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Whether we’re in our 20’s, middle years or heading towards retirement, it’s important to have a healthy lifestyle. Eating a nutritious, balanced diet is an essential part of this.

As well as helping to lower our risk of becoming overweight and developing health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, enjoying healthy meals and snacks means we’re more likely to get all the nutrients we need to stay well. This is even more important at certain times when our lifestyle takes a new pathway, for example, when we leave home or become parents, and as our bodies change, for example, as we enter midlife or the menopause. Our needs for some nutrients can also alter at different stages of our adult life, for example, during pregnancy or when breastfeeding. And of course, men and women have different needs for calories and some nutrients.

Yet, many adults have really low intakes of some vitamins and minerals and so are at risk of becoming deficient in them. Dairy products provide a number of nutrients that many of us miss out on – all packaged together in a unique combination.

Chunk of cheese

12% of men and 8% of women have very low intakes of vitamin A

A 30g chunk of cheddar cheese provides 15% of daily needs

Glass of milk

13% of women have very low intakes of vitamin B2

A 200ml glass of semi-skimmed milk provides 35% of daily needs

9% of women have very low intakes of calcium

A 200ml glass of semi-skimmed milk provides 31% of daily needs

Pot of yogurt

10% of men and 24% of women have very low intakes of potassium

A 150g pot of low-fat fruit yogurt provides 15% of daily needs

8% of men and 12% of women have very low intakes of iodine

A 150g pot of low-fat fruit yogurt provides 48% of daily needs

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To help us see what’s in our food when we’re shopping – and how this may contribute to our overall diet – food packaging often provides daily benchmark figures for calories and nutrients. These benchmarks are referred to as Nutrient Reference Values (NRV) or Reference Intakes (RI). Although everyone has different needs for energy and nutrients, these benchmarks are designed for an average adult, so there is only one set of values.

However, there are also more detailed guidelines in the UK for specific ages and stages in life, as well as separate values for men and women.

As a rule, because men are bigger and have a higher proportion of muscle they tend to need more calories and protein. For example, the recommended daily calorie intake is 2500kcal for men and 2000kcal for women to keep their weight steady. This is a general guideline and people who are very active may need more calories than this; those who are less active, may not need as many. Whatever our calorie needs, it’s best to get our calories from nutrient-rich foods – and that’s where milk, cheese and yogurt shine.

Meanwhile, the size of our body doesn’t always determine our needs for vitamins and minerals. Men do have slightly higher daily needs for some nutrients such as vitamin A, certain B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and selenium. However, even though women are usually smaller, before they reach the menopause they need more iron than men. Plus, they have exactly the same requirements as men for many other nutrients, including vitamin B12, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iodine, which are all found in milk.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes dairy products and with portion sizes that are adapted to suit our own appetite is the best way to make sure we get all the nutrients we need to stay healthy and can help provide us with nutrients to support us throughout various stages of adult life…

Last reviewed: 03/2021
Next review due: 03/2023






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