Is dairy ok to eat? I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews about milk, and that we should not be drinking it or eating dairy.

How much milk do you really need? (

There is nothing inherently unsafe about consuming dairy products.  Dairy has plenty of nutritional value: calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, and protein.  The USDA MyPlate recommends three servings of dairy per day to meet nutritional needs.  The dairy group is broader than milk, for example, yogurt and cheese are also good sources of calcium.

Some of the controversy over dairy comes from the large number of people with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, which can be very severe.  Most people are aware if they have a severe dairy allergy, but lots of other people have less serious, though still troubling, intolerances.  Recent claims are that milk causes inflammation in the body, but the jury is still out on that one.  Dairy products can also be a source of saturated fat and cholesterol, so if you do choose to consume dairy, make sure you’re eating and drinking low-fat or non-fat yogurt, cheese, and milk.  If you want to avoid dairy completely, there are plenty of milk alternatives to choose from.  Favorites at the Barn are enriched rice, soy and almond milks.

The dairy industry has also grown so big that dairy cows are often not treated well.  I prefer to buy dairy from sources I can trust, and organic whenever possible.  One of our favorite brands here at HealthBarn USA is Stonyfield organic yogurt, which is a brand dedicated to making high quality products.  Sources like this are typically more expensive, but you can rest assured that your dairy came from a happier cow.  My go to cheese is Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar for cooking and nibbling because a 1 ounce serving contains 4.5 grams of total fat compared 9 grams in the whole milk version.  Cabot Creamery is a cooperative of dairy farmers and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of their cows personally in Vermont.

Worried about getting your vitamins and minerals if you cut out dairy?  Don’t be.  You don’t need dairy to get those nutrients.  The body can absorb vitamin D from sunshine, and vitamin A and calcium are found in dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collards (along with tons of other vitamins and minerals). Whether or not you eat dairy is a personal choice—just take in the facts and make an informed decision!

– Stacey Antine, M.S. R.D., author, Appetite for Life and founder, HealthBarn USA

What puzzles you about keeping your family healthy?  Tell us what’s on your mind by emailing [email protected].  Stacey will answer those questions here weekly.

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