Heart health. It’s something that we hear about on the news and on talk shows but many of us brush off or ignore. But did you know that 735,000 Americans have heart attacks and 610,000 people die from heart disease every year? Those are pretty scary numbers. After reading those statistics, I started thinking – what can we do to prevent this disease from hurting more people. After looking at research from the American Heart Institute, National Dairy Council, and the Center for Disease Control, I found there are many steps you can take to lower your risk.
Like many diseases, prevention is key. That means getting a jump start on these healthy behaviors could truly be a lifesaver for us down the road. Some of these lifestyle changes include: quitting smoking, adding daily exercise, and cutting down our daily sodium intake. Good nutrition is another key way to lower your risk.
Following the Dietary Guidelines is a great way to start on the path to good nutrition (and easy!). Eating a balanced diet comprised of food from each of the Five Food Groups gives us the best chance of a nutritious diet necessary for optimal heart health. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines and the American Heart Association found strong, consistent evidence that the risk for Cardiovascular Disease is lower when people eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat/fat-free dairy and less added sugar; particularly sugar sweetened beverages.
While each food groups provides you important nutrients, one food group in particular is often forgotten about or skipped on a regular basis. That’s the dairy group. Milk, yogurt and cheese contain nutrients that can help prevent cardiovascular disease (which is what we are trying to do, right?). Now you may be thinking, “what can I get from milk that I can’t get from the other food groups?” You’re right, you can get the nutrients in milk from other food groups, but not all at once OR in one food! Milk is a nutritional powerhouse. Calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein (just to name a few,) are found in all dairy products. Each of these nutrients plays a vital role in helping your body run properly. Not to mention the fact that in many studies conducted, consumption of dairy foods was shown to reduce the risk of Cardiovascular Disease. To get the same amount of nutrients from other foods, you would have to take in a lot more calories, which could lead to weight gain.
Finding ways to incorporate heart healthy fat-free/low-fat dairy into your diet can be simple and delicious. Add low-fat yogurt to your morning smoothie, sip on a cold glass of milk for lunch or eat a piece of string cheese for an easy, on the go snack. One of my favorite ways to include dairy into my diet is my morning latte (a big thank you to my local dairy farmers and coffee stand for the delicious milky, java goodness).
To find more ways to incorporate dairy into your diet and more information on Cardiovascular Disease, visit the National Dairy Council.
Written by - Lindsie Evans, Dairy Council Team
Ghandi, D. (2015, November 15). Milk and Heart Disease: What Scientific Evidence Tells Us. Retrieved from National Dairy Council: https://www.nationaldairycouncil.org/content/2015/milk-and-heart-disease-what-the-scientific-evidence-tells-us
National Dairy Council. (2014, January 1). Science Summary: Dairy & CVD . Retrieved from National Dairy Council: https://www.nationaldairycouncil.org/Content/2015/Science-Summary-Dairy-and-Cardiovascular-Disease