What's The Deal With Dairy?
Amy delves into whether Dairy is actually good for you!
Dairy is actually good for you, right?
Most of us grew up with the health messaging, milk helps you to grow big and strong. However, in more recent years we’ve seen health trends move away from milk and it’s dairy derivatives. So, what is the deal with dairy?
Is Dairy healthy?
Milk and its dairy food derivatives are generally very nutrient dense. They typically contain all three macronutrients which are protein, carbohydrates and fat. This is particularly useful for vegetarians who require non-meat protein alternatives.
Dairy is high in micronutrients, vitamins such as A, B12 and D and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and potassium. The fat content of dairy also helps with micronutrient absorption, such as vitamin D being a fat soluble vitamin. The high calcium content in conjunction with vitamin D is particularly useful for healthy bone structure. Fermented milk products in particular, such as yoghurt, kefir and cheeses contain probiotics which are beneficial for our gut microbiome.
Basically: Many milk products are nutrient dense and fit well into a balanced diet.
What if I'm intolerant?
About 65% of the world's population is thought to be somewhat intolerant to lactose, a milk sugar, which can make eating dairy containing foods trickier. Lactose tolerance seems to be higher in those with Northern European or certain African Tribal ancestry. Although lactose intolerance is often on a sliding scale, most people are tolerant to some degree.
People with lactose intolerance may want to reduce their lactose intake below 12g per serve / day and have personalised limits based on how they personally react to each individual dairy food. It is possible that certain yoghurts and cheeses are better tolerated because the bacteria in these products create a more favourable digestive environment.
Basically: Find your personal dairy tolerance level and work with your body.
Will Dairy increase my risk of Cardiovascular Disease?
Current guidelines recommend choosing lower fat dairy options to reduce saturated fat intake. This is because fat is energy dense and may contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess, and saturated fat has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the research doesn’t seem to support this notion.
Dairy is actually associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, especially when it is consumed in its whole food form, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, rather than more processed forms, such as butter, ice cream, and milkshakes. The reason for this may be that the saturated fatty acid composition of milk fat is different to that of the saturated fat in meat, leading to better health outcomes with high intakes of dairy.
Basically: Not likely, but we would suggest choosing less processed dairy options.
Will Dairy increase my risk of cancer?
Among cancers, milk and dairy intake is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer, bladder cancer, gastric cancer, and breast cancer. This is thought to be due to high calcium intakes which may bind with certain cancer causing compounds and help to protect you from these cancers.
Vitamin D supplementation has also been linked to reduced breast cancer risk and dairy is a good source of vitamin D. There doesn’t seem to be any link between dairy intake and pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, or lung cancer. There has been some concern around dairy and prostate cancer risk however, research has been very inconsistent. A recent study looking at 50 000 people found no link between dairy intake and prostate cancer.
Basically: There is no strong evidence linking dairy to an increased risk of cancer.
Let's Sum It Up!
Milk and its food derivatives, known as dairy, have been declining in popularity over the past years, but is that valid? What is the deal with dairy? Milk and less processed dairy foods tend to be very nutrient dense containing all three macronutrients and a lot of micronutrients necessary for good health.
Many people are intolerant to dairy products, but you may not be. You should work out what your individual limits are and what works for you. Dairy has been found to reduce or at least have a neutral impact on cardiovascular disease and cancer risk. Given the available evidence, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to restrict dairy in an otherwise healthy, balanced diet.
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