When I was a reporter on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, one of the markets I covered was the Shell Egg Futures market. In that capacity I spoke with egg industry people regularly and found myself eating eggs regularly. Being posted on the exchange floor, it was often handy for me to bring a couple of hard boiled eggs to have for lunch as I couldn’t really leave the Exchange during trading hours. I confess to being a big fan of the incredible edible egg.
Eggs and dairy products are excellent protein sources. Eggs were off the menu for many years for people with elevated cholesterol levels because of their high cholesterol content. However, the latest research has determined that dietary cholesterol (cholesterol from food) doesn’t actually raise blood cholesterol levels for most people, although the saturated fat found in most high-cholesterol foods might. Other research has shown that egg consumption is not significantly associated with a higher risk of coronary artery disease or type 2 diabetes.
Eggs (and shellfish such as shrimp) are in the minority of foods high in cholesterol but relatively low in saturated fat, so they are now back on the menu in limited amounts. Most people can safely consume up to five to seven eggs per week as part of an overall healthy diet.
Dairy foods provide protein, and they contain other key nutrients that may protect against disease risk. A cup of milk provides eight grams of protein. Greek yogurt has about twice the protein of regular yogurt (around 16 grams per single-serving container). Fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir (keh-FEER, a yogurt drink fermented with yeast in addition to beneficial bacteria), are probiotics that offer many health benefits, not the least of which include supporting gut and immune health.
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk, which is lower in calories and saturated fat, as well as plain, low-fat yogurt to avoid refined sugars. The Dietary Guidelines also state that, although it’s okay to eat cheese in moderation, cheese contains more sodium and saturated fat and less potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin D, than milk or yogurt. More than 80 percent of people in the U.S. fall short of their daily dairy recommendation, which is three cups for adults.
With about 300 milligrams of calcium per 8 ounces of milk or plain, low-fat yogurt, meeting your daily dairy quota goes a long way toward fulfilling your daily calcium goal. It is recommended that women ages 51 and older consume 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day, men ages 51 to 70 get 1,000 mg per day, and men ages 71 and older get 1,200 mg per day. Growing evidence suggests it may be best to get the majority of your calcium from foods, rather than supplements, to help guard against excessive intake of calcium and imbalances in bone nutrients.
To get more dairy in your diet, try using milk in food preparation (to cook oatmeal or to make broth-based soups creamier, for example). If digesting milk is a problem, look for lactose-free options. If a milk substitute is more appealing, make sure it is fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and watch out for added sugars. Also, be aware that, with the exception of soymilk, plant-based “milks” contain little or no protein.
To learn more about healthy eating habits that can improve your life, purchase a copy of Change Your Diet, Change Your Life from Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.