Dairy products include a vast array of products ranging from fluid milk to ice cream and several foods in between. Low-fat dairy products are often touted as being very healthful food choices.

One nutrient that prevents some people from enjoying dairy products is lactose. Many adults are lactose intolerant and experience gastrointestinal disturbances if they consume too much. There are products in stores, such as acidophilus milk and products that contain lactase, that can help alleviate this problem by converting each molecule of lactose into glucose and galactose which are easily absorbed.

Foods from ruminant animals, including milk, contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been reported to have positive health benefits. Diets rich in CLA decrease cardiac disease and the risk of cancer and improve immune function.[3]

One cup of reduced-fat (2%) milk provides balanced amounts of carbohydrate (lactose), protein, and fat. Choosing low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) milk can decrease dietary fat intake. All fluid milks, regardless of fat content, have the same concentration of calcium. One cup provides about 30% of the recommended daily intake of calcium for healthy adults. Fluid milk is fortified with

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- Chicken

- Beef Pork Turkey

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Fig. 1 Average annual meat comsumption. (Adapted from Ref. 4.) (View this art in color at www.dekker.com.)

vitamin D (400 IU per quart) to prevent deficiencies of this vitamin in the population.

One serving of yogurt provides as much calcium as a cup of milk, but yogurts often contain large amounts of added sucrose. Recently, yogurts that contain aspartame or sucralose as low-calorie sweeteners have appeared on store shelves. Some yogurts are made with low-calorie sweeteners and skim milk to form a product with half the calories of regular yogurt. All yogurts contain bacterial cultures. Most cultures are alive and promote gastrointestinal health by inoculating the intestines with bacteria that aid in digestion of food.

The nutrients found in cheese vary greatly depending on the kind of cheese. Some types, such as cottage and ricotta, contain relatively low amounts of fat. Harder cheeses, such as cheddar, contain higher concentrations of fat, making them more calorie-dense. All cheeses provide protein and calcium, but the amounts are variable between cheeses.

Other dairy products cream, half-and-half, sour cream, ice cream, and butter, for example contain varying amounts of fat, protein, and lactose. These products generally are not consumed in large quantities, so even though they may be more calorie-dense, they do not contribute significantly to the diets of most people.

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