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Healthy eating with dairy foods.

Eating a balanced diet is essential to staying healthy. If you are concerned about hypertension, health experts recommend some important dietary modifications. For years, they have suggested maintaining an ideal weight, reducing sodium intake, and moderate consumption of alcohol. Now, they believe it's also important to be sure to get the recommended daily allowance of calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Calcium is one of the body's key minerals. In addition to building strong bones, it plays a lifesaving role in heart, nerve, blood, and muscle function. While dairy products account for more than three-quarters of the calcium in the food supply, they contribute only 12% of the fat. With so many food choices available, it is possible to watch calcium consumption and calories at the same time.

Dairy products are the only foods naturally rich in potassium and magnesium. If, like most Americans, you are not getting all the calcium, magnesium, and potassium you need, here are a few ideas for incorporating dairy products into your diet:

* Make them part of each meal. Prepare hot cereal with milk instead of water. For lunch, fill a melon with cottage cheese or yogurt, or add a slice of cheese to your sandwich. Toss some grated cheese into a dinner salad or onto a vegetable side dish.

* For extra calcium, add powdered milk to soups, casseroles, and sauces. This will retain the creamy thick texture, rather than diluting the mixture with liquids.

* Know serving sizes. While you might assume you are consuming adequate levels of calcium each day, you may be shortchanging yourself and getting less than the recommended three servings. Either an eight-ounce glass of milk, one cup of yogurt, or one and a half slices of cheese are considered one serving.

* Choose sources that deliver more calcium to the body. Compared with dairy products, other foods are less efficient sources of calcium. Bony seafood, for example, delivers calcium only if the bones are eaten, and the calcium in spinach is absorbed in lower amounts than dairy foods because of its oxalic acid content.

* Make snacks count. Replace that afternoon bag of chips with a cup of yogurt mixed with fresh fruit. Consider making the same kind of trade-off with other foods in your diet.

* If short on time, stock up on convenience products that help to prepare calcium-rich meals. Buy sliced, shredded, or grated cheese to save on preparation time. When there is time to cook, double recipes and freeze the extra serving for another day.

* If dining on a budget, plan ahead and watch the newspaper for sales. Remember that milk is one of the least expensive sources of calcium in the diet. Buy it by the gallon to get more for your money.

* Americans get nearly 40% of the calories in their diet from foods that offer little or no nutritional value (chips, alcohol, and sweets). To reduce calories, cut back on foods that deliver calories without important nutrients.

* If lactose intolerant, look for the words "active cultures" on the yogurt label. This type is easier to digest. Also try aged cheeses, like cheddar or Swiss, which are lower in lactose. Drink milk in servings of one cup or less with a meal or snack. When consumed with other foods, it is less likely to cause symptoms. Moreover, there are other dairy-based alternatives on the market, including lactose-reduced milks and enzyme caplets.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Society for the Advancement of Education
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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