Dairy farmers are always looking for ways to strengthen and maintain the health and immunity of their dairy cows. Now, emerging research suggests dairy foods themselves, as part of a healthy eating pattern, may have the potential to boost the immunity of people who consume them.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and with flu season just around the corner, all eyes are focused on ways to stay healthy, making this area of research especially relevant. While no single food or dietary supplement can keep illness at bay, dairy foods are nutrient-dense and provide essential nutrients — including vitamins A and D, zinc, and protein — that support immune function and play specific roles in boosting the immune system.
- Vitamin A supports the tissues of the gastrointestinal tract and respiratory systems
- Vitamin D plays a role in the gastrointestinal tract and protects against lung infections
- Zinc helps with immune system function and the maintenance of skin integrity
- Protein aids in healing and recovery
In addition, dairy foods offer a unique food matrix that contains bioactives and other biological constituents that work together with nutrients to help with digestion and absorption. They also provide physiological benefits such as immunity support.
Encouraging consumers to build healthy daily eating patterns that consist of nutritious and wholesome food choices like milk and dairy foods will help support good health now and in the future. Beyond immune function, when part of a healthy eating pattern, milk and dairy foods are linked to a wide range of health benefits including blood pressure control, improved bone health, reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and better weight management. For children and adolescents, consuming dairy foods also plays an important role in supporting optimal growth and development and academic success.
These consumer health benefits are only possible because dairy farmers work hard and are committed to bringing nutritious, wholesome, and affordable dairy foods to the market for children, families, and communities to enjoy. Everyone in the dairy community is encouraged to get the word out about the importance of consuming milk and dairy foods every day as part of a healthy, balanced diet. The end result will be something everyone believes in: elevated health for children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.