Dairy Amazing Education

Feb 5, 2016
bowls of soup

March is National Nutrition Month®, an opportune time to share new insights and ultimately inspire patients to make small changes that may have big impacts in the future. This year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ theme “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” acknowledges the importance of how food traditions, flavors and social experiences can add richness to our lives. 

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I enjoy diving into the research that hits my desk. And as a foodie, I love hearing that my favorite foods can be both nutritious and delicious. This National Nutrition Month®, here are three ideas of how milk, cheese and yogurt can help patients eat healthier and savor the flavor when food is an experience to enjoy.

Whole-Fat Dairy May Improve the Heart-Healthy DASH Eating Plan

Once again, DASH, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, has been voted the Best Diet Overall by U.S. News & World Report. DASH encourages consumption of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats, nuts, seeds and legumes. Dairy plays an essential role in DASH, as the calcium, potassium and magnesium found in dairy foods help lower blood pressure. 

But some health professionals criticize the DASH diet for its lack of long-term success with patients. Research shows that compliance with diets low in saturated fat can be difficult for many patients. Research also indicates DASH may have both positive and negative effects on major cardiovascular disease risk factors. While we see the benefit of lowering blood pressure and LDL cholesterol with DASH, it can be at the cost of lowering HDL cholesterol while increasing triglycerides. Is there room for improvement? 

A new study shows that DASH can be modified to include whole milk, yogurt and cheese without sacrificing its health benefits. Researchers compared the effects of a modified DASH plan, which included whole-fat dairy products, with a standard DASH plan and the typical Western diet. Blood pressure and lipid markers were monitored as part of this randomized, controlled trial. Results showed:

  • Blood pressure was reduced across both DASH Eating Plan 
  • The modified DASH plan indicated positive effects on reducing triglycerides without impacting HDL cholesterol levels. 

The study adds to growing evidence that savoring beloved dairy products such as whole milk may not be associated with CVD risk and may actually reduce the risk of CVD

Most Americans Get Protein at Lunch and at Dinner, but Not Enough in the Morning

Protein is always a popular topic, and with National Nutrition Month’s theme this year, enjoying your favorite protein-packed breakfasts may be part of becoming healthier. Eating high-quality proteins promotes satiety, helps with weight maintenance, creates lean muscle and aids in blood glucose control. Spreading protein throughout the day is key – preferably between 25-30 grams of protein per meal. 

But according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Americans generally only consume 10 grams of protein at breakfast, then make it up with 20 grams at lunch and 50 grams at dinner. Luckily, there are satisfying ways for patients to get 25-30 grams each morning. Encourage your patients to start adding up their protein intake. If your patients start falling short with protein at breakfast, never fear; a cold cup of milk adds 8 grams of protein to their morning routine.

Beverages Account for Nearly 20 Percent of America’s Caloric Intake.

The recent release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides the blueprints to healthy eating patterns. Nutrient-dense foods are the focus, with the implication that educating patients on choosing healthy beverages is key. Besides water, the guidelines recommend beverages that contribute beneficial nutrients, such as fat-free and low-fat milk and 100-percent juice. 

Naturally, milk is 90 percent water and is an excellent choice to meet hydration needs. Milk’s unique nutrition package also contains nine essential nutrients that can be difficult to replace otherwise. Encouraging a glass of milk may be an easy change for patients, ultimately getting them one step closer to achieving the dietary guidelines while drinking a beverage they love.

Savoring the flavors of eating right, while making gradual changes over time, can have a big impact on your patients overall. I invite you to explore more about the health benefits of dairy, plus find educational materials for your patients.