Got Milk? Look to Other Food Sources for Daily Calcium Intake

First Posted: Jul 02, 2013 01:13 PM EDT

Got milk?

Of course everyone remembers those adds-celebrities constantly pushing tall, frosty glasses of dairy in your face (usually wearing that fashionable stash) while boasting that this drink helps prevent osteoporosis, it may prevent cancer and if you drink enough of it, it may even make you look like Jennifer Aniston. (Well, not that last one, but you get the idea.)

Well, a new study out by a Harvard pediatrician suggests that the current U.S. recommendation of three dairy servings per day isn't necessarily one-size-fits-all. And for some, it could be making them fat.

"This recommendation to drink three cups a day of milk - it's perhaps the most prevailing advice given to the American public about diet in the last half century," said David Ludwig, according to a recently published editorial on the subject. Ludwig is also the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children's Hospital.

"As a result, Americans are consuming billions of gallons of milk a year, presumably under the assumption that their bones would crumble without them," he writes, according to the paper.

Just as dietary guidelines recommend that Americans drink reduced fat milk in order to avoid saturated fat, which is often linked to weight gain and heart disease, milk and yogurt products that have fat reduction are often replaced with sugars and other calories to add flavor.

"The worst possible situation is reduced-fat chocolate milk: you take out the fat, it's less tasty," Ludwig said. "So to get kids to drink 3 cups a day, you get this sugar-sweetened beverage."

In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture shows that one cup of low-fat chocolate milk is 158 calories, with 68 calories coming from solid fats and added sugar. However, one cup of unflavored reduced fat milk with 2 percent fat is 122 calories and has 37 calories coming from solid fats and added sugars.

Ludwig points out that many may be looking to unhealthy milk products for what's already in their diet or what can be added through other nutrients.

"The point is, we can get plenty of calcium from a whole range of foods," Ludwig said, who's also a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "On a gram for gram basis, cooked kale has more calcium than milk. Sardines, nuts seeds beans, green leafy vegetables are all sources of calcium."

According to Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., certified nutrition specialist and NBC News diet and health editor, this recent push to get more people to consume more milk with added sugar cancels out the missing fat and be even worse for your health.

"No matter what dairy product you're choosing, stick with low-fat, but also no sugar," Fernstrom said, via Today Health. "Cutting down the fat in yogurt and milk but adding extra sugar - that's a wash."

A glass of chocolate milk can be pretty difficult to resist. What do you think? 

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