Did you know that only 1 in 10 Aussies eat the recommended amount of dairy and dairy alternatives each day? Toddlers and children do a better job at meeting the recommendations, but chances are if you’re reading this article you’re not in this age group. Among adults 19 to 50 years old, only 14% of men and 6% of women meet the recommendations. This picture gets worse as we age.
Why eat dairy?
When it comes to dairy there are so many myths surrounding its nutritional benefits and whether you should be eating it – that many of us are left feeling confused and frustrated with what to believe. Many people believe that dairy foods should be avoided because they contains saturated fats. The key thing to remember here is that diary foods also contain a bunch of essential nutrients, like calcium, potassium, iodine and protein, which outweigh the fact it contains some saturated fats, and make it a great food choice. It’s a good idea to opt for low-fat dairy products where possible to reduce the amounts of saturated fats in the product. In fact, the calcium you receive from dairy products is more bioavailable (meaning it’s easier for your body to absorb) than any other calcium-containing food. Here are some of the health benefits of eating dairy:
Healthy bones: Dairy products are best known for their role in bone health. Calcium, protein and vitamin D are important for bone metabolism, increasing bone mineral density to help us grow and preventing bone loss and fractures later in life.
Metabolism: Studies show that eating dairy foods can aid in blood sugar regulation, as well as reducing your risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Dairy proteins can also help people feel fuller for longer, making us less likely to consume additional unnecessary calories through excess snacking.
Healthy heart: Eating dairy products may protect against cardiovascular disease (e.g. stroke and heart disease). There are many ideas as to how this happens, but it is thought that dairy helps reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.
Inflammation, cancer, and cognition: Low-fat dairy is also good for our guts. People who eat low-fat dairy have decreased levels of gut inflammation, as well as a reduced risk of colorectal cancer and vascular dementia. Eating dairy products have also been linked to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease!
Healthy gut: The probiotics present in fermented milk products such as yoghurt assist with:
- keeping intestinal “bad” microbes in check
- the digestion of lactose in lactose-intolerant people
- reducing total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (a.k.a. the “bad” cholesterol)
- enhancing the immune response against cancer and other threats
- preventing or reducing diarrhoea and gastrointestinal infections
Take home message
Dairy foods are an affordable, convenient and delicious way to improve overall health. The recommendation for adults 19-50 years old is 2 ½ serves of mostly reduced-fat dairy.
If you have any questions about the health benefits of dairy or dairy alternatives, please comment below and one of our dietitians will reply!
This article was co-authored by Gaby Mariana Mora Gondo who is currently studying her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics at The University of Sydney.