Food mysteries – Part 5: Discovering dairy

Dairy foods are important in our daily diet. Let’s explore the mysteries behind dairy and why it is important to have in our daily diet at all ages.

When we think about dairy products, they all come back to one ingredient: milk. Milk and milk products are packed with nutrients. Besides having protein, which the body needs for growth, milk contains vitamins A, D and riboflavin, plus the mineral calcium.

Calcium’s role in the body is very important. Calcium is needed to clot blood when we get cuts or scrapes. It is also needed to keep our bones and teeth strong. If we don’t eat a diet rich with calcium, our bones can become brittle and break easily. Calcium can be found in other foods too, such as salmon and collards, but the best place to get the calcium we need is through dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt.

Vitamin D is an important vitamin found in milk. Vitamin D helps bones use calcium to make them hard and strong. Because calcium and vitamin D work together, vitamin D is added to milk at the processing plant. Vitamin D can also be absorbed from the sun’s rays.

An easy and fun science experiment to do with kids around milk is called the Sour Secret. Have kids take a half of cup of milk and add 1 1/2 teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice to it. Have them record what they observe. Then, have them stir it and ask what they notice. Ask them to think about what it might taste like. This is called sour milk and is sometimes used in baking recipes. Acids in the vinegar or lemon juice cause the protein in the milk to coagulate and separate out from the milk, making it sour.

Other articles in this series:

To learn more about healthy eating and ways to keep kids active, visit your local Michigan State University Extension county office.

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