What’s the deal with dairy?

Dairy products are a dependable source of up to 15 essential nutrients that each play a role in supporting good health throughout life. Learn why milk, cheese and yogurt contribute to your healthy eating goals every day.


Dairy, your dependable daily dose of essential nutrients

Think the nutrients in dairy are easy to find elsewhere? According to data from the most recent Canadian Community Health Survey conducted by Statistics Canada and Health Canada, calcium intakes have fallen in the Canadian population over an 11-year period and this drop coincides with a decrease in consumption of dairy products. The result? The vast majority of Canadians don’t get enough calcium. For instance, 66% of teenage boys, 86% of teenage girls and more than 73% of adult women are not getting enough calcium every day. Calcium is crucial for maintaining bone health as well as keeping your heart beating and blood pressure normal. It also helps your muscles contract and relax, your blood clot and your nerve cells communicate.

Milk, cheese and yogurt are naturally rich in calcium that your body absorbs well. Enjoying them each day, throughout life, can help you meet your essential nutrient needs, especially those that many Canadians have trouble meeting. This includes calcium, of course, but also five other essential nutrients that many of us lack in our diet, namely vitamin D, vitamin A, magnesium, zinc and potassium. Very few foods provide as much calcium in one serving and in a form that your body can absorb so well. For example, you would have to eat 8 cups of spinach or 8 cups of kidney beans to obtain the amount of calcium found in a single glass of milk. While other foods can provide calcium, studies show that, in real life, people who eat few or no dairy products often have a diet that’s lacking in calcium.

Milk also has nutritional advantages over plant-based beverages

With the exception of soy beverages, most fortified plant-based beverages have significantly less protein per serving than cow’s milk. In addition, the calcium naturally present in cow’s milk is often better absorbed by our body than what’s added to fortified plant-based beverages. Some research also shows that up to 40% of the calcium added to plant-based beverages can stick to the bottom of the container even if it is shaken vigorously.

How can you tell if you are deficient in calcium?

A calcium deficiency often goes unnoticed because a blood or urine test won’t tell you if you are deficient in this critical nutrient. The calcium in your blood is tightly controlled in order to provide a constant supply to help your body work. If calcium is in short supply, your body will take calcium from your bones and, over time, your bones will slowly get weak and be more likely to break. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to eat calcium-rich foods every day throughout your life.


Where is dairy in the Food Guide?

Milk, cheese and yogurt are included in the protein foods category in the new Canada’s Food Guide. Along with vegetables, fruit, whole grains and other protein foods, nutritious milk products are among the foods that form the foundation for healthy eating and that Canada’s Food Guide recommends we consume on a regular basis. Within the protein foods category, milk products offer a unique set of nutrients along with complete protein that set them apart from other sources of protein.


Eat well every day

Milk products are nutritious, affordable, accessible and versatile. Along with vegetables, fruit, whole grains and other protein foods, they are part of a healthy diet. There are all kinds of simple and nourishing recipes made with milk, cheese and yogurt that are sure to please your whole family.