Prairie Fare: Lift your glass of milk during June Dairy Month

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Recently, I caught the ending of the Indianapolis 500, which my Indiana-native husband always enjoys. He reminded me several times that the car race was going to be on TV that particular Sunday. I got the hint to leave him alone.

I told him he could watch the race while our kids and I planted the garden. I think he felt guilty about sitting around watching TV while we worked. He kept popping in and out of the house.

He commented that the last 20 minutes are the most exciting, so he helped us. At the end of the race, the winner had a big gulp of milk after emerging triumphantly from his vehicle.

The milk-drinking tradition began in the 1930s, when Louis Meyer drank buttermilk to refresh himself after the race on the advice of his mother. Later, milk became the standard post-race beverage.

June, which is Dairy Month, is a good time to toast the dairy industry with a cold glass of milk. We do not have a triumphant race car driver modeling milk- drinking behavior every day, but we now have a new symbol for nutrition.

MyPlate, the new nutrition icon, is a good reminder to include dairy in our menus. You can learn about it by visiting http://www.choosemyplate.gov.

MyPlate is a an illustration of a healthful diet showing a subdivided plate representing the relative amounts of fruits, vegetables, grain and protein-rich foods to consume. The blue circle next to the plate represents dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese.

Nutrition experts recommend that people ages 9 and older enjoy three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free milk or milk products. The recommendation for children ages 4 to 8 is 2 to 2 1/2 servings. Children ages 2 to 3 should have 2 servings per day.

Unfortunately, many people shortchange themselves on some of the nine key nutrients dairy foods provide by not having three servings per day. On average, people have two servings of dairy foods daily.

Milk is the No. 1 source of calcium, vitamin D and potassium in our diet. In fact, research has shown that dairy foods may reduce our risk for the bone- thinning disease osteoporosis. The DASH diet, which features ample fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy foods, may help lower blood pressure.

A recently published study reported that calcium intake is particularly of concern among the elderly, even if they consume calcium supplements. The researchers compared the calcium intake of people ages 19 to 30 with that of people who were ages 81 and older. They found that calcium intake was 23 percent lower in older men and 14 percent lower among older women compared with their younger counterparts.

Milk, yogurt and cheese are nutrient-rich foods and are notable protein sources, too. Eating protein-rich foods helps curb hunger and may help with weight management.

Milk is an excellent "sports drink" with its unique combination of carbohydrates, protein, fluid and electrolytes. Instead of reaching for a typical sports beverage after a workout, consider grabbing some cold, refreshing milk. The fluid rehydrates the body, while the other nutrients energize and replace minerals lost in sweat.

According to recent research, people with lactose intolerance may tolerate a cup of milk per day (or about 12 grams of lactose). Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk, which some people have difficulty digesting. Hard cheeses and yogurt often are tolerated well.

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, North Dakota State University



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