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Dairy's role in healthy eating patterns

Scientific evidence supports the importance of milk and dairy products as part of a healthy eating pattern.

A healthy lifestyle consists of eating a healthy and balanced diet, exercise, as well as enjoying life. Milk and other dairy products are tasty and full of nutrients. As part of a healthy and balanced diet they help you to maintain or improve your nutrition and health.

Dairy foods are not only excellent sources of calcium, vitamins B2 and B12, high-quality protein and carbohydrates in the form of lactose, but also rich in magnesium, potassium, various fatty acids and vitamin D (in fortified products). 

Whilst people are generally aware of the benefits of milk and other dairy foods for bone and dental health, but more recently a large body of evidence has linked dairy intake also to other health benefits. This may be linked to the unique combination of nutrients in dairy – the so-called dairy matrix – as the collective metabolic effects of whole dairy seem to be stronger than that of individual nutrients.

The unique package of essential nutrients contained in dairy products contributes to the prevention of all forms of malnutrition. 

Milk and dairy products have also been associated with:

  • Improved growth in children
  • Better micronutrient status
  • Enhanced cognitive performance and motor function development

With regard to the association of dairy consumption and non-communicable diseases, a growing evidence base supports a null or inverse association between dairy consumption and incidence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke, certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. 

Emerging evidence on dairy and immunity suggests that consumption of nutrient-dense dairy foods may be beneficial.

Dairy makes healthy eating enjoyable

Not only do dairy foods play an integral role in supporting overall health, but the wide variety, availability and affordability of natural dairy foods makes it possible to include them in a variety of healthy eating patterns, making their nutritional benefits available to many.

In summary, dairy foods are accessible, affordable, taste great, come in a number of varieties and provide a unique nutrient profile that can help make eating right easier and more enjoyable. 

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IDF provides a permanent source of authoritative scientific and other information on a whole range of topics relevant to the dairy sector.