Are Milk, Cheese & Yogurt Equally Healthy?

Milk, cheese and yogurt are dairy foods, meaning they are products of cow's milk and belong to the Dairy Group, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's My Plate Guide. Foods made from milk, such as cheese and yogurt, retain their calcium content and are considered part of the Dairy Group. In this way, they are considered an equally healthy choice from this food group. But because of the varieties of milk, cheese and yogurt, they are not equal in the amount of protein, calcium or added ingredients.

Milk

Milk is the basis of the other two dairy products, yogurt and cheese. There are similarities in the nutritive values of these foods. Milk is available as whole, low fat and nonfat varieties. One cup of whole milk contains 149 calories, 7.69 grams of protein, 7.93 grams of fat, 105 milligrams of sodium and 207 milligrams of calcium. There are a few cheeses made with lower fat milk, but they lose their body and flavor.

Cheese

Cheese is usually high in saturated fats, unless you purchase a low fat variety or skim milk type. One ounce of cheddar cheese contains 113 calories, 6.97 grams of protein, 9.28 grams of fat, 174 milligrams of sodium and 202 milligrams of calcium. This is comparable to whole milk, but supplying a little more fat and sodium. Mozzarella cheese is often available in a skim milk version with less fat. Cream cheese is not included as a dairy product because it does not have the calcium of milk, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Low fat cottage cheese, supplying only 1 percent fat is higher in protein than milk. One cup of 1 percent cottage cheese supplies 28 grams of protein and 163 calories.

Yogurt

There are a variety of yogurts, including whole milk, low fat and nonfat. The fat content will be similar to milk. But yogurt is a cultured milk product and contains active probiotics that are not in milk or cheese. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that may improve digestion, treat diarrhea, prevent and treat yeast infections and treat irritable bowl syndrome, according to MayoClinic.com. One cup of whole milk yogurt contains 149 calories, 8.5 grams of protein, 7.96 grams of fat, 113 milligrams of sodium and 296 milligrams of calcium. A serving of yogurt supplies a little more calcium than milk or cheese. Yogurts often have added sugar and fruits, which would not make them equal to milk and cheese.

Considerations

Milk, cheese and yogurt are usually prepared from cow's milk. If you have an allergy to dairy or if you are lactose intolerant, do not eat any of these foods. You may substitute with soy, almond or coconut milk products. Each of these alternatives are available as milk, cheese and yogurt and are usually supplemented with calcium. Always check with your health-care provider if you have allergic reactions to food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends 3 cups of lower fat or no fat calcium-rich foods from the dairy group.

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