Did you know that February is American Heart Month? The American Heart Association promotes eating an overall healthy diet by following the MyPlate guide to maintain your heart health. For the month of February, we will be highlighting the different food groups in MyPlate and how you and your family can easily incorporate them into a heart-healthy diet.
Today’s MyPlate food group is dairy! The dairy group includes more than just milk! Products such as yogurt, ice cream, and cheese all count as dairy foods. Soy milk products with added calcium are also considered by MyPlate as dairy products. MyPlate recommends 3 cups of dairy each day for children and adults age 9 and up, while 2 ½ cups per day are recommended for children 4-8 , and 2 cups per day for children age 2-3. Dairy foods are a good source of calcium, which helps to build and maintain bone health. Milk products in the US are also fortified with vitamin D, an important vitamin that helps us absorb calcium from our diet. Yogurt and milk are also good sources of potassium, which helps with blood pressure maintenance. Dairy foods have been associated with increased heart health and a decrease in risk of osteoporosis, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure in adults.
Similar to foods in the protein group, it is essential to choose the right type of dairy as part of an overall healthy diet. Fat-free or low-fat dairy is ideal, as whole milk dairy products contain higher amounts of saturated fats, which can raise cholesterol and increase risk of cardiovascular disease. Fat-free and low-fat options provide less cholesterol and saturated fat than reduced-fat and whole milk options. Calcium-fortified soy milk is also a good choice. Switching your daily dairy food choices to low-fat or fat-free options will help to contribute to a heart-healthy diet pattern. For those who regularly consume dairy higher in fat, switching to low-fat first and slowly moving to a fat-free dairy option may make the switch easier. You can also start by switching one of your 3 daily servings to a low-fat or fat-free option, then slowly switching the other two servings.
To find out more information on the link between dairy and heart health visit https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/dairy-products-milk-yogurt-and-cheese