Nutrition

Dairy is an important part of the diet because of the nutrients it provides, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Currently, three cups of dairy are recommended for the general population over age eight. If you decide not to retain dairy in your diet make sure you find other sources of these vital nutrients.

Calcium

  1. Keeps teeth and bones strong
  2. Reduces the risk of osteoporosis, helps muscles contract
  3. Helps keep the nervous system healthy
  4. Helps heart function and blood clotting

Calcium is as important for growing children as it is for adults. Dairy products are the most common source of calcium for Americans, but there are other foods that provide calcium, including spinach, kale, tofu, salmon and calcium-fortified foods. Talk to your doctor about taking a calcium supplement too if you are having trouble getting enough calcium.

Vitamin D

  1. Regulates levels of calcium and phosphorous
  2. Helps absorb calcium in the stomach
  3. Couples with calcium for good bone growth

Vitamin D is not found in many foods. However, the body produces its own when ultraviolet rays from the sun strike the body, and many foods are fortified with vitamin D--especially milk. Cheese, fatty fish and egg yolks have some naturally.

Potassium

  1. Good for healthy blood pressure
  2. Helps muscle contraction and nerve response

While there is a good amount of potassium in dairy products such as milk and yogurt, dairy is not nearly the only source of potassium. But it is still a good source and anyone with lactose intolerance should be sure they are getting enough. Other good sources include sweet potatoes, bananas, spinach and clams.