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Luckily most kids happily slurp the milk from their cereal bowl and gulp down a glass with meals. Childhood is prime bone-building time, and the calcium in milk helps develop better bone mineral density. When it comes to adults, calcium is still crucial for keeping a strong skeleton as you age and preventing potentially debilitating fractures. Until age 50, you need 1,000mg per day—that's about three servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese. Then your needs jump by nearly another serving, thanks to hormone changes that can trigger bone loss.
If you nixed milk somewhere along the way in favor of diet soda to save calories, consider this: A study published in the journal Obesity found that diet soda drinkers have significantly higher BMIs, possibly because soda's sweetness sparks cravings for sugary foods. On the flip side, research shows that consuming calcium-rich foods and beverages while dieting actually increases the loss of belly fat (the dreaded "muffin top" that boosts your risk of heart disease), says Connie Weaver, PhD, a professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.