Did you know that one serving of an 8-ounce glass of milk is packed with 8 grams of protein? Brie cheese, another dairy product, on the other hand, can provide 95 calories to your body. For good nutrition, dairy can be your friend as it can supply the nutrients essential to your health.
Contrary to popular belief, dairy is a good source of nutritional value. However, like any other food products, it becomes harmful when you consume more than what your body can take. Moderation is key. Your vital statistics such as age, height, weight, and sex should also be factored in to know how much dairy you can have daily. Are you sedentary? Or do you have a more active lifestyle? You should also consider these when incorporating dairy in your diet.
In this article, Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute explores whether dairy is good for you or not. Find out why it’s important, how much you should consume, and what types of food actually belong in the dairy group. Overall, are they beneficial to your health? Let’s find out!
Is dairy fattening?
Nutrient-dense foods, in general, should be consumed daily. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) recommends having potassium, calcium, protein, and vitamin D as part of a person’s daily intake. Dairy products such as milk have these vital nutrients especially for building bone strength and for maintenance of your body.
However, for some reason, there’s a common notion that dairy foods cause weight gain. This is not entirely true. In fact, dairy has a neutral or positive effect on your body, especially on your weight. Eating enough yoghurt, cheese, and milk, for instance, that is part of your healthy diet, is not associated with weight gain.
Losing weight means controlling your calorie intake. Hence, if you consume at least 3 servings of milk or cheese daily, this can actually help you with your goal to stay healthy. People who eat lesser dairy foods but don’t necessarily monitor their calorie intake can still gain weight. So, it’s all about having the right nutrients and a healthy, balanced diet.
Top healthiest dairy products
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO UN), milk is still the most consumed dairy product especially in developing countries. Yet, milk consumption is losing its edge as compared to the growth of livestock and meat consumption globally (increased by more than tripled or so).
But, milk isn’t the only dairy product out there. (Dairy is loosely translated to anything that contains or is made from milk.) Go to the dairy section in a grocery store and you’ll find lots of food options. These foods generally provide essential nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, protein, vitamin D, and phosphorus.
Here are the top tier dairy products in the market that are healthy for you:
Yogurt is considered one of the complete superfoods rich in vitamin D, B5, B12, and magnesium. Packed with good bacteria, this probiotic food is good for your digestive system to sustain order and stop any harmful bacteria to colonize in your gut.
This dairy product helps promote a healthy digestive tract, thereby, boosting your immune system. Yogurt is getting prime real estate in many supermarkets, easily accessible and visible in the grocery aisles, because of its health benefits.
The live strains of good bacteria in yogurt eases gastrointestinal issues such as lactose intolerance and constipation. Consuming this food regularly lowers the risk of gut inflammation which results in a healthy gut microbiota. So, be creative in adding yogurt in your meals by following this recipe.
Did you know that cheese was only accidentally discovered when an Arabian merchant put his drinking milk in a bag? According to a legend, the milk coagulated and separated into curds and whey. This is because of the combination of the heat of the sun and the natural rennin in the pouch’s lining. The whey helped the Arabian merchant’s thirst while the curd satisfied his hunger.
The curd in that story is the cheese. Its delightful flavor makes people crave for more. There are varieties of cheese you can find everywhere in different parts of the world.
Often, cheese is classified according to ripening method and/or its hardness. For example, hard cheese ripened through eye-producing bacteria and enzymes are Emmentaler (Swiss), Gruyere, Fontina, and Jarlsberg. On the other hand, soft cheeses ripened with surface microorganisms are Brie, Camembert, Neufchatel, and Pont l’Eveque.
The top two best cheese from the dairy group are:
- Hard cheese
- Ricotta cheese
Cheese is a good source of calcium, fat, protein, vitamins A and B12, zinc, and riboflavin. It helps prevent osteoporosis, promote positive effects on your dental health, and reverse hypertension by lowering blood pressure, among others. It’s also a good choice for pregnant women, upon doctor’s recommendation, to provide essential vitamins and minerals for a healthy fetal development.
Milk can come from cows and other mammals such as sheep, goats, and water buffalo. These are rich sources of energy. Cow’s milk is the most popular not only for its taste but also for its good digestibility. This is due to the balanced amino acid profiles in the cow’s milk protein.
It also contains healthy fat in the form of glycerides while the main carbohydrate is a disaccharide (lactose). Lactose is glucose and galactose combined which helps absorb calcium and phosphorus, and aids in the synthesis of B complex vitamins in the small intestine.
Fat-free or low-fat milk should be a staple in your pantry. You can benefit from the nutritional profile of milk, especially when there’s no added sugar. Note that full-fat milk and flavored milks may increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases and can cause weight gain.
There are a number of ways to incorporate milk in your meals such as in soups, smoothies, oatmeal, and even in coffee. For more ideas, you can check these recipes.
Fortified soy beverages
Fortified soy beverages are a crucial part of the Dairy Group. They contain vital nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin A, calcium, protein and potassium that are almost similar to a cow’s milk. Consuming enough of these strengthen the bones which help prevent signs of osteoporosis.
Majority of soy beverages in the supermarkets are fortified with nutrients. These are often taken as a dairy milk replacement, although they are not a substitute ingredient. Regardless, they are an interesting addition to a diet because they are high in protein. They support the development of healthy muscles and organs in the body.
Kefir is gaining popularity nowadays due to its tangy and sweet taste. If you’re not fond of just either milk or yogurt on its own, this is a better dairy alternative. This dairy product is a cross between the two.
It’s a natural probiotic that may help improve your body’s immune function and reduce risks of gut inflammation. Moreover, there’s a study that shows kefir may limit the growth of cancer cells and combat the disease altogether.
This fermented drink can also protect you against infection due to its potent antibacterial properties. Overall, it can help if you have digestive problems and improve you bone health.
Benefits of dairy
While it’s common to hear reservations on dairy consumption, most especially from those who are losing weight, it is undeniable that this food group has many benefits to your body. These are some of them:
For your skin
Have you noticed how skincare brands market their products to contain milk? This isn’t surprising because dairy foods like it promote skin elasticity. They also feature vitamins D, A, and skin-restoring & anti-aging properties that will make you glow.
For your bones
Elderlies have probably told you when you were young to drink milk because it’s good for your bones. There’s truth in it because dairy products are packed with calcium which is a crucial mineral for your bone density.
For your liver
Dairy products help in lowering systemic inflammation and liver enzymes that could have a positive effect on your metabolism. As a matter of fact, balanced cheese consumption helps your liver prevent fats.
For your gut
Since fermented dairy products like kefir, yogurt, and some cheeses, are the best source of probiotics, they make your microbes thrive. Just be careful of the processed ones available in the market as they tend to have counter effects on your gut.
For your heart
There’s a number of evidence suggesting that most milk, yogurt and cheese are connected to lesser risk of cardiovascular diseases. There are also other underlying nutrients in the said food group that are beneficial to your health. These are fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D and bioactive peptides.
For your hair
If you’ve been experiencing hair fall, dairy products will be your best friend for they promote hair growth and increase its volume. The Vitamin B12, proteins, zinc, iron, and Omega 6 fatty acids in eggs, yogurt, and milk are the best in fighting hair loss.
For your brain
Dairy consumption is also linked to a better brain health due to higher concentrations of glutathione which is an antioxidant defense in the brain. This is responsible for preventing oxidative stress that protects your cognitive functions from neurodegeneration.
For your blood pressure
Most dairy products like milk have blood pressure-lowering nutrients like potassium, magnesium and calcium that are good for your health. In fact, Hypertension Canada suggests to include at least two to three fat-free or non-fat milk in a daily diet.
Milk and milk products: good or bad?
Milk and dairy product availability and consumption can vary in different countries. Hence, while most Europeans and Americans traditionally eat or drink dairy, other parts of the world don’t necessarily have access to this food. With that said, different people have different experiences with these dairy products.
In order to answer whether milk is good or bad, another thing to consider is the source and their nutritional value. Cow’s milk, for example, is not a good source of essential fatty acids. Generally, milk is a poor source for iron. Therefore, milk and dairy products shouldn’t be the sole food source for whatever your body specifically needs depending on your diet.
For some people, lactose intolerance is a concern. This condition happens when undigested lactose breaks down in the large intestine by bacteria which causes bloating, formation of gas, and diarrhea. This can be managed, however, by avoiding certain dairy products that your gut doesn’t particularly like. Others who have lactose intolerance can still eat ice cream, for instance, but only in small portions.
With all these said, it’s important to understand your own body and the overall health benefits and risks of consuming dairy products. Get acquainted with different types of milk and milk products, too. The advantages and beneficial results outweigh any perceived notion of health risks associated with dairy food. In fact, in this study, evidence showed that milk and dairy products may protect you against prevalent chronic diseases. And, finally, milk and dairy product intake can contribute to meeting nutrient recommendations.
Why is it important to eat or drink milk products
The importance of dairy consumption can be seen from childhood to adulthood. As a child up to teenage years, your bones are still developing so a diet rich in dairy can help elevate bone mineral density. Therefore, when you reach your adult years, you have stronger and healthier bones, including dental maintenance.
But, it’s not just all about calcium for your bones. When exercising, milk and dairy products can give you the carbohydrates you need for energy. The proteins in it also support muscle recovery while the electrolytes and mineral concentration can provide rehydration.
What are the alternatives
- Tahini (sesame butter or paste)
- Canned fish (sardines, salmon with bones)
- Leafy greens
- Calcium-fortified juices and plant-based milk alternatives (rice milk or almond milk)
Remember that dairy products and alternatives should be consumed as part of a healthy, balanced diet including all of the 5 food groups. These are: 1) bread and cereals, 2) vegetables and fruits, 3) dairy products, 4) meat, chicken, fish or alternatives, and 5) fats and oils (in small amounts).
Here at Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute, you’ll find other whole foods aside from milk and dairy products that are healthy for you. You can have a quality of life with length of life as long as you keep in mind that a balanced diet goes a long way!