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Dairy Nutrients

Calcium is the main building block of bone. Calcium combines with other minerals (like phosphorus) to form hard crystals that give bones their strength. Because your body can’t make calcium, it must come from your diet.

If you don’t eat enough calcium-rich foods, calcium will be taken from the bones to be used for other body functions, and over time bones will become weak and brittle leading to a disease called osteoporosis. This is why it is so crucial to have a daily supply of calcium-rich foods throughout life.

Milk, cheese, and yogurt provide a convenient and readily absorbable source of calcium contributing around 60 percent of the calcium to your diet. And they’re tasty too!

Most of you know dairy foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese are good sources of calcium, important for building and maintaining strong bones. But calcium is just one benefit of eating dairy foods.

Dairy foods provide a unique package of more than ten essential nutrients important for healthy blood, nervous and immune systems, eyesight, muscle and nerve function, healthy skin, energy levels, and growth and repair in all parts of the body. Vitamin essential for healthy eyesight Important for growth (particularly in children)Vitamin B12Helps to keep the blood healthy Assists in the formation of nerve cellsRiboflavinHelps releases energy from food Helps cells to function properlyCalciumEssential for strong bones and teeth Needed for normal muscle and nerve functioning, and may assist in controlling blood pressurePotassiumAssists with blood pressure control Important for nerve impulse transmissionMagnesiumImportant component in bone structure Essential for energy transfer around the bodyZincAids wound healing Essential for normal growth and development in bones, the brain and many other parts of the bodyPhosphorusForms an important part of the mineral structure in bones and teeth Works with B vitamins to release energy from foodCarbohydrateProvides energy for the bodyProteinNeeded for growth and development as well as repair to damaged body tissues Forms part of many enzymes and blood components, and is essential for maintaining muscles

Since dairy foods add a wide range of nutrients to your diet, eliminating them means you might miss out on more than just calcium. Diets restricting dairy foods are not generally suitable for growing children and adolescents as they provide an important source of calcium, protein, vitamins, and minerals. If you suspect a milk allergy in your child, seek confirmation from your medical practitioner. If allergies are diagnosed by a doctor and dairy foods must be avoided, an Accredited Practising Dietitian can advise you on alternative sources of calcium. Find out more in our Food Allergies fact sheet.

If you choose to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and avoid dairy foods, make sure you include adequate amounts of calcium-fortified alternatives and seek advice from your health professional on meeting your calcium needs.

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