Drinking milk, whether you're six or 66, is intended to help keep your bones strong and healthy. However, with the recent negative publicity surrounding this beverage, determining how much milk you should drink each day can be challenging.
The USDA does not provide a recommended daily milk intake. Instead, it makes a broader recommendation. Men and women over the age of 50 should consume three cups of dairy products every day.
This requirement can be met by consuming a variety of dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and calcium-fortified soy milk. Additionally, it may include desserts made with milk, such as frozen yogurt, ice cream, and milk-based puddings.
However, there is one restriction regarding servings. While one cup of milk, soy milk, yogurt, frozen yogurt, or milk-based pudding counts as dairy, cheese, and ice cream, do not. According to the USDA, 1.5 ounces of hard cheese (parmesan, cheddar, mozzarella, or Swiss cheese) or two cups of cottage cheese equal one cup of dairy. A cup and a half of ice cream count as one cup of dairy as well.
The USDA's dairy recommendations are intended to assist you in meeting your calcium requirements. Bear in mind that while these foods have been classified as equivalent in terms of calcium content, their other nutrients, such as carbs and fats, vary. This advice excludes calcium-deficient dairy products such as butter, cream, and cream cheese.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), calcium and vitamin D are two nutrients that promote bone health. Clearly, these nutrients complement one another since the body cannot absorb calcium without vitamin D.
Vitamin D is used by the human body to make a hormone called calcitriol, which aids in the absorption of calcium from meals. If your body cannot absorb this vitamin from your diet, it will use the calcium stored in your bones, causing them to deteriorate.
Calcium and vitamin D deficiency, on the other hand, can result in osteoporosis, a bone disease caused by bone loss or insufficient bone growth. Osteoporosis, which literally translates as "porous bone," is a condition marked by frail bones that are more prone to break, particularly during a fall. Around 54 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis or have poor bone mass, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis.
The NIH advises a daily calcium intake of 1,200 milligrams for women over the age of 50, 1,000 milligrams for men aged 51 to 70, and 1,200 milligrams for men over the age of 70. For people under the age of 70, the recommended vitamin D intake is 600 international units (IU). It is recommended that you increase your consumption to 800 IU per day once you reach the age of 70.
The HSPH recommends supplementing your calcium intake from other sources. Apart from dairy products, the NIH states that non-dairy calcium sources include broccoli, spinach, kale, Chinese cabbage, oats, baked beans, soybeans, sardines, and salmon. Numerous fruit juices, beverages, tofu, and cereals are also calcium-enriched.
Apart from milk and dairy products, the NIH notes that you can consume vitamin D through various foods. Vitamin D is found in non-dairy sources such as egg yolks, liver, and saltwater seafood. As with calcium, this mineral is added to a variety of foods.
Vitamin D is also produced naturally by your body when your skin is exposed to the sun. However, seasons, time of day, cloud cover, and the amount of melanin in your skin all have an effect on how much vitamin D you synthesize. You may need dietary supplements to achieve this nutrient's daily requirement.
If you are having a hard time cooking a healthy meal for yourself or a senior loved one, you can always have food delivered to your doorstep. Check out Senior Strong’s article compiling the best food delivery options for seniors.
William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.