Is dairy good for you?

It is becoming increasingly common for people to avoid dairy products, with many people believing that dairy products are harmful to our health. While people may choose to avoid dairy products for ethical or environmental reasons, there is no medical reason for the majority of people to avoid dairy products. In fact, dairy products are found by most studies to be health-promoting, with a 2016 review finding that consumption of milk and dairy products was associated with: a neutral or reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (particularly stroke), an inverse association with many cancers, and a beneficial effect on bone mineral density (1).

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend 2-3 serves of dairy each day for most people (2). Examples of a serve of dairy include:

  • 1 cup (250ml) fresh milk (skim, low fat or full cream)
  • 1 cup (250ml) UHT long life milk (skim, low fat or full cream)
  • 1 cup (250ml) reconstituted powdered milk (skim or full cream)
  • 1 cup (250ml)  buttermilk
  • ½ cup (120ml) evaporated milk
  • 2 slices (40g) or 4 x 3 x 2cm cube (40g) of hard cheese, such as cheddar or tasty
  • ½ cup (120g) ricotta cheese (low fat or full cream)
  • ¾ cup (200g) yoghurt (no fat, reduced fat or full cream)
  • 1 cup (250ml) soy, rice or other cereal drink with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml

Note that many milk alternatives, such as almond or other nut milks, are not fortified with calcium and are low in protein, therefore they are not suitable replacements for milk and dairy products.

Dairy products are included in dietary guidelines all over the world, as they provide calcium in a readily absorbable and convenient form. They are considered to be a good source of many nutrients including calcium, protein, iodine, vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc. Of course, dairy products are not the only sources of these nutrients, so if you have a medical reason or simply choose to avoid dairy, there are lots of alternatives available to help you meet your requirements for these nutrients.  More information on low-lactose and dairy free alternatives coming soon!

References:
1. Thorning et al. (2016). Milk and dairy products: good or bad for human health? An assessment of the totality of scientific evidence. Food & Nutrition Research (60). [Article Link]
2. Australian Dietary Guidelines: Milk, Yoghurt, Cheese and/or Their Alternatives. [Article Link]

Ashleigh Jones

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