How to Add More Healthy Dairy Foods to Your Diet

This month, we celebrate one of the most honored and quintessentially ‘Vermont’ harvests of all – dairy.

From creamy yogurts to sharp cheeses and everything in between, we Vermonters love our dairy products. But how could something so rich and delicious be part of a healthy diet?!

Healthy Dairy- Say What?

Good news! All foods can be part of a healthy diet and diary is no different.

Yes, dairy products contain saturated fat, which should be consumed in moderation. Yet, they also provide important nutrients like calcium, potassium and complete proteins.

Specifically, the whey in dairy is an excellent source of protein. It contains all the essential amino acids and multiple types of branched-chain amino acids. Both are important in tissue growth and repair. Our bodies utilize and absorbs this type of protein more efficiently than many others.

Additionally, milk and other dairy products like yogurt are often fortified with vitamin D making them some of the few food sources of vitamin D available.

Lactoferrin – What’s that?

In addition to the protein, vitamins and minerals, dairy contains lactoferrin, a protein found in both cow and human milk. Lactoferrin helps regulate the absorption of iron in the gut and the delivery of iron to the cells of the body. Lactoferrin is also thought to have antibacterial, viral and fungal properties and there is some evidence for its role in stimulating the immune system.

Probiotics – What’s all the hype?

Cultured dairy products including yogurt and kefir have enhanced nutritional benefits because they contain probiotic organisms like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.

Probiotics support the immune system and digestive health. There is good evidence that they can also help with acute conditions like diarrhea as well as chronic health conditions including irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. Research in this area is ongoing with some results suggesting that these beneficial microorganisms could even play a role in management of widespread health conditions like obesity and diabetes.

This Month’s Recipe: Tomato-Cheddar Cheese Toast

Is there a better example of Vermont dairy than cheddar cheese? Definitely not! This month’s recipe features it prominently with only 3 other ingredients. The recipe for tomato cheddar cheese toast is a fun twist on grilled cheese with the addition of sliced tomato and freshly ground black pepper for a pop of spice. It’s served open-faced on baguette slices making it perfect for a quick party appetizer or afternoon snack. Serve alongside a hearty winter salad and you have a satisfying and fuss-free meal.

Tomato-Cheddar Cheese Toast

  • 4diagonal slices baguette (1/4 inch thick), preferably whole wheat
  • 8small slices tomato
  • 1 1/2Tbspshredded Cheddar cheese per slice of toast
  • Pinch of cracked black pepper
  1. Toast bread.
  2. Top with tomato, cheese and pepper
  3. Heat in toaster over (or broil) to melt the cheese, if desired.
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For more on dairy including recipes, interesting facts, and books for kids, check out the Vermont Harvest of the Month website.

Get more recipes from the UVM Medical Center. View our Recipe Collection by clicking here. 

Bridget Shea, RD, is a clinical dietitian at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

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