Calcium-rich eating offers many nutritional benefits

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross writes about dairy foods.
Posted on June 17, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

Food & Nutrition

Last week I wrote about ice cream and all the wonderful strawberries and combining the two. This week I am continuing with more on dairy food since June is National Dairy Month. I am also including the ice cream contest rules as the volunteers who work in the building and conduct all of the special contests would like more of you to participate. It sure would be nice if some of you did some practicing on food items and brought them to your Purdue Elkhart County Extension office for some pre-fair judging!

When it comes to dairy foods I think of really good cheese with fresh fruit and of course a bowl of ice cream. To me there is just nothing like a glass of cold milk and a fresh-baked cookie. Recently a friend brought me some soft, chewy chocolate chip cookies just because she is very kind, an excellent baker and most of all knows I really like soft, chewy cookies.

Many of you don’t believe it and your behavior doesn’t show it, but you need to consume dairy products throughout your life. A bonus is that dairy foods taste so good and there are so many options. I grew up in a milk-drinking home and I drink more than my two servings a day. Generations of people have grown up hearing the same advice: “Drink your milk for strong bones and teeth.”

When you are young you need calcium for bone growth for length, and when you are maturing you need it to keep bones strong. Your body needs dietary calcium also to help protect against high blood pressure and colon cancer; in addition, it’s the best food to help prevent osteoporosis. The trouble is that many of you, young and old, are just not eating enough calcium-rich foods to reap the benefits.

Calcium-rich eating offers many benefits from the beginning of our lives through our senior years. Our calcium requirements change through our different stages of life, but milk and other foods from the milk group are the best sources of calcium in your healthy eating plan.

So now what you need to know and practice, and encourage others to practice, is the calcium guidelines. Give children at least three servings from the milk group. From the age of 2 on up most children, youth and adults should have low-fat dairy foods. Youth and young people from the ages of 11 to 24 are the groups lacking most when it comes to calcium consumption and calcium is probably the most important to them.

Teenagers need at least four servings from the milk group and they should be low-fat. Adults ages 24 to 40 also need to help their bodies by making their bones stronger and denser. You need to know that in middle age, bones start losing calcium slowly. But if you enter your 40s with a weak skeleton, even a small amount of bone loss can have a terrible effect on your bone health. For adults 40 and older, two or more servings of calcium is recommended each day.

Pregnant and nursing women are another group to cover as they are eating for two. If they don’t consume calcium-rich foods, their bodies will pull the calcium their baby needs out of the mother’s bones. Women need to give their babies a good start by maintaining their own health and by eating calcium-rich foods. Pregnant and nursing women need at least four servings, and teenagers who are in this group need five or more servings. The calcium is needed to build the bones and teeth of the babies and maintain the mother’s supply of calcium.

Now you need to know what a serving is so you can get calcium into your healthy eating plan. One serving from the milk group equals 1 cup milk, or 1 cup yogurt. To get the same amount of calcium from other sources you have to eat 1 1/2 ounces of cheese, 1 3/4 cups of ice cream, 1 cup of pudding or 2 cups of cottage cheese.

So plan ahead and the next time you thirst or need a snack think of the dairy group!

The official rules for the Great Homemade Ice Cream Crank Off can be found in the 2013 Open Class Home & Family Arts Department Booklet. Obtain your copy by visiting our office website at www.ces.purdue.edu/elkhart. The contest will be held Saturday, July 27, in front of the Home & Family Arts Building. Participants can check in from 10 to 11 a.m., with the contest beginning at 11:15 a.m. Your ice cream must be ready for judging by noon. Cash prizes will be given to first-, second- and third-place winners, sponsored by Elkhart County Dairy Directors.

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is an Extension educator in consumer family science. Write to her at 17746 E. C.R. 34, Goshen, IN 46528; call 533-0554; fax 533-0254; or email lienhart@purdue.edu.

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