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Fad-free advice: Hormones or no, keep drinking milk

  • Story Highlights
  • Most U.S. adults consume only half the recommended three daily servings of milk
  • Fortified milk is one of only a few dietary sources of vitamin D
  • Your body can absorb only about 500 milligrams of calcium at a time
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By the Editors of Cooking Light
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Cooking Light

In Fad-free Nutrition, exclusively on CNN.com, the editors of Cooking Light help you digest the latest diet and food news and trends

When Wal-Mart announced last week that its private label milk would be produced exclusively from cows that had been given no artificial growth hormones, it sparked nationwide concern about how milk is produced and how its production may affect your health.

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Milk is a key source of calcium, a mineral that's critical for helping prevent osteoporosis and keeping teeth strong.

While scientific studies have proven inconclusive, it's important to focus on what we do know. Milk has nutrients that are essential to your health, so whatever you do, don't stop drinking it. Here's why:

1. You probably aren't getting enough

On average, American adults consume only half of the three daily servings of milk recommended by the Food Pyramid. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 10 percent of women consume the three recommended servings.

2. Strong bones...and more

Milk is a top dietary source of calcium, a mineral that's critical for helping prevent osteoporosis and keeping teeth strong. Calcium and other nutrients in dairy also help keep your blood pressure stable, have been linked to lowered levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol, reduced risk of certain cancers, and even weight loss. For more on what calcium can do for you, read our full story.

3. You need calcium all day

Your body can absorb only about 500 milligrams of calcium at a time. That's why it's best to obtain calcium from a variety of foods all day long. Milk and dairy products, such as yogurt or cheese, make it easy to get small portions throughout the day. (You can also obtain some calcium from non-dairy sources. )

4. All milk is fortified with vitamins

Fortified milk is one of only a few dietary sources of vitamin D, a nutrient that helps your body better absorb calcium and one of the nutrients that women need most. A cup of milk contains 100 International Units (IU) of vitamin D  half the amount currently recommended for adults under age 50 and a quarter of the amount needed for those age 51 to 70. Milk is also fortified with vitamin A, a key nutrient for vision and a healthy immune system.

What you should do:

If you're under at 50, you need 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily. Those over 50 need 1,200 mg. Meeting this amount is easy. Consume three of the following (each contains 300 milligrams of calcium a third of your daily requirement):

• One cup of milk

• A cup of yogurt

• One-and-a-half ounces of cheese (about six playing dice)

• Your choice from our list of Top 12 calcium-rich foods .

Finally, be sure to choose low-fat milk and dairy products. Lowering your intake of saturated fat helps lower your risk of heart disease. Learn more about differences in milk varieties to help you make smart choices. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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Copyright 2009 Cooking Light magazine. All rights reserved.

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