Healthy adult men and women should have approximately 3 cups of dairy products each day, recommends the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A single dairy serving is equivalent to 1 cup of milk, 1 1/2 ounces of hard cheese like mozzarella or cheddar, 1 cup of yogurt or 2 cups of cottage cheese. Dairy is high in protein and essential vitamins and minerals. Choose low- or non-fat dairy products whenever possible since full-fat dairy items are high in cholesterol and saturated fat.
Your body needs calcium in order to grow and maintain strong bones and teeth. According to the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board, adults should have about 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. A 1-cup serving of low- or non-fat milk contains about 300 milligrams of calcium, or approximately 30 percent of an adult's recommended daily allowance. Plain, low-fat yogurt has more per serving -- 400 milligrams of calcium in every cup -- while hard cheeses like cheddar or Swiss have more than 200 milligrams in a serving.
Potassium for Your Heart
Dairy products are high in potassium, comparable to potassium-rich foods such as Brussels sprouts, beets, potatoes, bananas, oranges and dried fruit. Consuming 1 cup of non-fat milk supplies you with 395 milligrams of potassium, an amount that fulfills nearly 10 percent of the 4,700-milligram daily recommended intake for adults. As an electrolyte, adequate potassium is crucial for your muscles and nerve cells to work properly; the Linus Pauling Institute reports that a diet high in potassium may also lower your risk of high blood pressure, which can help prevent heart disease.
Vitamin D, Calcium's Partner
Dairy products naturally contain only a trace amount of vitamin D, though commercial brands of cow's milk are fortified with about 100 IU of vitamin D per cup. Adults should consume at least 600 IU of vitamin D daily, and a serving of milk would supply a little more than15 percent of this requirement. Not all other dairy products, including yogurt and cheese, are fortified with vitamin D: Check the nutrition label to be certain. Vitamin D is essential for your body for using calcium to build and maintain your bones. If your diet lacks vitamin D, you may be more likely to develop osteoporosis.
Nervous System Supporter, Vitamin B-12
A 1-cup serving of low- or non-fat milk contains about 1 microgram of vitamin B-12, an amount that is equivalent to 42 percent of the vitamin's RDA for adult men and women. Cheese provides even more, with 1 cup of mozzarella, Swiss or Parmesan containing between 2.2 and 4 micrograms of vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 promotes the growth and function of your nervous system. Not getting enough vitamin B-12 can increase your risk of mood disorders or neurological problems. Pregnant women who fail to consume adequate vitamin B-12 may be more likely to have babies born with neurological malformations.
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: How Much Food from the Dairy Group is Needed Daily?
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Counts as a Cup in the Dairy Group?
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Health Benefits and Nutrients
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Calcium
- Harvard University Health Services: Calcium Content of Common Foods in Common Portions
- Kaiser Permanente: Potassium Content of Foods
- Northwest Kidney Centers: Potassium and Sodium - Guidelines
- Linus Pauling Institute: Potassium
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin D
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Nutrients - Vitamin B-12 (microgram)