Pam Dudding Contributing writer
When summer comes around, most all kids think about ice cream. The same can be said for many adults.
Rachel Smith, a summer intern from Giles at the Virginia Cooperative Extension, recently wrote her thoughts about National Dairy Month.
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for National Dairy Month. June marked over 80 years of National Dairy Month being celebrated across the nation. Starting in 1937 as National Milk Month before later progressing to incorporate all dairy products in 1939, this month has held as steadfast as the farmers behind it all,” Smith said. “June is a time not only to promote dairy consumption, but also to show appreciation and gratitude to all of the dairy farmers who have tirelessly been churning out our milk products.”
Smith noted that in Virginia, dairy is ranked as the state’s fourth leading farm commodity according to 2016 USDA data figures. Its importance to the state extends beyond its agricultural significance and reaches into a matter even closer to the heart, our personal health.
Even doctors agree that milk is high in so many essential nutrients, including vitamins A and D, various B vitamins, protein, zinc, calcium and more.
“It’s no wonder that the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that dairy consumption is a core part of healthy dietary patterns,” she stated. “Specifically, there is an emphasis on fat-free/low-fat milks, yogurts and cheeses.”
Coincidentally, June is also the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the USDA’s MyPlate, which corresponds directly to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Smith added, “According to the guidelines, a healthy dietary pattern at a 2,000-calorie level includes a three-cup equivalent of dairy every day. Of course, this ranges, but primarily so with age and lactation or pregnancy status. A three-cup equivalent of dairy in a day would look something like: one cup, or 8 fluid ounces, of low-fat milk in your breakfast cereal alongside a nonfat four ounce serving of yogurt, two slices of low-fat cheddar cheese on your whole-grain turkey sandwich at lunch, and a scoop and a half of your favorite ice cream after dinner.”
Many researchers agree that dairy serves meaningful purposes in regard to one’s health and a decent-sized portion of it every day is needed to meet dietary requirements.”
“But, did you know that, according to the USDA, around 90 percent of Americans do not consume enough dairy? Dairy provides calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for helping to build and maintain the body’s bones,” Smith explained. “For younger children particularly, this is essential. Bone mass is accumulated in youth and once we hit a certain age, our bone mass levels begin to decline which, if severe enough, can lead to osteoporosis and bone fractures. Fortunately, with proper nutrition and physical activity, specifically calcium and vitamin D consumption alongside weight-bearing exercise, we can maximize our bone density in our youth, thus reducing the severity of bone mass loss later in life.”
Though National Dairy Month ended in June, dairy is still a major part of many people’s lives and health.
A favorite summer dessert is frozen banana or strawberry shakes. To make it, place two to three sliced frozen bananas or a cup of frozen strawberries in the blender, add three tablespoons of milk and blend until smooth. For a little different flavor, add a little chocolate syrup.
“Thank a dairy farmer for all of their hard work in providing us with this nutritious and delicious food group,” Smith said. “We hope you had a happy National Dairy Month and happy eating.”