Three-a-day” is the easy way to remember that three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt will help most children and younger adults meet calcium needs while supplying an abundance of other essential nutrients too. Preteens, teens and older adults should aim for four servings a day from the milk/dairy group.

Experts say “Don’t be a Pill” – the American Dietetic Association, the American Medical Association and a National Institutes of Health expert panel recommend calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt as the preferred sources of calcium – not pills.