The dairy dilemma

How much dairy should you consume each day? And are some dairy products or milk alternatives better for heart health than others?

These days, the supermarket dairy aisle can be tricky to navigate. Along with the nonfat, 2%, and full-fat cow's milk lining the refrigerated shelves, you'll often find a dizzying array of plant-based milk alternatives made from different nuts, beans, and grains. Even the yogurt and cheese sections now feature nondairy products, such as coconut yogurt and cashew cheese.

The expanded choices reflect the growing trend toward plant-based diets, which people embrace for a range of reasons. Some people minimize or avoid meat, dairy, and other animal-based foods because of religious reasons or concerns about environmental sustainability or animal welfare. People who are focused mainly on a heart-healthy diet know to steer clear of red and processed meat. But when it comes to dairy products, the story isn't quite as straightforward.

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