Dairy Foods – At the Heart of Your Health

Dairy foods such as cheese and yogurt are an important source of protein and calcium with multiple health benefits.
* Ireland’s National Healthy Eating Guidelines recommend three servings of dairy foods a day to help us meet our calcium needs. In reality only 13% of the population meet this recommendation; women aged 18-64 consume less than two servings a day, while men consume just over two servings a day.
Dairy foods provide a key package of nutrients such as protein, calcium, phosphorus, iodine and Vitamin B2.
* Health Service Executive and Department of Health Healthy Eating Guidelines (2012)

Muscle Matters: Dr Brendan Egan at TEDxUCD

Keeping your bones strong – It’s easier than U think!

Many people think that once they are past their teenage years, diet is no longer important for bone health. However, bone is a living tissue that is constantly renewing itself so whatever our age it is vital that we look after our bones. This is particularly important to prevent osteoporosis.


Osteoporosis occurs when bones become brittle and fragile which increases the risk of fracturing. As we age, more bone is naturally lost than is replaced, but people with osteoporosis lose even more. The Irish Osteoporosis Society estimates that one in two women and one in five men over 50 will develop a fracture in their lifetime due to osteoporosis. So how can we avoid this?


Calcium-rich foods such as yogurt play an important role in maintaining bone health. Protein, phosphorous and magnesium are also important.

Combined with Vitamin D and Physical Activity, these factors will help to ensure our bones stay strong and healthy right throughout adult life.

Why do we need them?
  • Calcium, Phosphorus & Magnesium Help to keep normal bones and teeth strong
  • Vitamin B12, B2 & Potassium – Aid in the normal workings of the nervous and immune system
  • Iodine – Help to maintain healthy skin
  • Protein, Carbohydrate & Fat – Build, repair and maintain muscles as well as providing energy for the body
What about muscle mass?

Many people think that worrying about muscles is for the younger generation. However, we start to lose muscle from our early 30’s and the process accelerates during our 40’s and 50’s.


Learn More...

Our muscles are vital to our day-to-day lives whether carrying shopping, doing housework, walking up the stairs, gardening or keeping up with energetic children, our muscles’ work is never done! We tend to take this for granted but the reality is that as we age, we lose muscle mass and with that, we lose muscle strength which powers our bodies. Losing muscle also makes it harder to keep weight off as we get older. As we lose muscle mass our body’s energy needs slowly decrease so we cannot eat the same amount as we used to without gaining weight.

One of the key nutrients to minimise muscle loss and help gain muscle is protein. Yogurt provides a high quality source of protein in our diet. Research shows that protein and physical activity together can help to maintain muscle.

Dairy & Womens Health
During childhood, bones are developing and continue to become stronger until our 30’s.  As U age, bone turnover increases but bone production slows, meaning we begin to lose bone density. This loss is accelerated after the menopause due to the decrease in oestrogen hormones. It is important to look after your bones in your 20’s and 30’s in order to future-proof this vital tissue for later life when bone density begins to decline.
Learn More...

From our early 30’s onwards our body begins to lose muscle. For women this becomes more of a concern towards mid- life as a result of the menopause.

Muscle in our body helps to increase our metabolism and keeps our weight in check. As we age, we can lose muscle and so our metabolism slowly drops. If we keep eating the same amount of calories as we did in our 20’s but lose muscle as we get older, over time our weight can creep up.

Muscle also helps the body to regulate our blood sugar levels – it is one of the major insulin-sensitive tissues in the body. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels. Keeping muscle healthy and strong can help the body use insulin more effectively in order to control blood sugar levels.

So what about Vitamin D?

Vitamin D helps build and maintain healthy bones and teeth and supports nerve and muscle function. Without vitamin D, only 10-15% of the calcium we eat is actually absorbed into our body versus 30-40% of calcium when vitamin D is available.

Vitamin D is sometimes called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because it is created when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Ireland’s northerly latitude means very little UV light reaches the country between October and March which results in low levels of naturally produced Vitamin D among the Irish population. So we have to also use foods to ensure we get adequate amounts of this vitamin.

What are the recommended daily needs for Vitamin D?

The daily needs are based upon whether we get enough sun exposure to make enough Vitamin D. The Daily Reference Intake (DRI) is 5 μg for adults from the diet.

Irish research has found that women over the age of 51 take just over 3 µg per day and women have low Vitamin D levels between late winter and early spring. One of the main reasons women do not meet their needs is because few foods provide Vitamin D naturally.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland, (2011) recommends a daily Vitamin D supplement – 5µg per day for those aged 5-50 years and 10µg per day for those aged 51 years and over.  This can be achieved either through a tablet-form supplement or, perhaps more easily, through a range of tasty, fortified foods such as yogurt which provide multiple health benefits to ensure healthy bones, teeth and nerve and muscle function.

Nutrition for Bone and Muscle Health

A Health Professionals’ Guide

How can dairy help a woman’s health?

Dairy foods contain calcium and high quality protein that as part of a balanced diet combined with physical activity can help keep normal bones and muscles strong.

However, *nine out of ten women in Ireland do not currently meet the recommended guidelines of three servings of dairy foods a day.

Find out how to meet your three servings of dairy foods a day.#calcium

And, don’t forget Vitamin D is also essential to maintain bone health and help muscles work normally.

What foods provide Vitamin D?
So what about Calcium?

Calcium helps to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth. About 99% of the calcium in our bodies is stored in our bones and teeth but each day, we lose this important mineral from our bodies. As calcium cannot be naturally reproduced, our teeth and bones are affected.

That’s why it is important to ensure we get enough calcium from the food we eat.

Adults need 800mg of calcium a day for bone health.

The guidelines are for adults to eat three servings of dairy foods a day to help meet their calcium needs. Eating a varied diet including foods from each of the shelves on the food pyramid along with three servings of dairy foods a day will help you meet your calcium needs.

Consuming products fortified with calcium such as ProU yogurts can help you reach the recommended daily reference intake.

The table below shows examples of some foods that can contribute to your calcium intake and the approximate amount of calcium each contains.


So what about Protein?

Protein is an important building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, hair and blood. Our bodies use protein from the foods we eat to build and repair tissues and muscles. Protein is also needed to make enzymes which allow our cells to function and to support the development of hormones which control how our body works.

The fact is, not all protein foods are equal

Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids. Some of these amino acids can’t be made by our bodies and are known as essential amino acids.

Certain foods contain all of the essential amino acids, making these foods high quality proteins. High quality protein foods include meats, chicken, fish, eggs, soy foods and dairy foods.

Foods that do not contain all of the essential amino acids are called incomplete or low quality proteins. These include pulses (e.g. chickpeas, kidney beans), grains, nuts, seeds and vegetables. We need to eat a combination of high and low quality protein foods to get the full complement of essential amino acids.

How much protein is in my food?
How much protein does our body need?

For the general healthy population, adults should be getting at least the daily Reference Intake of 50g of protein a day.

You can calculate your individual daily protein needs by multiplying your weight in kilograms by 0.83. For example, if you are 80kg your daily protein needs would be 66g protein a day.

People who are very active and exercise often may naturally eat more protein due to a higher intake of foods to meet the calorie/energy needs for their physical activity. The European Food Safety Authority, (2012) advises that an intake of twice the daily reference intake is still safe.

Recent research indicates that spreading high quality protein intake across three meals, with each meal containing *20-30g protein, may have the most benefit for our muscles.

For example, a typical day that includes three servings of dairy foods (e.g. yogurts and milk) plus two servings of protein foods (e.g. lean meat, poultry, fish or beans) provides quality sources of protein to help reach an adults daily protein requirements. Also spreading protein foods across the day seems to help our muscles.

In addition, research is showing that eating high quality protein foods within a couple of hours of physical activity may increase the effectiveness of building muscle.

Physical Activity

Physical activity is very important to keep bones healthy. Research shows that physical activity can help build or maintain bone density and may reduce risk of hip fractures.

The recommended guideline for exercise* is 30 minutes’ physical activity five days a week. Weight bearing activities are recommended two to three days a week to strengthen muscles and build endurance. A balanced diet including protein-rich foods such as ProU yogurt can help to repair and build muscle after weight-bearing exercise.

How can ProU help U meet your calcium, vitamin D and protein needs?
Mary is a 52 year old busy mum of two teenagers who works full time.  She walks three days a week for half an hour and goes to the gym twice a week for some weight training as she has been told it will help keep her bones and muscles strong.
Learn More...

Nutrition Tips for 50+ Years