Test dairy, nutrition IQ with MyPlate quizzes

My son, who is 11, says that since butter is made from milk, it should be counted as a dairy food. I know that it’s not dairy, but can you help me explain why?

The most important nutrient we get from dairy foods is calcium. Some foods made from milk, such as cheese and yogurt, retain their calcium content, and those foods are counted along with milk as part of the dairy group.

However, there are foods made from milk that have little or no calcium. That includes butter, as well as cream, cream cheese and sour cream. These are all very high in saturated fat, which should be limited in a healthy diet. That’s why they’re not considered dairy foods, and they don’t count toward the three cups of dairy foods that anyone who is 9 or older should eat each day. (Speaking of amounts, it’s important to know that for cheese, all of these count as “one cup” of dairy: 1.5 ounces of hard cheese, 2 ounces of processed cheese, a half-cup of shredded cheese, and 2 cups of cottage cheese.)

Ice cream and frozen yogurt are counted in the dairy group, but they also can be high in calories, saturated fat and added sugars. Choosing low-fat or fat-free types would be healthier choices for dairy-based desserts.

As you explain all this to your son, you might want to challenge him to think more about the nutrients in his food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion has just developed a set of online quizzes on the five food groups: dairy, fruit, grains, protein foods and vegetables. The 10-question quizzes are designed to be informative and fun, and could help gear up his brain cells for back-to-school activities. The true-and-false and multiple-choice questions include, for example:

  • What nutrient can you get from eating whole fruit but usually not from fruit juice?
  • What protein food is also a good source of calcium?
  • About how much of the grains you eat should be whole grains?
  • How much of your plate should be filled with vegetables and fruit?
  • What is the name of the sugar found naturally in milk?
  • What vitamin gives carrots their orange color?

The quizzes are online at choosemyplate.gov/quiz. There, you’ll also find access to a broad menu of trustworthy nutrition information, including:

  • Printable MyPlate Daily Checklists for different calorie levels (and an easy way to find out how many calories you should be eating each day).
  • The online SuperTracker, which can help you plan and track your diet and physical activity.
  • The “What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl” site, which helps you build healthy menus, browse recipes, watch how-to cooking videos and create and print your own cookbook.

The ChooseMyPlate.gov site provides a wealth of information about healthy eating at your fingertips. Bon appetit!

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carolyn Gunther, Community Nutrition specialist for Ohio State University Extension.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Calcium important, dairy a good source

chow_032015_178493804A friend started a new diet, and he said he was surprised to learn milk and other dairy products can actually cause, not prevent, osteoporosis. Can you explain?

This notion pops up from time to time, but rest assured that there’s broad consensus among nutrition researchers and registered dietitians that getting enough calcium, along with vitamin D, is an important part of a healthful diet, and dairy products remain a good source of these critical nutrients.

But the factors affecting calcium absorption and how the body uses calcium are complicated, and researchers are still discovering information about it. So, be prepared to continue to hear occasional back-and-forth about the best guidance.

One of the studies often cited by those who warn people off dairy products is from 1997. This Harvard University study examined data from more than 77,000 women who self-reported their food intake in questionnaires in 1980, 1984, and 1986. Surprisingly, they found that higher reported consumption of milk and other dairy didn’t protect women against hip or bone fractures.

However, other examinations of the evidence on dairy foods and bone health indicate that the 1997 study doesn’t tell the whole story.

For example, a 2000 comprehensive review of research conducted on dairy foods and bone health between 1985 and 1999, including the above study, was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It determined that 42 percent of the studies’ findings showed favorable effects of dairy foods on bone health, while 53 percent showed insignificant effects and only 5 percent showed unfavorable effects.

One of the issues regarding dairy foods and calcium is related to dairy’s protein content. When a person eats more protein, more calcium is lost through the urine. So, wouldn’t it make sense to get calcium from foods without protein?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are many things that affect how the body handles calcium. While dairy might have some issues, so do other foods.

Even the “Nutrition Source” from Harvard’s School of Public Health, whose researchers conducted the 1997 study, doesn’t advocate abstaining from dairy products. Just read its article “Calcium and Milk: What’s Best for Your Bones and Health?” online at www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/calcium-full-story/. You’ll see that the authors suggest that while American adults “may not need as much calcium as is currently recommended” (which is 1,000-1,200 milligrams a day), they still recommend one daily serving of milk in addition to another 300 milligrams of calcium from other sources.

While deliberation about calcium and dairy foods is sure to continue, you can rely on this piece of guidance: Eat a balanced diet with a wide variety of nutritious foods, limited in added sugars and saturated fat, and with plenty of produce and whole grains, while maintaining a healthful weight and getting enough physical activity. If you do that, everything else should fall into place.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carolyn Gunther, Community Nutrition Education specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Dairy dilemmas fueled by headlines

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I’ve seen friends post information on social media saying dairy foods are bad for you. Is this hype or for real?

Despite some negative press, dairy products still get a thumbs-up from the nutrition community, particularly low-fat and fat-free varieties.

But that didn’t stop recent headlines from warning things such as “Drinking too much milk could kill you.” This particular round of news stories were based on a Swedish study and have added fuel to dairy denunciations from groups as disparate as plant-food-loving vegan diet advocates to meat-loving Paleo diet proponents.

In the study, researchers looked at dietary questionnaires completed by 61,000 Swedish women in the late 1980s and in 1997, and 45,000 Swedish men in 1997, and investigated health outcomes in 2010. They found that higher reports of milk consumption were not associated with lower risk of bone fractures and were associated with higher rates of death — hence the headlines that resulted.

But even the study’s authors said their results should be interpreted cautiously and shouldn’t be used for dietary recommendations. Critics went further, pointing out that the study didn’t differentiate between full-fat and low- or nonfat milk, and actually found that consumption of cheese, yogurt and other fermented dairy products was associated with a reduced risk of bone fractures. And there’s always concern about long-term studies that draw conclusions from dietary information taken at a single point in time.

That said, milk consumption is problematic for people who are lactose-intolerant. People with this condition have trouble digesting the type of sugar in milk and suffer bloating, cramps, diarrhea or nausea after drinking milk. It’s estimated that 30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant to some extent, with very high rates among certain populations, including Asians, African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.

Despite the concerns, the majority of the nutrition community defends dairy as being an important part of an overall healthful diet. There’s just too much scientific evidence that supports the link between consumption of dairy products and bone health, and there are additional compelling indications that dairy has other health benefits, as well. Besides being high in calcium, dairy offers many nutrients, including vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A, selenium, magnesium and zinc.

So, experts say, if the choice is between soda or another sugary drink and milk — take the milk.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Bridgette Kidd, Healthy People program specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Dairy an easy way to get calcium

173771158I know a few people who insist that dairy foods are bad for you. Is there any truth to that?

It does seem like a lot of people have concerns about dairy. Although it’s possible to have a healthful diet without dairy, consuming dairy products makes it much easier to get critical nutrients. So, the blanket statement that “dairy is bad for you” should be met with skepticism.

Arguments from the “anti-dairy” side are numerous. Some people are concerned about the saturated fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates and even protein in dairy. Others are troubled about hormones, which occur naturally in milk from cows regardless of whether they are treated with synthetic growth hormones to boost milk production.

Some people do have dairy-related health issues. A small number are allergic — they must stay away from milk and dairy to avoid a reaction. More are lactose intolerant. Their intestines don’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase to break down natural milk sugar, which can cause gas pain and bloating if they’re not careful.

Still others are anxious about other issues — weight gain or even acne. The list goes on and on. But talk to a registered dietitian, and you’ll hear a different story. Dairy foods provide many important nutrients, such as potassium, vitamin D (in products that are fortified — read the label) and, of course, calcium.

Most people, particularly adolescents, simply don’t get enough calcium in their diet. While not the only possible source of calcium, dairy products can be an easy, convenient way to get the calcium you need.

Consuming enough calcium and vitamin D during our younger years helps strengthen bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and related bone fractures later in life. And as we age, we still need to consume enough to prevent the body from robbing calcium from our bones for other uses, such as the proper functioning of nerves and blood vessels and for muscle contraction. Recommended calcium intakes range from 1,000 to 1,300 milligrams a day from age 4 through adulthood. See http://bit.ly/NIHcalcium for details. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends three servings of non-fat or low-fat dairy a day to help people meet those goals.

People who choose not to consume dairy products should do their homework to make sure they’re getting the calcium they need. Non-dairy sources include orange juice, soy beverages, tofu and breakfast cereals that are fortified with calcium; bok choy, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale and other leafy greens; and some beans including black, Great Northern, navy and white beans.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, orfilipic.3@osu.edu.