Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt are a great source of calcium and other key nutrients (protein, vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium). This unique mix of nutrients keeps our bones healthy and strong. Unfortunately, only 10% of Australians aged over two years meet the Dietary Guideline’s recommended serves for dairy (2 ½ – 4 depending on age and physical activity level). Below we have summarised the key myths we get asked about dairy nutrition when we are out and about running nutrition workshops.
“Dairy causes weight gain” – Contrary to popular belief, including dairy in your diet does not lead to weight gain if energy intake isn’t excessive. Choosing mostly low-fat varieties of dairy foods (if aged over 2 years) will help with this. The increased sugar content you see in low-fat milk is the increased lactose content as the fat has been removed and more milk added in to replace it. Milk has a high level of protein, which can lead to the feeling of fullness and can prevent excess food consumption.
“Dairy causes mucous production and acne” – There is no strong evidence supporting a link between dairy and these health problems. Eating a balanced diet involving all five food groups (including dairy) keeps our skin healthy and supports our immune systems to fight off mucous-producing infections. Milk contains whey protein, zinc and vitamin A which research has shown to beneficial at producing new immune cells and protecting us from getting colds and cases of flu.
“Dairy must be eliminated if lactose intolerant” – People with lactose intolerance are usually able to tolerate up to 1 glass of milk per day if consumed with other foods, most cheeses (as they contain almost no lactose) and yogurt (as it contains ‘good’ bacteria which digests lactose). Lactose-free milks are also available in supermarkets and now some cafes, just asked your barista for the lactose-free milk.
Tips for adding dairy into your day
- Adding cheese to salads, omelets and pasta dishes
- Adding milk to teas or coffees
- Mixing yogurt into soups and curries
- Snacking on cheese with wholegrain crackers
- Having yogurt with fruit for breakfast or dessert
- Adding milk or yogurt to smoothies
Don’t stress if you dislike dairy or avoid it due to an allergy or ethical reasons, include these other calcium-containing foods in your diet;
- Calcium-fortified soy or almond milks
- Dark leafy vegetables e.g. broccoli, bok choy, kale and spinach
- Firm tofu
- Almonds, brazil nuts
- Unhulled tahini
- Fish with soft, edible bones e.g. canned salmon and sardines
- Rizzoli R. Dairy products, yogurts, and bone health. AJCN. 2014; 9(5): 1256-62.
- ABS. AHS: Consumption of Food Groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 2011-12. Canberra; ABS: 2016. Available from; http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4364.0.55.012main+features12011-12
- Eat for Health. Serve Sizes. Canberra; NHMRC and DoH: Date unknown. Available from; https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/how-much-do-we-need-each-day/serve-sizes
- Chen M et al. Effects of dairy intake on body weight and fat: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012; 96(4): 735-47.
- Wuthrich B et al. Milkconsumption does not lead to mucus production or occurrence of asthma. J Am Coli Nutr. 2005; 24(6):547-55.
- Claudel JP et al. Acne and nutrition: Hypotheses, myths and facts. J Eur Acad Dematol Venereol. 2018.
- Shaukat A, Levitt MD, Taylor BC, MacDonald R, Shamliyan TA, Kane RL et al. Systematic review: effective management strategies for lactose intolerance. Ann Intern Med 2010;152(12):797–803.
- Pittman et al. Prevalence, Knowledge, and Influence of Whey Protein and Other Supplements on Athletes. 2018; 4(18): 1-3.
- Prasad A. Zinc in Human Health: Effect of Zinc on Immune Cells. 2008; 14(5-6): 353–357.
- Jin L, et al. Effects of vitamin A on the milk performance, antioxidant functions and immune functions of dairy cows 2014; 192, 15-23.
Posted by Genna Vlitas, BSc, undertaking MDiet.
Nutritionist & Student Dietitian from Daley Nutrition
Daley Nutrition is a community nutrition team based in Melbourne Victoria, we run a range of nutrition based programs such as cooking demonstrations in Australia to raise people’s awareness of what they are eating and empower them to change certain eating habits.
To find out more about our Nutrition Services below images