These days, some of the most delicious savoury and sweet treats all contain dairy in one form or another. Think about it – there’s chocolate, scones, and ice-cream, as well as battered foods, baked goods, milkshakes, most soups and pastas, and anything cheese-flavoured. The list goes on! If you’ve never paid attention to how much dairy you consume on a daily basis, you might be surprised to discover just how many of your favourite meals and snacks contain a great deal of milk, butter and cheese.
While these dairy products do provide certain health benefits, there have been increasing concerns over the negative health effects of rising dairy consumption in the modern world. Moderation is usually the key when it comes to any type of food, and dairy is no exception – eating too much of it can have serious consequences for both your short-term and long-term health. If you haven’t previously examined your own dairy consumption, now might be a good time to take the matter into consideration. Keep on reading to discover how cutting down on your dairy intake could be of great benefit to your overall health and wellbeing.
Technically, you could consume milk, cheese or butter alone (okay, maybe not butter), but let’s be honest – these dairy products are always so much better paired with other snack foods or mixed into delicious meals and desserts. The good news for dairy lovers is that dairy products have always traditionally been highlighted as a great source of calcium, potassium and protein, and recommended as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Dairy Australia, the national services body for dairy farmers and the industry, recommends that people should eat three serves of dairy a day, in order to reap the health benefits of dairy consumption. This works out to roughly equal 1 (250ml) glass of milk, 1 (200g) tub of yoghurt, and 2 (40g) slices of cheese.
However, the truth is that a great majority of the meals that we eat on a regular basis, including both home-cooked and takeaway dishes, do already contain dairy products of some sort. For instance, consider the popularity of the following meals and beverages:
- creamy pastas and soups
- burgers and sandwiches with cheese
- coffee with milk
- breakfast favourites such as omelettes, scones and pancakes
Whether the dairy content is present in the main components of the meal or in the sauce, stuffing or topping, what it means is that our consumption of milk, cheese and butter does tend to quickly add up over the course of a day or week. Even if it doesn’t seem immediately obvious, it’s also worth noting that dairy products can crop up in a variety of snacks and dishes that you might not expect to contain any dairy at all, such as certain cereals, breads, cookies and crackers, granola and nutrition bars, and lunch meats. Because of this prominence of dairy products in our everyday foodstuffs, it’s becoming increasingly imperative to keep an eye on just how much dairy you’re consuming every day.
Too Much Of A Good Thing
While it’s true that dairy products do offer health benefits, in recent years a steadily growing anti-dairy movement has emerged. While that might sound drastic, the truth is that there are certain negative health effects that can result from a high dairy intake. Although the level of saturated fat in different dairy products does vary, milk, butter, cheese and cream are all notorious for their high calorie content, and excess consumption of these foods can increase the risk of obesity. Dairy has been associated with multiple health issues such as prostate cancer, type 1 diabetes, chronic constipation, and heart disease. Milk consumption is also already well known for aggravating allergies and sinus problems, as drinking it results in the build-up of respiratory tract mucus.
There’s also the growing problem of lactose intolerance, which should perhaps act as an alarm bell for those who are still consuming great amounts of dairy. While lactose intolerance is rarer in Caucasians, statistics show that an astonishing 90% of Asian-American adults are lactose intolerant, as are 75% of African-American, Jewish and Native-American adults. If you are allergic to dairy or you suffer from lactose intolerance, the negative side effects of dairy consumption could include an irritable digestive tract (bloating, vomiting or constipation), inflamed problems (eczema), or problems with the respiratory system (asthma). If you regularly experience similar health issues and you haven’t taken your dairy consumption into account, it is possible that your regular intake of milk, cheese and/or butter could be perpetuating these conditions.
For all those dairy lovers, the good news is that you don’t have to cut dairy out of your diet completely – you just need to moderate your dairy consumption. The best way to do so is to find healthier dairy options, or even alternatives to your favourite dairy products. When it comes to baking, cooking and everyday use, skip the fatty butter and opt for low-fat spreads instead. Meanwhile, if you’re trying to find lower-fat milk that still retains the nutritional benefits of the beverage, look for the skimmed and semi-skimmed milks. Otherwise, soya milk products, such as soya cream, yoghurt and cheese, are wonderful alternatives to regular dairy milk. Soya milk is highly versatile as it comes in many forms and flavours, including sweetened and unsweetened, flavoured and plain, and fortified and unfortified.
When it comes to cheeses, it’s best to avoid those that very high in both fat and salt (such as brie and cheddar) and choose the reduced-fat hard varieties instead. Keep an eye out for cheeses that only contain between 10g-16g of fat per 100g. Otherwise, if you need cheese as a topping for a meal (for example, a pasta dish or a casserole), it might actually be worth finding a stronger cheese for your recipe. This way, you’ll be able to use cheese more sparingly without any significant loss to the flavour of the dish, which will be a lot healthier without an overload of dairy.
The Final Word: Everything in Moderation
It can be difficult to significantly lower your dairy consumption, considering the popularity of today’s dairy-filled meals and desserts. However, if you’re looking for a way to maintain your health and wellbeing in the long run, eating less milk, cheese and butter can be significantly beneficial. Try cutting down on your dairy intake today and see what a difference it makes in a few short weeks. For further advice on how to improve your overall wellbeing, be sure to have a browse through comparethemarket.com.au’s handy health guides.