What are dairy products?


Dairy products are foods and beverages made from milk. They include milk drinks, yoghurt, dairy desserts (such as custard and mousse), cheese, cream, ice cream and butter. 


Why do I need dairy products?


Some dairy products such as cheese, cream, ice cream and butter are very high in saturated fat and should be limited. However, other dairy products such as milk and yoghurt are low in fat and rich in nutrients, and should be included in your diet on a daily basis.


Dairy foods are rich in protein, low glycemic index and contain many essential nutrients including calcium, riboflavin, phosphate, magnesium and vitamins B12 and D.


Research shows that low fat dairy products are protective against a wide range of diseases.


Osteoporosis – osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become porous, and can easily fracture.  It is caused by a lack of calcium in the diet.  As dairy products are one of the richest sources of calcium, they help to protect against osteoporosis.


Colon cancer – studies show that people who regularly eat dairy products have a reduced risk of colon cancer


High blood pressure – research shows that a high intake of fruit and vegetables combined with adequate low fat dairy products lowers blood pressure more than fruit and vegetables alone.


Type 2 diabetes – dairy products have a low glycemic index.  Studies show that an adequate consumption of low fat dairy products is protective against type 2 diabetes

Obesity – studies show that people who consume adequate low fat dairy products as part of a low kilojoule diet are more likely to maintain their weight loss, than those who don’t


Tooth decay – the calcium in dairy products is protective against tooth decay.


How much do I need?


It is recommended that you include 3 serves of dairy foods each day (or 4 if you pregnant, breast-feeding, post menopausal or have osteoporosis).


A ‘serve’ is equal to:

  • 250ml milk

  • 200g yoghurt

What if I’m lactose intolerant?


Ensuring that you get enough calcium in your daily diet is important but if you are lactose intolerant, this may seem difficult.

If you have lactose intolerance, some foods to consider as a substitute for dairy products are:

  • Lactose-reduced and/or lactose-free dairy products, such as Zymil milk

  • Dairy products that are naturally low in lactose, such as Swiss cheese or cottage cheese

  • Yoghurt (as the bacteria in the yoghurt helps to break down the lactose)

  • Foods fortified with calcium, such as orange juice and soy milk

  • Green leafy vegetables

  • Fish containing bones (such as sardines).




Which types of dairy products should I choose?


You should choose dairy products which are low in fat such as skim milk or diet yoghurt. Look for dairy products with <3% fat. Avoid high fat dairy products such as full cream cheeses, ice cream, butter, cream and dairy desserts. Cream, butter and cheese spreads are poor sources of calcium so are not good choices.


Flavoured milk

Flavoured milk contains added sugar, so has more kilojoules than plain milk.  However, if you can’t stomach plain milk, flavoured milk is a better choice than soft drinks, juice or cordial.


Calcium fortified milk

Some manufacturer’s add additional calcium to their milk. This is a good choice.


Lactose free milk

If you are lactose intolerant, and bloat after drinking milk drinks, you can now purchase lactose free milks. 


UHT milk

UHT stands for Ultra-high temperature treated milk. This milk is treated with high temperatures which enables it to be stored for long periods of time.  This is a good choice of milk.


Goat’s milk

Goat’s milk has similar nutritional properties to cow’s milk, so is also a good choice.


Soy milk

Soy foods can be a good alternative to dairy products if they are fortified with calcium.

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