Four Reasons to Stay Heart Smart with Dairy Foods

February is heart health month, and taking good care of your heart isn’t just for Valentine’s Day! Dairy foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt are a match made in heaven when it comes to balancing your diet to promote cardiovascular health, and to keep the most important muscle in your body pumping. Here are four reasons to stay heart smart and to fall in love with the deliciousness of dairy.

Milk and dairy foods are a powerhouse of heart healthy nutrition  

Your heart is always hard at work, and the foods you eat should provide energy and nutrition to support its full-time job! Dairy foods naturally have a unique package of vitamins and minerals to meet this high demand and protect your heart as a bonus. 

Riboflavin:  Effectively reduces blood pressure. 

Vitamin B12: Breaks down the protein homocysteine.  High levels of homocysteine are linked to increased risk of heart disease and the impairment of normal blood vessel function.   

Calcium: A balanced amount contributes to the electrical signal that coordinates the heart’s function. 

Zinc: Helps reduce oxidative stress on your heart.  

Potassium: Helps with electrical signals that trigger your heart to keep beating.  Adequate potassium intake has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease. 

Nutrients in dairy can help manage your blood pressure 

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the leading contributors to heart disease and stroke. Thankfully, dairy foods like lowfat milk and plain yogurt are naturally a lower source of sodium and included in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet.  

Complete protein to keep you (and your heart) moving  

It’s well established that getting 150 minutes of physical activity a week can have tremendous benefits for your heart. With regular exercise comes the need for high quality protein to help recover and build lean muscle mass. Considering that your heart itself is a muscular organ, one of the best sources of complete and quality protein you can enjoy to meet your daily needs can be found in milk, yogurt, and cheese.  

Surprising Benefits to promote Mental Health and reduce Stress  

According to the American Heart Association, poor mental health, chronic stress, and unhealthy lifestyle habits that form as a result can take a toll on your heart and contribute to cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, researchers are continuing to discover how gut health and the foods we eat work to impact our mental health and response to stress. Fermented dairy foods, like kefir and yogurt, have recently been shown to positively impact depression symptoms, sleep habits, and overall quality of life, and could be considered in a heart healthy diet to help manage stress.  

The Bottom Line 

Milk and other nutrient dense dairy products are foundational to heart health, and can even help prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke.  

Want to learn more about Dairy and Heart Health?  

Check out this Science Summary from National Dairy Council.