Harvard Women's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: Why should I limit my dairy intake to one to two servings a day?

Q. In the January issue, you recommended the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate, which includes only one to two servings of dairy a day. Don't we need more than that to get enough calcium?

A. Experts at the Harvard School of Public Health (along with colleagues at Harvard Health Publications, which publishes Harvard Women's Health Watch) created the Healthy Eating Plate to suggest some deficiencies in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate, which was released in June 2011 (replacing the familiar food pyramids). Both plates are meant to integrate the latest nutrition advice and serve as at-a-glance aids to planning healthy meals. (To see the plates, go to www.health.harvard.edu/womenextra.) For example, both convey the important message that fruits and vegetables should make up half your plate at every meal. But the Healthy Eating Plate also directs users to the healthiest choices within each major food group; for example, we recommend eating "whole grains" and "healthy protein" rather than simply "grains" and "protein," as MyPlate does. These distinctions are important. Refined grains like white bread and white rice contain less fiber and less nutrients than whole grains, and "protein" could include processed meats, which are not considered healthy.

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