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Many Unaware Of Dairy’s Benefits To Heart Health

March 10, 2009

Celebrate National Nutrition Month with Healthy Eating

March is National Nutrition Month, and an opportunity for Americans to take control of their health, including their blood pressure, through nutritious eating. Unfortunately, a new survey found that while 97 percent of adults agree that maintaining a healthy blood pressure is important to them, more than half say they’re still confused by the multitude of information available regarding heart health.

The new survey conducted by National Dairy Council found that while most Americans strongly associate milk with the benefits of healthy teeth and bones, many are unaware of the positive connection between low-fat and fat-free dairy foods and maintaining a healthy blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of women. With nearly one in three Americans are affected by high blood pressure, it’s clear that they need to know how they can lower their blood pressure and prevent heart disease; one way to help is by making healthy diet choices.

“The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, a healthy eating plan that includes two to three daily servings of dairy foods, eight to ten daily servings of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grain products, fish, poultry, and nuts, is a simple and small step people can take that may lower blood pressure,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. “The results of this survey further support the need to continue educating Americans on why dairy foods, as an integral part of the DASH eating plan, play an important role in healthy blood pressure.”

Dairy foods contain a trio of minerals ““ calcium, potassium and magnesium ““ that scientists have found to be especially beneficial in maintaining healthy blood pressure. In addition to potassium’s role as a blood pressure regulator, a potassium-rich diet has been found to blunt the effects of sodium on blood pressure.  While milk provides the number one source of calcium and potassium in the diets of Americans, most Americans, regardless of age, are falling short on these nutrients while rates of hypertension (and other related chronic diseases) are on the rise.

In addition, a cross-sectional study among 4,797 participants of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Family Heart Study found that consuming three or more servings of low-fat dairy foods per day was associated with significantly lower systolic blood pressure and prevalence of hypertension when compared to consuming less than one half serving of dairy foods per day.

National Dairy Council is helping to promote and encourage habits to help improve Americans’ heart health by offering tips on how to incorporate the DASH eating plan into their diets, including:

  • Start with a DASH breakfast by mixing low-fat or fat-free yogurt with fresh or dried fruit and a whole grain item, such as cereal or granola.
  • Toss a multi-hued salad of dark green spinach, cherry tomatoes, orange or yellow peppers and purple onion. Make sure to pick vibrantly-colored vegetables. Top with a serving of reduced-fat Cheddar cheese for high-quality protein and calcium.
  • Load up sandwiches with crisp romaine lettuce, tomato slices, cucumbers, onions or any other veggies that suit your taste buds.  Wash it down with an ice-cold glass of nutrient-rich, fat-free milk.
  • Feed your craving for sweets with a parfait by adding fresh or dried fruits to low-fat or fat-free flavored yogurt.

About the Survey

The survey was conducted via telephone with a national sample of 1,000 adults February 4, 2009 ““ February 8, 2009. Data for this survey were collected by StrategyOne, a market research and strategic communications agency, on behalf of National Dairy Council. The margin of error on a sample of 1,000 is plus or minus 3.1%

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