The U.S. dairy industry is constantly changing and introducing new products. Milk and yogurt remain the most popular items, with 99 percent of households purchasing milk and 77 percent purchasing yogurt each year.
Dairy farms can be found in all 50 states, but California has been the top producer since 1993. Currently, Georgia is ranked number 25 in milk production.
Milk, yogurt and cheese are among the best sources of calcium. Approximately 72 percent of the calcium in the U.S. food supply comes from dairy foods.
Fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, have become increasingly popular in recent years, not only for their taste, but also for their potential health benefits. The key components in these products are the probiotics (live organisms) that, when consumed in adequate amounts, displace the “bad, harmful bacteria” in the gastro-intestinal tract with “good bacteria.”
The probiotics in fermented dairy products have been used to both alleviate stomach problems associated with antibiotic use and to help prevent infections and enhance the immune response in the intestinal tract, especially for conditions like inflammatory bowel disease. The probiotics also provide lactase, an enzyme that can digest lactose (the milk sugar), which can make fermented dairy products a great source of calcium for people who are lactose intolerant.
Although yogurt receives the most attention, other fermented dairy products, such as kefir, also contain these beneficial components. Kefir is a fermented milk drink created by inoculating cow, sheep or goat milk with kefir grains. Kefir grains have a gelatinous consistency and contain both bacteria and yeast. Kefir may prevent the development of yeast infections in the urinary tract and relieve chronic gastro-intestinal problems like GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux) and ulcers. Kefir has also been found to have antioxidant properties that protect the body against cellular damage.
Here are some ways you can increase your intake of fermented dairy products:
- Blend fresh fruit with unflavored kefir to make a smoothie.
- Mix yogurt or kefir with your favorite cereal for breakfast or a snack.
- Mix 4 ounces of fruit-flavored kefir with 4 ounces of nonfat or low-fat milk for a refreshing drink.
- Top a baked potato or a Mexican dish with plain nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream.
- Top pancakes or waffles with some cooked fruit and a dollop of plain or flavored yogurt.
- Substitute plain nonfat yogurt for half the mayonnaise in a recipe for coleslaw, tuna or chicken salad.
- Cut the fat and calories in your salad dressing by mixing half the amount of dressing you would normally use with plain nonfat yogurt before you top your salad.
- Substitute plain nonfat yogurt for half the sour cream in a dip recipe.
Creamy and Delicious Fruit Smoothie Recipe
- 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit (try strawberries, blueberries or peaches)
- 1/2 cup fat-free milk or kefir
- 2/3 cup vanilla yogurt
- 5 ice cubes (if using fresh fruit)
- Honey, to taste (optional)
Place all the ingredients in a blender. Cover and blend on high speed about 1 minute or until smooth. Pour into two glasses. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Analysis without added honey:
Calories: 125, Carbohydrate: 22 grams, Protein: 8 grams, Fat: Less than 1 gram, Saturated Fat: Less than 1 gram, Cholesterol: 3 milligrams, Fiber: 2 grams, Sodium: 90 milligrams
Nutrition Analysis with 2 teaspoons of added honey:
Calories: 146, Carbohydrate: 28 grams, Protein: 8 grams, Fat: Less than 1 gram, Saturated Fat: Less than 1 gram, Cholesterol: 3 milligrams, Fiber: 2 grams, Sodium: 90 milligrams