The newly released 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reaffirms the importance of consuming dairy daily as part of healthy dietary patterns for positive health outcomes.
Daily inclusion of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods is recommended in all three DGA healthy dietary patterns: 3 servings in Healthy U.S. and Healthy Vegetarian, and 2 to 2.5 servings in Healthy Mediterranean. Following these healthy dietary patterns is associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
“Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt offer essential nutrients that help nourish people throughout life,” said National Dairy Council President Jean Ragalie-Carr, RDN, LDN, FAND. “At a time when affordable nutrition has never been more important to our nation, dairy foods, including lactose-free varieties, are a highly nutritious and accessible option that can help fill important nutrient gaps and support overall well-being. We’re pleased to see dairy consumption recommended for its contributions to healthy dietary patterns based on the scientific evidence.”
The DGA are updated every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who base their recommendations on a sound body of peer-reviewed science.
NDC participated in the public process around the DGA, submitting written comments and oral testimony to USDA and HHS that summarized scientific evidence on the role of dairy foods in healthy dietary patterns. Dairy farmers and importers fund hundreds of research studies on topics such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, whole milk dairy foods, inflammation, protein, digestive health, sustainable food systems, child nutrition and more as part of their commitment to supporting good nutrition for Americans.
The Guidelines are an essential resource in developing federal food and nutrition programs, such as the school meals programs and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
For the first time, the DGA recommendations for the birth-to-23-month time period are included and yogurt and cheese were recognized as complementary feeding options for infants starting as early as 6 months. Dairy foods (whole milk, reduced-fat cheese and reduced-fat plain yogurt) were included in recommendations for toddlers 12-23 months.
Consistent evidence demonstrates that a healthy dietary pattern, which includes low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, is associated with beneficial outcomes for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, bone health, and certain types of cancer (breast and colorectal).
Other key aspects of the DGA for dairy include:
- The nutrients of concern for Americans continue to be calcium, vitamin D, potassium and fiber; dairy foods are important sources of calcium, vitamin D and potassium in the U.S. diet and can help close these nutrient gaps.
- Linking dairy foods to bone health in both adolescents and adults, showing dairy’s important nutritional support for accrual of bone mass and promotion of bone health outcomes, including prevention of the onset of osteoporosis.
- The saturated fat recommendation remains at no more than 10% of total calories.
While these Guidelines don’t include recommendations for sustainable food systems, the U.S. dairy community has commitments in place to advance environmental sustainability. Earlier this year, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy announced the 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals which include achieving carbon neutrality or better, optimizing water usage and improving water quality.
“All foods come with an environmental footprint and all sectors of food production can work to do better, including dairy,” said Krysta Harden, executive vice president of Global Environmental Strategy for Dairy Management Inc. “Today, U.S. dairy contributes about 2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and collectively, from farm to retail, we are committed to being an environmental solution and leaving a positive footprint for future generations.”