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Are dairy foods good for us

Are dairy foods good for us
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Dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are packed with calcium. Essential for the healthy growth of our bones and teeth, calcium forms a vital part of our diet. And dairy products are a great source of protein too. But the media often demonizes dairy foods with tales of high fat content and a rise in lactose intolerance (an allergic reaction to the sugar found in dairy products). For consumers these messages are confusing. Are Dairy Foods good for us or not?

The Good

The calcium contained in most dairy products exists in a form that is very easy for our bodies to absorb. Our body needs calcium for many things, but its primary function in the human body is to promote the building and maintenance of strong, healthy teeth and bone structures. It helps with the continual strengthening of our bones until the age of about 25. This is when our bones reach their peak mass. Beyond that age, it plays a vital role in slowing down the rate of bone density loss, which occurs naturally as we age.

In addition to helping our teeth and bones stay strong and hard, calcium plays a number of other important roles. It helps regulate the way in which our muscles contract and assists in the normal clotting of our blood, such as in the healing of a wound when we cut ourselves. Calcium helps our blood vessels to move blood around the body; this also plays a part in the healthy release of various enzymes and hormones.

When you consider all that you get a picture of why dairy foods are actually pretty important in our diet. But they do have a dark side …

The Bad

Dairy products tend to have quite a high fat content. But the amount can vary greatly, so it would be wrong to suggest that all dairy products are high in fat, also incorrect to assert that all fat is bad. Our bodies need some fat to keep us healthy. The fat in milk contains the essential vitamins B12 and B2.

The reason fat in dairy products has a bad name is that much of it is saturated fat, which can lead to over-eating of calories and excess weight gain. But consuming sensible amounts of the right dairy products is fine. If fat intake is of concern to you then choose skimmed milk – it still contains all the good stuff, but with a much lower fat content.

Cheese is another dairy-fat culprit. But it’s so tasty! Unfortunately, cheese can also be naturally high in salt, so adds a double whammy to your diet. However, not all cheeses are created equal and there are some lovely reduced-fat cheeses on the market. A top tip for cooks is to use cheese that is more strongly flavoured when cooking – you need less of it to achieve a delicious flavour, keeping the fat content to a minimum.

Beware of lower-fat dairy products that have sugar added to maintain their flavour. Yoghurts are the worst culprit, with some low-fat varieties being high in calories than their full-fat alternatives, simply because of the amount of sugar they contain. Don’t be fooled!

And the Ugly

Are dairy foods good for usDairy products are not generally a ‘bad’ food. Striking them from your diet without thought for what you may be losing is unwise. But the fact remains that some individuals do experience an allergic reaction to dairy products, in these instances it may become necessary to eliminate dairy products from your diet for a while.

There are three known conditions that may cause an adverse reaction to milk in particular. Since milk, and milk derivatives are found in a wide range of foodstuffs, allergy to it can have significant effects on your diet.

  • Lactose Intolerance – lactose is a type of sugar found most commonly in dairy and milk products. Individuals intolerant to lactose have a problem digesting lactose, while not generally stimulating a severe reaction, lactose intolerance can lead to bloating, discomfort, and diarrhoea
  • IgE Mediated Milk Allergy – this type of allergy can create a more severe reaction. It usually occurs within a few minutes of drinking cow’s milk. Reactions can range from mild swelling of the lips to a rash, hives, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea, difficulty in breathing and, in rare cases, life threatening anaphylaxis
  • Non-IgE Mediated Milk Allergy – this allergy type is also related to cow’s milk, but is a reaction to the protein it contains and may not be immediately apparent. It is more common in children than adults, the body reacts with symptoms such as eczema, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea. The other symptoms mentioned in point 2: above are not generally found in Non-IgE Mediated Milk allergy

All things considered unless you have an allergy to dairy foods I would say that consuming moderate amounts in your diet it s good thing. Like most dietary advice, it seems to boil down to the ‘everything in moderation’ argument. It’s possible to dig up research that supports all of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of dairy foods. Make your own choices wise ones and I’m sure you’ll be just fine.

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About Cally Worden

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About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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